The Truman Balcony on the second floor of the White House
The portico before construction of the balcony (photo ca. 1910-1935)
The Truman Balcony is the second-floor balcony of the Executive Residence of the White House, which overlooks the south lawn. It was completed in March 1948, during the presidency of Harry S. Truman.
Controversy over construction plans
This photograph, taken at Franklin D. Roosevelt
's fourth Inaugural Address
, shows the White House's south face before the Truman Balcony was built. The awnings that Truman disliked are visible.
Truman's plans to build a balcony of the Yellow Oval Room were controversial.
Truman argued that the addition of a balcony would provide shade for the first floor portico, avoiding the need for awnings, and would balance the White House's south face by breaking up the long verticals created by the columns. Critics of the proposal, including members of the Commission of Fine Arts, argued that the Classic Greek style of the building would be undermined in order to create a leisure space for the First Family. The Commission's chairman, civil engineer and landscape architect Gilmore David Clarke, wrote to Truman to voice his opposition to the balcony. Truman responded, restating his belief that the residence would be enhanced by the project especially as it presented an opportunity to replace unattractive awnings, which he said collected dirt and constituted an eyesore, with wooden shades that could be rolled up under the new balcony.
Contemporary political cartoonists satirized the President's balcony project, suggesting that it might even cost him the 1948 presidential election.
Construction and subsequent history
Plans for the balcony were approved by architect William Adams Delano. No request was made to Congress for the $16,050.74 (equivalent to $167,376.76 in 2018) cost of constructing the balcony, as Truman had saved a sufficient sum from his household account. Once the balcony was completed, several of those who had opposed the project wrote to the President acknowledging that the balcony had in fact improved the south face of the Residence.
In a September 2012 interview in Vanity Fair, President Barack Obama listed the balcony as his and his wife Michelle Obama's favorite spot in the White House.
- Conflict and Crisis: The Presidency of Harry S. Truman, 1945-1948, By Robert J. Donovan, University of Missouri Press, 1996.
- The President's House: A History, Vol. II, by William Seale, The White House Historical Association, Washington, D.C., 1986.
- The White House and Its Thirty-Four Families, by Amy La Follette Jensen, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1965.
Coordinates: 38°53?51?N 77°02?12?W / 38.897486°N 77.036582°W