The Hidden White House: Harry Truman and the Reconstruction of America’s Most Famous Residence

Robert Klara. St. Martin’s/Dunne, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-00027-9
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In 1949, under the direction of President Truman, an extensive reconstruction of the White House began. Home improvements might not seem like much to base a story on, but Klara (FDR’s Funeral Train) turns the tale of this controversial project into a delightful and informative narrative. Truman already had plenty to worry about during his presidency (e.g., the Cold War, low approval ratings), and swinging refrigerator-sized chandeliers, ghostly creaks and groans, and a piano falling through the floor weren’t helping to ease his mind. When the White House was finally examined, inspectors discovered dangerously compromised beams, scorched timbers leftover from the fire set by the British during the War of 1812, and distressing evidence that the entire building was sinking. Over the course of three years, all but the exterior walls were demolished and rebuilt, and both Margaret Truman and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt remarked that the new White House felt like a cheap hotel. Klara brings the reconstruction’s major players—including Truman and his family, architect Lorenzo Winslow, and contractor John McShain—to life in sharp prose, infusing this cracks-and-crevices exposé with plenty of entertaining drama. B&w photos throughout. Agent: Gary Heidt, Signature Literary Agency. (Oct. 22)
Reviewed on: 07/15/2013
Release date: 10/22/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 384 pages - 978-1-250-02293-6
Paperback - 400 pages - 978-1-250-05393-0
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