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Letter to the President of the Senate Transmitting Appropriation Estimate for White House Repairs.

February 17, 1949

[Released February 17, 1949. Dated February 16, 1949]


I have the honor to transmit herewith for the consideration of Congress a supplemental estimate of appropriation for the fiscal year 1949 in the amount of $5,400,000, for the Federal Works Agency.

Within the last year I became gravely concerned with what appeared to be unsafe conditions in the Executive Mansion. Limited inspections were made by engineers of the Federal Works Agency and by a committee composed of outstanding private engineers. The reports of these inspections indicated a particularly hazardous condition of the second floor.

This led me to recommend to the Congress an appropriation of $50,000 to permit a thorough-going survey of the building, and the preparation of plans and estimates of costs for overcoming the unsatisfactory conditions. An appropriation was promptly made and the engineering investigations were begun almost immediately.

The seriousness of structural weaknesses discovered in the Executive Mansion raised grave question concerning the safety of the members of the presidential household and of the thousands of persons visiting the Mansion as sightseers, or as members of groups attending business or social functions. Upon the recommendation of the Federal Works Administrator on November 8, 1948, the presidential household was transferred to the Blair and Blair-Lee Houses, owned by the Government, and the Mansion was closed to visitors. The Mansion has since been subjected to a thorough study, the results of which are incorporated in the accompanying report of the Federal Works Agency, which is transmitted pursuant to the legislation appropriating funds for the investigation.

It will be noted from the report that structural conditions in the Executive Mansion are more critical than was anticipated, and that it cannot be used for residence or other purposes without the completion of major repairs.

It will be no small task to renovate and modernize the structure. It perhaps would be more economical from a purely financial standpoint to raze the building and to rebuild completely. In so doing, however, there would be destroyed a building of tremendous historical significance in the growth of the Nation. I am in favor of preserving our outstanding historical structures. The scope of the work now proposed will not alter the architectural or cultural features of the Mansion. The historic and traditional symbolism of this national shrine will be preserved to the greatest degree consistent with the modern materials and equipment that necessarily must be incorporated in the project.

I anticipate that the amount requested will permit the completion of the work recommended in the engineering report. I am even hopeful that the cost will be somewhat less than now estimated. The cost is not the most important consideration in connection with this proposal. Safety, not only of the President and his family, but of the many persons visiting the Executive Mansion, is involved. In the removal of structural and fire hazards, it would seem appropriate to renovate and modernize the interior--something that has been delayed too long, but something that will not have to be done again for many years.

Officials of the Federal Works Agency are prepared to furnish such information as may be desired by the Congress in its consideration of this matter.

A minimum of fifteen to eighteen months will be required to complete the job. It is my hope, therefore, that early action will be taken on this recommendation.

Respectfully yours,


Note: The Report to the President on the Structural Survey of the Second Floor of the White House, dated February 25, 1948, and the report of the Federal Works Agency, which is listed as the Report of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, dated February 8, 1948, are published in the appendix of the Report of the Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion, pages 90-94. (Government Printing Office: 1952, 109 pp.).

Harry S Truman, Letter to the President of the Senate Transmitting Appropriation Estimate for White House Repairs. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/229870

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