Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Truman, Margaret (Mary Margaret), 1924-2008; Ibn Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, 1880-1953; Graham, Wallace Harry, 1910-1996; Fields, Alonzo, 1900-1994; Wallace, Madge Gates, 1862-1952; Wallace, Frank Gates, 1887-1960; Truman, Bess Wallace, 1885-1982; Wallace
Presidential family; Physicians; Dwellings; Presidential residences; Building repair and reconstruction

Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman [includes February 29 and March 2, 1952], February 29, 1952. President's Secretary's Files - Longhand Notes.

February 29, 1952

The doctor says that my mother-in-law is very sick. Yesterday I called the wife of Mrs. Truman's oldest brother, Frank Wallace. Bess had called earlier in the day. Frank had decided to come on to D.C., so had George, the second son.

After I called Natalie, Frank and George called Fred in Albuquerque. He managed to board the same plane which picked up Frank and George in Kansas City.

I met them at the Washington Air Port at 1:30 Sat. March 1, 1952. They were a solemn trio-so was I. But their mother had survived. She improved noticeably when the three sons arrived at Blair House. Sunday Bess and I showed all three brothers the renovated White House. We discussed the original 1792-1798 building; the 1816-18 rebuilding, the 1902 renovation by Teddy Roosevelt with McKim, Mead and White as architects. A botch job, by the way. Some of the most beautiful chandeliers were sent to the Capitol and I can't have them returned. The old burned and scorched timbers were put back into the building. Teddy was evidently using his Big Stick somewhere else.

Coolidge put a concrete 3rd floor on top of Teddy's botched rebuilding, adding 180 tons to the old brick pillars' carrying capacity.

It was just too much. In 1947 the old House began to fall down.

One Sunday in 1948 I was working in the Study on the family floor, which is directly above the Blue Room and the Diplomatic Reception Room.

Fields, the head butler, brought my lunch to my desk in the Study. Fields is a big man-and a grand man too. The floor sagged and moved like a ship at sea. The next day I had a survey made and the engineer moved the President into the Lincoln Room in S.E. corner of the House.

They supported the Study, the bathroom of the president, the sitting-room of the 1st Lady and the hallway of the second floor with iron rods connected to the roof support. Then in the late fall of 1948 moved the whole family to Blair House.

I asked the Congress to authorize the President to reconstruct the White House, without changing the exterior appearance except the north porch. I was turned down. A Congressional Commission was authorized by law to rebuild and renovate the President's House.

And did they rebuild and renovate it! I'll say they did, to the tune of 5 1/2 million dollars.

They took the insides all out. Dug two basements, put in steel and concrete like you've never seen in the Empire State Bldg., Pentagon or anywhere else. Only an earthquake or an atomic bomb-one of our latest not the phony Russia talks about-could wreck the old building now.

If Teddy or Coolidge had done the job we now have done, the President of this day could have stayed in the President's House until the end of his terms.

When finished it will be a great building and will last a very long time.

We came back to the Blair House after the inspection, Bess, Frank, George and Fred, children of my mother-in-law. She was very ill.

We sat down and discussed the situation. I'd ordered my doctor to come home from Arabia where he had gone to help the old King recover from a severe case of arthritis.

March 2, 1952

Major General Graham arrived at 9:30 P.M. I had called Mrs. Graham and told her he would arrive at that time. She met him as did Dr. Miller who has been taking care of Mrs. Wallace while Wally is gone.

Graham and Miller had a consultation about my mother-in-law. The result was not so good. Margie was to sing in Allentown Pa March 4th. She caught a cold and came home. (It was worry about her grandmother). I have two doctors, two nurses and my sergeant working on both Margie and her grandma!

Hope we can win on both.


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