Truman photos

Found a photo of the East Bedroom in 1952 showing the mantelpiece clearly. I think this could be the room where Ike got his mysterious picture taken. And check out the wheelchair. Madge Wallace’s? It doesn’t look like FDR’s.

Also got an extra one of the Yellow Oval Room as Harry’s study and Margaret’s fireplace, which I only had in its unfinished state.

Also: For those with an interest in architecture beyond our favorite example, I spent the weekend Pittsburgh and went on a photo walkabout.

15 thoughts on “Truman photos

  1. Hmmmmm… It certainly looks like the right size and shape mantle!

    And it looks like they did in fact build out cabinets under the bookshelves for Nancy Reagan (?) and at the same time, reconfigure the wainscot to be on one flat plane all along that wall.

    And I really do think that a wide-angle camera lens stretches the panels flanking the mantle.

    Plus – and you and Dennis agree – I really don’t think there’s any other plausable place for it to be!

    Derek – you must have magic powers when it comes to digging out pix from on-line archives!

  2. Well, OK, now I have the mental image of Mother Wallace stretching out on her Chaise Longue…. and I can’t get rid of it!

    Love that picture of Truman’s Study – it looks so…Centrally Air Conditioned! So clean! So fresh! So “broadloom carpeted”!

    I guess “new” is “new” and there’s not much you can do about it – but the “New” White House does have its own 55-year history now!

  3. Eureka! The Mirror Cracked!

    I think we may have the mystery solved. Ditto with everything John said. But, did you notice that in the photos of that room pre and post Truman renovation, the mirror is flawed! Meaning, very possibly, that by the time Ike’s picture would have been taken in that room, the mirror had been replaced with whatever picture whose frame is visible above the mantle.

    I think the wheelchair is great! It’s so early/mid 20th century.

    I bet the twin bed was removed after the Trumans, along with the scale.

  4. Discussion about the north bedrooms is as good a place as any for me to start. Has anyone noticed that pre-reconstruction photos of rooms west of the landing on the second floor show a greater distance from window sills to floor than they do in photos taken from 1952 on? This suggests that the new floor was installed at a higher level, perhaps to allow for the still-needed ramp to be constructed at a lower pitch.
    If my theory is correct, then the balcony floor was also raised in some fashion, for there is no step down from the door of the Yellow Oval Room on to the balcony at this time.

  5. Duane –

    I have noticed that – I think you’re absolutely right. President Truman apparently wanted to take advantage of the gutting/renovation to make the 2nd floor completely flat – no level change at all – but even modern steel construction couldn’t completely compensate for the extra height of the East Room.

    I think what happened was that they slightly raised the level of the floors on the 2nd floor west of the East Room “bump up” and slightly lowered the level of the 2nd floor over the East Room (Lincoln Suite/Queen’s Room suite/East Sitting Hall.

    I have noticed in a couple of pictures of the Upstairs Oval Room (Yellow Oval Room) that the backs of side chairs stick up higher above the window sill than similar chairs did before the Renovation.

    There was all sorts of “tweaking” done to revise/refine/redefine interiors during the Truman Renovation – including reducing the apparent INSIDE width of the center window in the East Room – to give the big potraits of George and Martha Washington more lateral room to “breathe” between the pilasters of the paneling. Also, you probably know that the 1902 chandeliers were significantly reduced in size at that time.

    Also, the paneling above and on either side of the mantle in the State Dining Room was reworked during the Truman renovation to allow the Lincoln portrait to hang below the frieze.

    The McKim, Mead and White mantle that Jackie Kennedy had “duplicated” in 1962 was actually not a duplication at all, but an adaptation of the original mantle, to fit the much smaller fireplace opening built during the Truman Renovation.

  6. John –

    I hate to disagree with you, but the Dining Room mantle is a replica of the TR/McKim. The original is at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo.

    Seale, speaking as an historic architect, says a lot about the “tweaking” of the White House during the Truman rebuilding in “The White House – History of an American Idea.” He talks about the White House becoming a stage set with a backstage–all those spaces crammed in whereever room was found- Chief Usher’s Office, Pastry Kitchen, stairs to the basement, etc. He does concede that the purpose of the White House is not ultimately to be a museum in the sense of Mt. Vernon, but the working home of the Presidency. He also dislikes the Truman balcony.

  7. I think John is saying that the JBK mantel is a replica but not an exact replica of the McKim mantel. The design is adapted, rather than duplicated.

    I didn’t know Seale dislikes the balcony. Is he a period purist? I only object to how plain it is. It needs a little dentil molding or something.

  8. Dennis – This may be long-winded,and I apoligize for the legnth of this comment – but please hear me out… 🙂

    I’ve seen enough of your posts on this site to know that you REALLY “know your stuff”, when it comes to the White House and I certainly do respect that.

    The State Dining Room mantle that Jackie had replicated in marble in 1962 has every design element – every line and sculptural element and so forth – that the original McKim, Mead and White limestone mantle had – or still has – since as you say it still exists at the Truman Library.

    However, during the Truman Rennovation, the paneling above the mantle was subtly changed. The “firebox” – the actual opening of the fireplace, where the wood is burned – was made much smaller than the original than the original firebox.

    If you will look at page 264, in Seale's "The White House, History of an American Idea", you'll see the two photos of the "old" State Dining Room and the "new" S.D.R. right next to each other. I remember being a bit stunned to realize that the panels that are immediately above the mantle shelf are completely square in the "old wood-paneled" State Dining Room and yet those same panels in the post-Truman renovation are rectangular. I had always assumed that the paneling in the State Dining Room was the one room in which the original McKim, Mead & White paneling had been put back exactly as it was before. Now, here I was faced with photographic proof that it wasn't. Hmmm… What gives here? I decided to investigate further…

    I turned to page 188 in this same book and looked at the full-page b&w photo of the 1902 room. Hmmmm. No panels at all on either side of the mantle… then I turned to page 289 – (still in Seale's the W.H, History of an American Idea) – and saw that there WERE panels on either side of the 1962 replica mantle. Then one more clue – the portrait of Abraham Lincoln – I turned back to page 264 and looked again at the pictures of the "before and after" State Dining Room and then it all fell into place – In the photo of the pre-renovation room, the top of the Lincoln portrait hangs well above the top of the top row of panels – in fact, the Lincoln portrait intrudes into the frieze (the part of the paneling with the garland carvings, between the capitals of the pilasters).

    Then I looked at the “after” pic of the room, just below it – Hmmm – same Lincoln portrait (which serves as a “size” point of reference), but now the portrait is hanging BELOW the frieze – and is in fact exactly aligned with the top of the top row of panels. The only possible way for that to happen is if the whole fireplace is now lower in the “new” State Dining Room. Turning back to page 289 confirmed that the Lincoln portrait is still in exactly this same position today, relative to the mantle shelf of the 1962 mantle and top row of panels.

    So – (a) panels that were square above the mantle shelf in 1902 are now rectangular.

    (b) there are panels (that look to be about a foot wide) on either side of both the “1952 Green Marble Mantle” and the 1962 Replica that were not there in 1902.

    (c) the Lincoln portrait now hangs well below the frieze, where in the 1902 room, it intruded into the frieze.

    When I had looked at all of this – I could only come to the conclusion that Jackie Kennedy and the W.H. curator and the architects replicating the mantle HAD to work with the new physical reality of the room – the Truman renovation had simply changed the fundamental architecture of (some of, but not all of) the paneling above the fireplace to allow the Lincoln Portrait to hang more naturally amd gracefully, between the mantle shelf and the bottom of the frieze.

    If the Original McKim mantle were to show up in the State Dining Room today – to be reinstalled – it wouldn’t fit the revised paneling in that wall. It would be too big – and all that 1952 paneling (they seem to have left the top two rows of 1902 paneling alone) would have to be ripped out and the original paneling be replicated in order for it to fit!

    So, even though all the elements of the 1902 mantle are there, the 1962 mantle cannot technically be called a “replica”. It would have to be EXACTLY the same in every dimension – in every direction – to be a “replica”. The 1962 mantle is actually an “adaptation” of the original design – adapted to fit the new physical reality of the post 1952 room.

  9. Dennis – This may be long-winded,and I apoligize for the legnth of this comment – but please hear me out… 🙂

    I’ve seen enough of your posts on this site to know that you REALLY “know your stuff”, when it comes to the White House and I certainly do respect that.

    The State Dining Room mantle that Jackie had replicated in marble in 1962 has every design element – every line and sculptural element and so forth – that the original McKim, Mead and White limestone mantle had – or still has – since as you say it still exists at the Truman Library.

    However, during the Truman Rennovation, the paneling above the mantle was subtly changed. The “firebox” – the actual opening of the fireplace, where the wood is burned – was made much smaller than the original than the original firebox.

    If you will look at page 264, in Seale's "The White House, History of an American Idea", you'll see the two photos of the "old" State Dining Room and the "new" S.D.R. right next to each other. I remember being a bit stunned to realize that the panels that are immediately above the mantle shelf are completely square in the "old wood-paneled" State Dining Room and yet those same panels in the post-Truman renovation are rectangular. I had always assumed that the paneling in the State Dining Room was the one room in which the original McKim, Mead & White paneling had been put back exactly as it was before. Now, here I was faced with photographic proof that it wasn't. Hmmm… What gives here? I decided to investigate further…

    I turned to page 188 in this same book and looked at the full-page b&w photo of the 1902 room. Hmmmm. No panels at all on either side of the mantle… then I turned to page 289 – (still in Seale's the W.H, History of an American Idea) – and saw that there WERE panels on either side of the 1962 replica mantle. Then one more clue – the portrait of Abraham Lincoln – I turned back to page 264 and looked again at the pictures of the "before and after" State Dining Room and then it all fell into place – In the photo of the pre-renovation room, the top of the Lincoln portrait hangs well above the top of the top row of panels – in fact, the Lincoln portrait intrudes into the frieze (the part of the paneling with the garland carvings, between the capitals of the pilasters).

    Then I looked at the “after” pic of the room, just below it – Hmmm – same Lincoln portrait (which serves as a “size” point of reference), but now the portrait is hanging BELOW the frieze – and is in fact exactly aligned with the top of the top row of panels. The only possible way for that to happen is if the whole fireplace is now lower in the “new” State Dining Room. Turning back to page 289 confirmed that the Lincoln portrait is still in exactly this same position today, relative to the mantle shelf of the 1962 mantle and top row of panels.

    So – (a) panels that were square above the mantle shelf in 1902 are now rectangular.

    (b) there are panels (that look to be about a foot wide) on either side of both the “1952 Green Marble Mantle” and the 1962 Replica that were not there in 1902.

    (c) the Lincoln portrait now hangs well below the frieze, where in the 1902 room, it intruded into the frieze.

    When I had looked at all of this – I could only come to the conclusion that Jackie Kennedy and the W.H. curator and the architects replicating the mantle HAD to work with the new physical reality of the room – the Truman renovation had simply changed the fundamental architecture of (some of, but not all of) the paneling above the fireplace to allow the Lincoln Portrait to hang more naturally amd gracefully, between the mantle shelf and the bottom of the frieze.

    If the Original McKim mantle were to show up in the State Dining Room today – to be reinstalled – it wouldn’t fit the revised paneling in that wall. It would be too big – and all that 1952 paneling (they seem to have left the top two rows of 1902 paneling alone) would have to be ripped out and the original paneling be replicated in order for it to fit!

    So, even though all the elements of the 1902 mantle are there, the 1962 mantle cannot technically be called a “replica”. It would have to be EXACTLY the same in every dimension – in every direction – to be a “replica”. The 1962 mantle is actually an “adaptation” of the original design – adapted to fit the new physical reality of the post 1952 room.

  10. John – You are absolutely correct in your outline of the JBK mantle. I would not disagree at all. I, too, had noticed the difference in the placement of Old Abe.

    The issue was a semantic one. I understood the word “adapt” to mean taking something that already exists and changing it into something slighty or greatly different.

    Also, the word “replica” to me is simply “looks the same,” without thinking that a true replica should be exactly the same size.

    On a side note, I’m glad they painted over the dark paneling in the State Dining Room. That room is too small to be that dark and even the Truman celedon green makes the room seem larger than it did in the old dark photographs.
    One reason given for the painting was that the paneling had been greatly nicked and scratched during its removal.

  11. on the difference in the floor/window levels…wouldn’t they have had to drop the ceilings on the lower floors and raise the floors for some ducting? I see most of the ducts are the long horizontal ducts in the walls, however. I have also noticed the difference, and it almost has to be purposeful, as they did photos and engineering quality drawings.

    I must say I love this give and take and good healthy discussion on discrepancies in the rooms! It makes me think!

  12. Halcyondays – Standard residential construction allows for about a foot of “floor thickness” – and you can get ductwork into that space. But I expect that the White House floor thickness (from say the actual floor of the 2nd floor down to the ceiling of the State rooms) would be a bit more than that. But – as you said – most all of the HVAC (Heating/Ventilation/A/C) ductwork in the White House seems to be in the walls – and the walls are plenty thick for that. ( Mmmm! Drawing HVAC plans – that’s the really FUN part of architecture…) (ugh…)

    They did play with the ceiling heights of the State Floor reception rooms during the Truman Rennovation – seems like they lowered the Green and Red Room ceilings to match the Blue Room (which had always been lower, for some reason) or it may have been the other way around.

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