A PARTNERSHIP IN PRESERVATION
The history of the Little White House extends far beyond the architecture of its walls. It originally served as the Naval Station’s command headquarters in Key West during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. In 1946 the historic home first served as the Winter White House for President Harry S. Truman. Truman spent 175 days of his presidency running the country from Key West.
Over the years, the Little White House was also visited by Presidents Taft, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter and Clinton. In addition, Thomas Edison used the house in 1918 during which time he invented 41 weapons for our United States Navy. In 2001, U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell led International peace talks with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan. The historical relevance of the house continues.
In 1949, Miami Beach interior designer, Haygood Lasseter, was hired by the Navy for the amount of $35,000 to decorate it for the President. With the help of Navy photographs and descriptions from Lasseter papers, museum efforts have included replicating the exact wallpaper through Scalamandre and precise textiles through Windham Museum Services. Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation President, Ed Swift, says, “The Little White House experience is truly a step back in time at this American icon. Everything from paint color on the walls to the Berridge Victorian shingles are a piece of our mission to truly preserve history and share it with future generations.”
Today, the efforts of the Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation have remained focused on maintaining the historic décor from the 1940’s and 1950’s which includes about 90% of the original artifacts and a true focus on historic preservation. In addition to the restoration efforts, Historic Tours of America maintains a museum open to the public, offers guided tours and maintains a place for government business by our nation’s leaders.
The State of Florida recently granted the Little White House funds to replace the 1911 roof. Sometime after Hurricane Irma in 2017, small leaks became larger and the time came to properly protect this historic gem. Preserving any historic property in Florida and particularly in South Florida takes a great deal of attention to battle the ever-changing humidity levels. With a roof perhaps being its major guard against the tropical weather, the quality and exact replication lead the museum to select Berridge.
The Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation exists to share history of the American Presidency and preserve and protect the Harry S. Truman Little White House. For further information or donation opportunities, please visit www.trumanlittlewhitehouse.com or call (305) 294-9911.