Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

For Immediate Release

Contact Information:
Stacy McCullough, Sprenger McCullough & Co., 816-221-9716, mobile: 913-927-0128
Bill Musgrave, Sprenger McCullough & Co., 816-221-9716, mobile: 816-215-4658
Edeen Martin, Truman Library & Museum, 816-268-8218


White House Renovation Photos Featured in New Display

Independence, MO - The White House as you have never seen it before takes shape in a new exhibition at the Truman Presidential Museum & Library. The exhibition, Restoring the White House, 1948-1952: Photographs by Abbie Rowe, features 80 unique photographs, many of which show the systematic demolition and reconstruction of the White House that took place during the Presidency of Harry Truman. Also included in the exhibition are original pieces of the White House-wooden beams, stone, a fireplace mantel, nails, and other materials - which were removed during the renovation. The exhibition, organized by the Truman Presidential Museum & Library staff, opens on Friday, June 15.

When Harry Truman became President in 1945, the White House was in a deteriorated state. The wear of nearly 150 years of hard use, coupled with several previous modifications to the building, had made the Executive Mansion structurally unsound. President Truman appointed a commission to study the problem, and it recommended that the White House be rebuilt within the original exterior walls. In just over three years, from 1949 to 1952, the entire interior of the building was removed and rebuilt on a new skeleton of steel and concrete. The $5.7 million project was completed in March 1952, when the Trumans - who had lived in the Blair House across the street during the renovation - moved back into the White House for their final ten months in office.

As the official photographer for the White House renovation, Abbie Rowe, a National Park Service photographer assigned to cover the President, had unprecedented access to the project during construction. His photographic documentation of the project provides a unique view of the White House, before, during, and after the conclusion of the renovation. The exhibition also includes selections of photographs Abbie Rowe took during his 25 years of covering presidential activities. His photographs span the administrations of five Presidents - Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson. Among the photographs featured in this exhibition are Harry Truman's swearing in following the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, Truman's announcement of Japan's surrender that ended World War II, the Inaugural gala for Dwight D. Eisenhower, the funeral of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson emerging from the White House, and other historic moments in Presidential history.

Additional objects on display in the exhibition include a set of White House china and a Baldwin concert grand piano, both created for the White House as symbols of the completion of the renovation.

The exhibition will be on display at the Truman Presidential Museum & Library through September 15, and it is designed to travel to other museums throughout the country.

Before there were official White House photographers (the first was appointed by Lyndon Johnson), photographers from other Federal agencies - the Army, Navy, Air Force, National Park Service, for example - were periodically assigned to cover the activities of the President for the historical record. Abbie Rowe served this function for a quarter century, although his career path to this position was unusual. In the early 1930s he worked as a laborer for the National Capital Parks. Weakened by polio that he had contracted in his youth, and unable to perform strenuous labor, Rowe appealed directly to Eleanor Roosevelt to change his job status. In the late 1930s he became a photographer for the National Park Service. Shortly after, in 1941, President Roosevelt asked the Park Service to assign a photographer to document official public events.
Rowe was assigned these duties, and he expanded his role as an unofficial White House photographer over the course of five presidential administrations.

The Truman Presidential Museum & Library is located at U.S. Highway 24 and Delaware Street in Independence, Missouri. The Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Admission is $5 for adults, $4.50 for seniors and $3 for children 6-18 years old. For more information, call the 1-800-833-1225 or the web site at www.trumanlibrary.org.

The Harry S. Truman Library is one of ten Presidential Libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.

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