National Archives Catalog
National Archives Catalog
Renovating the White House
Removing Debris from the Renovation of the White House, 2/27/1950

Shortly after moving into the White House, President Harry S. Truman noticed the telltale signs of a building under serious physical stress. He frequently complained of drafts and unusual popping and creaking noises in the old house. Early in 1948, in response to the President's concerns, engineering reports confirmed that the White House was in a serious state. Burned to the exterior walls in 1814, further compromised by the successive additions of indoor plumbing, gas lighting, electric wiring, heating ducts, and major modifications in 1902 and 1927, some said the White House was standing only from the force of habit. The decision was made to move the Trumans across the street into the Blair House for three years while the White House underwent a complete reconstruction within its original exterior walls.

Browse photos of during and after the renovation in the Catalog.
Interested in learning more about this White House renovation? If you are nearby Independence, Missouri, visit the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library’s current temporary exhibit: “Saving the White House: Truman’s Extreme Makeover.”

Prefer a virtual experience? Learn more about the history of the White House, key people involved in the renovation, and find learning activities for students on the exhibit website.
Citizen Archivist Mission: 
President Truman’s White House Renovation
Abbie Rowe, a photographer for the National Park Service assigned to document the activities of the President, became the Official Photographer for the renovation of the White House during the Truman administration. We invite you to tag Rowe’s photographs in the National Archives Catalog documenting the condition of the White House before, during, and after the renovation. A new series of documents related to the renovation have also recently been added to the Catalog. Help transcribe these records that include correspondence with and minutes of the Commission on Renovation of the Executive Mansion of the White House dealing with the removal of a cracked beam and mantels, and the sale of surplus materials from the renovation as souvenirs.

Start tagging and transcribing on our Citizen Archivist Dashboard.

You can also view interior White House Renovation tours of the Red and Blue Rooms on Historypin! With Historypin tours, you can view historical photos of the renovation alongside modern interior views of the White House.

White House Renovation, 1947-1952: The Red Room

White House Renovation, 1947-1952: The Blue Room

View all of the National Archives Tours on Historypin.

"Airscapes" of American and Foreign Areas, 1917 - 1964
8,403 new descriptions were added to this series of aerial oblique, perpendicular, and some ground level photographs made or collected by the Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps, the Air Service, the Air Corps, the Army Air Forces,and/or the USAF, showing prominent geographic and terrain features, cities, buildings, national shrines, historic areas, parades,earthquakes and flood disaster areas, airfields, and ports in the U.S. and abroad.
We found this photograph of Washington, DC from April 23, 1931. In the lower left is the site of the demolished Center Market and the future home of the National Archives. Look closely on the far left, just below the airplanes to see the White House.

Would you like to look for photographs of your hometown or favorite place?  From the series description we clicked on Search Within this Series button
Then put the location in the search box on the top left.
Here’s a shortcut to jump right into the “search within” page. Email us at and let us know what you discover!
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