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Harry S. Truman Little White House Restoration Phase II

The Challenge

To accurately portray the 1949 Little White House and to use it as a workshop for democracy.

Restoration Needed
Work being done to repair the Truman Little White House.

A new 501(c)3 organization known as the Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation, Inc. was organized by a group of local Key West historians in 2002 to protect and preserve the Little White House and its original grounds and to expand its educational outreach. Little did we conceive how this project would grow. We can only look to President Harry S. Truman for guidance,

“Make no little plans. Make the biggest plan you can think of and spend the rest of your life carrying it out.”

New levels of museum professionalism were required by the State and the entire collection was re-accessioned . A fateful accession of a large cache of local newspapers of Truman’s visits in the 1940s and 1950s indicated the true use of the Little White House demanded a reexamination. It appeared the site was far more important than the
presidential retreat being interpreted. Subsequent research has proven
the Little White House is the point of transition to the modern
presidency and Truman used it as his functioning winter White House.

A partnership was formed with the Truman Presidential Library of
Independence, Missouri to aid in our scholarship of the site. Further
partnerships were formed with Florida Atlantic University and the
Florida Keys Community College and a student intern program was begun as well as the widely acclaimed Truman Legacy Symposium series bringing Truman family members, the three remaining Truman White House staff members (George Elsey, Ken Hechler and Milton Kayle)and world class scholars to examine areas of Truman’s Legacy upon today’s generation. Five symposia have been completed to date (2008) discussing the topics of national security, civil rights, the quest for peace in the Middle East, Native American policies and the Environment. The 2008 symposium will examine Truman’s immigration policies. Truman State University Press publishes a monograph following each conference making the original research available to scholars worldwide.

The US government (Departments of Defense and State) regularly use the Little White House for dinners and diplomatic missions. The home like atmosphere is conducive to civil conversations and peaceful
negotiations. It needs to look more presidential.

Seventeen years of wear and tear upon the historic fabric of the house mandated replacement of carpets, fabrics, paint and wall covering. The Foundation’s advisory council challenged management to more accurately replicate the 1949 remodeling. The world wide web has made it possible to locate original fabrics used in 1949. New technology has allowed smaller quantities of wallpaper to be duplicated.

Matthew Mosca of Baltimore conducted a paint analysis of 150 samplings to correctly identify the paint colors actually used in each room.Visitors will discover changes from the cool blue- grays used in 1990 to warm beige grays based upon these historic samplings. Even the original eighteen pieces of artwork loaned by the US Naval Academy were located and replicated. The house is coming very close to its 1949 remodeling for President Truman. The look and feel is more 1940s than ever.

Lack of space requires us to use staff bedrooms for exhibition galleries
and video presentations and porches for museum store space. Once the museum expansion occurs , the Little White House will be 100% as it was in 1949. Your membership can help make this a reality. Please consider a membership now. If you would like to discuss planned giving, please contact our director Bob Wolz at 305-294-9911 or by email.

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