It’s been a while since I talked about our trip to Key West, but I still have a few more things to share and today is as good a day as any to talk about one of them.
- The Little White House
First, a clarification: Today I am talking about THIS Little White House:
NOT this Little White House.
While the Little White House in Illinois, as you know from a previous post, has personal significance to me (The Magic of the Little White House), the Little White House in Key West has historical significance to all citizens of the United States. It used to be the home of Commander of the Naval Base located on Key West. However, at some point, President Taft needed to come to Key West, so the base commander offered the president his house, and ever since then, this house at Key West has been available for the use of the presidents, both current and past, of the United States.
President Truman used the Little White House more than any of the other presidents. I think the guide said that he stayed there about 172 days during his presidency. He used it as a vacation home where he could still conduct business.
As you can see from the picture above, the house is nice, but not overly grandiose. Outside of the entrance to the house, at least on the day we were there, was a sand sculpture of President Truman reading.
I would love to have pictures of the inside of the house to show you, but photography was not allowed during the tour. The guides at the Little White House who conduct the tours work on a volunteer basis (although tips are gratefully accepted), while the admission fee for the house goes to maintaining and preserving it. Our guide, whose name I remember because it was Nancy, gave an informative and interesting tour. Of all of the historical houses Mark and I have toured, this one had a unique feel to us because of the fact that some of the furnishings, which are from the 1950’s, reminded us of items we had seen in our own grandparents’ houses growing up. It made the history of this house, at least from when the Trumans were there, seem less remote. One particularly interesting item of furniture was the poker table in the corner of the living room used by President Truman and his aides. (A necessary clarification: none of our grandparents ever had a poker table; it was the sofas, outdoor furniture, chairs and bedroom furnishings that reminded us of them.)
An interesting fact that we learned while touring the house was that, through President Truman’s time in office, the President of the United States was expected to pay for all of the state dinners and White House functions out of his own personal funds. It was an enormous strain on President Truman, since he was not from a wealthy family originally. After President Truman, Congress included a separate entertainment budget for the President to use on top of his salary, so that no other President would suffer the kind of financial strain that Truman did in the process of fulfilling his or her obligations as head of state.
The Little White House is still available for the use of the President, or those people whom he designates, even though it is maintained under a private budget. I know this not only because our tour guide told us so, but also because we had tried to see the Little White House once before, years ago when we stopped at Key West for one day on a cruise, but it was closed to the public because it was being used by Colin Powell for a peace summit.
The tour begins and ends in a little gift shop built into the porch of the house; it is fun to browse through the store and look at the souvenirs and books available for purchase. The store manages to maintain a proper presence as a gift shop while still preserving the dignity of the house as a whole, which is not an easy feat.
Have a good day everyone!