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National Archives

The 1949 Renovation of the White House

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National Archives

While we will never get an accurate view of what the White House looked like when it was originally under construction in the 1800s, we can at least get a good look at the building while it was undergoing renovations in 1949.

It's easy to assume that such an important national landmark would always be well taken care of, but after it was burned by the British in 1814, and received small adaptions to incorporate indoor plumbing, electricity, and heating ducts as technology improved, the 150-year-old White House had seriously deteriorated by the time Harry Truman took office.

According to the New York Times, the building was in pretty bad shape:

"The ceiling of the East Room ... weighing seventy pounds to the square foot, was found to be sagging six inches on Oct. 26, and now is being held in place by scaffolding and supports. ...But it took the $50,000 survey authorized by Congress to disclose the fact that the marble grand staircase is in imminent danger. Supporting bricks, bought second hand in 1880, are disintegrating."

The third floor of the White House was considered a fire trap and many parts of the building were at risk of collapsing, so all social events scheduled for the 1948 holiday season were cancelled. Meanwhile, those living in the building had to deal with the building's makeshift plumbing system.

Things were so bad that Congress was discussing building an entirely new structure and destroying the existing White House. Fortunately, Truman pushed hard to have the building restored instead. “It perhaps would be more economical from a purely financial standpoint to raze the building and to rebuild completely,” he testified to Congress in February 1949. “In doing so, however, there would be destroyed a building of tremendous historical significance in the growth of the nation.” 

Finally, those involved agreed to restore the building, but the process was not easy. Every piece of the interior structure, including the walls, had to be removed and put in storage while the exterior structure was reinforced with new concrete columns.

All photos from the National Archives via the Truman Library and NationalJournal.com.

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architecture
One of Frank Lloyd Wright's Final Residential Designs Goes on Sale in Ohio
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In case you’ve missed the many recent sales of Frank Lloyd Wright-designed real estate, you have yet another chance to secure yourself a historical starchitect home. The Louis Penfield House is being sold by its original owners, and it could be yours for a cool $1.3 million. The restored Usonian home in Willoughby Hills, Ohio has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2003.

The house is currently a vacation rental and, depending on the preference of the new owner, it could continue to operate as a tourist destination. Or you could take it over as your private residence, which sounds pretty luxurious. It still has a floor-to-ceiling glass-walled living room that looks out on the Chagrin River, and comes with all the original furniture Wright designed. Like Wright’s other Usonian homes, it has a radiant-floor heating system that draws on a natural gas well onsite.

A retro-looking living room features floor-to-ceiling windows.
A bedroom is filled with vintage wooden furniture.

Around the same time as the original commission, Louis and Pauline Penfield also asked Wright to create another house on an adjacent property, and that home would prove to be the architect’s final residential design. It was still on the drawing board when he died unexpectedly in 1959. The sale of the Penfield House includes the original plans for the second house, called Riverrock, so you’d be getting more like 1.5 Frank Lloyd Wright houses. Seems like a pretty good deal to us.

All images via Estately

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Chilton & Chadwick
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Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed Home on a Private Island Goes Up for Sale
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Chilton & Chadwick

From Fallingwater in Pennsylvania to Taliesin West in Arizona, many works of architect Frank Lloyd Wright are known for their stunning natural locations. The address of the latest Wright-designed home to hit the market is hard to beat: The Massaro House is situated on a heart-shaped island in Lake Mahopac in Putnam County, New York.

According to inhabitat, real estate agency Chilton & Chadwick is selling the property for $14.92 million. The listing includes all 11 acres of Petra Island plus a main house with a rich architectural history.

Frank Lloyd Wright house on private island

Frank Lloyd Wright house on private island

Frank Lloyd Wright house on private island

Around 1950, Frank Lloyd Wright was commissioned by engineer A.K. Chahroudi to build a house on the island. The architect agreed and got to work on a project that would surpass Fallingwater in ambition. The designs were complete after a few months, but they had to be scaled down to fit the owner's budget. In place of the full 5000-square-foot home, Chahroudi settled for a small guest cottage.

The house that currently stands on Petra Island is the realization of Wright’s original vision (with a few modern, somewhat controversial upgrades). Sheet metal contractor Joe Massaro bought the island in 1996 and also obtained the architect’s designs. Not long after, the new owner dedicated himself to constructing the house Wright intended to make.

Though it was completed decades after his death, the six-bedroom house on Petra Island emanates Wright’s signature style. Geometric windows light the home, a wraparound patio provides sweeping views, and boulders integrated into the walls give the building a natural feel. There are also plenty of features that you don’t necessarily need to be an architecture fanatic to appreciate, like the guest house, tea house, and helipad for 15-minute flights to Manhattan.

Watch the video below to get an intimate tour of the property.

[h/t inhabitat]

All images courtesy of Chilton & Chadwick

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