I just finished watching Backstairs at the White House, the terrific 1979 mini-series based on the autobiography of Lillian Rogers. Lillian and her mother Maggie worked at the WH from the Taft administration thru the Eisenhowers. We see each first family in private moments, almost exclusively in the west end of the second floor. It’s like every presidential anecdote from the period brought to life–Taft’s tub, Wilson’s wives, Harding’s scandals, Coolidge’s terseness (altho we don’t get the “you lose” anecdote), Hoover’s aloofness, Roosevelt’s relaxedness, Truman’s familiarity, and Ike’s regimentation. The drama focuses almost entirely on family drama, and the compressed nature of the story-telling makes it seem like White House occupants drop like flies.
The series obviously didn’t have a very big budget (my first jolt was seeing the real, modern WH south face–complete with Truman Balcony–as Maggie goes to work in 1909). Aside from a couple of apartments the Rogerses lived in, we only see a few WH second floor rooms, a bit of the third floor, and part of the kitchen and housekeeper’s office. The decor changes appropriately, altho I can’t vouch for the exact correctness of the furnishings. The pre-Truman layout seems accurate enough, altho the elevator lobby seems backwards and never changes (the creators may have been mixing up the kitchen elevator with the Family Elevator). The post-Truman mansion looks pretty much exactly like the pre-Truman mansion, tho, which is quite wrong, especially on the third floor.
I’ve added several images that help flesh out the spaces shown for the time period (which is woefully underrepresented with real archival photos). These consist of the West Sitting Hall, Master Bedroom, Master Dressing Room, Central Hall, Private Dining Room (as the Coolidge boys’ room) Elevator Hall, Kitchen, and Kitchen Pantry (as servant’s dining room, which may be historically inaccurate).
Also: John Anderton sent me a scan of a nice letter and card from Betty Ford in response to his letter of encouragement back when she was recovering from breast cancer surgery. I’ve added it to the Master Bedroom page, since I figure that was where she probably wrote it while she was recuperating. Thanks, John!