Now here’s something hard to believe: The White House, one of the most historically significant buildings in the world — and the most valuable home in America — once came close to being a teardown. When Harry Truman took office in 1945, the grand home of the POTUS was falling apart. It was 150 years old at the time, and its history of being beaten up (the British tried to burn it down in 1814, and the later installation of indoor plumbing and heating was a wreck) was taking a toll.
As The New York Times reported in November 1948, the entire mansion was closed and presidential holiday events canceled that year after it was discovered that the ceiling of the East Room was sagging six inches, among other problems. A survey of the home found that its plumbing was “makeshift and unsanitary,” and the “appalling degree” of structural deterioration would soon make the White House uninhabitable. A Congressional committee in charge of the matter considered demolishing the home and building a new one from scratch. But Truman was able to push for a complete renovation instead.
“It perhaps would be more economical from a purely financial standpoint to raze the building and to rebuild completely,” Truman testified to Congress in February 1949, according to National Journal. “In doing so, however, there would be destroyed a building of tremendous historical significance in the growth of the nation.” That was enough to convince Congress to spring for a total rehab of the White House. From top to bottom, stem to stern, the entire interior of the home was replaced. Want to see what the White House looks like completely gutted? Click through the gallery below to see photos from the major renovation. (All photos and captions are from The U.S. National Archives.)