The White House in Washington, D.C., is the capital’s number-one tourist stop. We’ll take a look at a White House tourists never see — today, on Engineering Works!
When you see the White House today, it’s easy to forget that 50-some years ago, it was on the brink of falling down around President Harry Truman’s ears. His daughter’s piano had punched a hole through her bedroom floor. Ceilings sagged. The whole second floor was ready to drop onto the first floor. About the only sound part of the building was the sandstone exterior walls.
So in late 1949, workers began taking the interior of the White House apart, piece by piece. Doors, windows, mantels and other important architectural pieces were removed and tagged to be put back again, exactly where they had been.
Engineers designed a whole new interior, supported by a massive concrete and steel framework. Bulldozers dug two deeper levels below the existing basement. They dug 126 pits for concrete pillars to support the walls. The important rooms on the first floor were restored to the condition they were when the White House was new. From the outside, you couldn’t tell the whole inside had been taken out and rebuilt.
Three years and four months later, Truman and his family moved back into the White House. Today, you’d never know the inside of the building is 150 years newer than the outside.
We’ve done this week’s renovation. See you next time.
EngineeringWorks! is made possible by Texas A&M Engineering and produced by KAMU-FM in College Station. We’re on the World Wide Web, too. Visit us at engineeringworks.tamu.edu.