Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency--21 Presidents, 21 Rooms, 21 Inside Stories
“Like taking a tour of the White House with a gifted storyteller at your side!”
- Why, in the minutes before John F. Kennedy was murdered, was a blood-red carpet installed in the Oval Office?
- If Abraham Lincoln never slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, where did he sleep?
- Why was one president nearly killed in the White House on inauguration day—and another secretly sworn in?
- What really happened in the Situation Room on September 11, 2001?
History leaps off the page in this “riveting,” “fast-moving” and “highly entertaining” book on the presidency and White House in Under This Roof, from award-winning White House-based journalist Paul Brandus. Reporting from the West Wing briefing room since 2008, Brandus—the most followed White House journalist on Twitter (@WestWingReport)—weaves together stories of the presidents, their families, the events of their time—and an oft-ignored major character, the White House itself.
From George Washington—who selected the winning design for the White House—to the current occupant, Barack Obama—the story of the White House is the story of America itself, Brandus writes. You’ll:
- Walk with John Adams through the still-unfinished mansion, and watch Thomas Jefferson plot to buy the Louisiana Territory
- Feel the fear and panic as British invaders approach the mansion in 1814—and Dolley Madison frantically saves a painting of Washington
- Gaze out the window with Abraham Lincoln as Confederate flags flutter in the breeze on the other side of the Potomac
- Be in the room as one president is secretly sworn in, and another gambles away the White House china in a card game
- Stand by the presidential bed as one First Lady—covering up her husband’s illness from the nation—secretly makes decisions on his behalf
- Learn how telephones, movies, radio, TV changed the presidency—and the nation itself
Through triumph and tragedy, boom and bust, secrets and scandals, Brandus takes you to the presidential bedroom, movie theater, Situation Room, Oval Office and more. Under This Roof is a “sensuous account of the history of both the home of the President, and the men and women who designed, inhabited, and decorated it. Paul Brandus captivates with surprising, gloriously raw observations.”
Association, www.whha.org/whha_classroom/classroom_4-8-building.html. 15 The “Temporary” part of the name went away after about six months (Seale, The President’s House, 690). 16 Willets, 69. 17 Seale, The President’s House, 672. 18 Ibid., 690. 19 Ibid., 713. 20 Seale, The White House, 145. 21 Remnants of the Tiffany screens can be seen today across the street at St. John’s Episcopal Church. 22 Monkman, 186. 23 Ibid., 192. 24 Ibid. 25 White House History, 124. 26 This shared interest
Eastern Seaboard to a vast power straddling the North American continent. The dawn of America’s second century was also the dawn of an era in which its transformation from a rural, agriculture-based economy to an urban, industrial one accelerated. It was that centennial year when Alexander Graham Bell—a Scottish scientist and engineer living in Boston—obtained a patent for an “apparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically.” It came to be known as the telephone. The next year,
Kai-shek, wife of China’s leader, was leaving an Oval Office meeting. “Please don’t get up,” she said. Roosevelt: “My dear child, I couldn’t stand up if I had to.”36 Yet FDR never complained about being crippled. Anyone who expressed sympathy to his condition was often cut off with a terse “No sob sister stuff ”;37 the president simply didn’t want to hear about it. He didn’t want to speak about it either. He mentioned it but once, on March 1, 1945—six weeks before his death—in a speech to
new nuclear age. The Soviets had just tested their first nuclear weapon after all, and the president needed something more sufficient. Construction of the shelter took ninety-five days, 150 tons of gravel, one thousand tons of steel, and 3,030 cubic yards of concrete.73 But even today key details, including architectural renderings of the shelter, continue to be withheld from the public.74 75 Even as the mansion was modernized, Winslow respectfully adhered to the past. His goal was for the new
FLOOR OF THE White House is grand. Looking across Pennsylvania Avenue, beyond the canopy of trees and fountains of Lafayette Park—named for the Frenchman Marquis de Lafayette, who fought in the Revolutionary War—one can gaze up Sixteenth Street Northwest. To the right, in the one o’clock position, stands St. John’s Episcopal Church, its modest yellow sanctuary punctuated by a white spire and topped by a small golden dome. Every president since James Madison in 1815 has attended services there at