Truman Balcony

The balcony in 2008, looking south (C-SPAN)

The President's (Rather Controversial) Porch

In 1947, Harry Truman consulted with architects on the addition of a balcony off the Yellow Oval Room. A committee was appointed, and a controversy erupted that spilled over into the newspapers and editorial cartoons. President Truman maintained that a balcony would help balance the south face of the White House by breaking up the long verticals of the columns, and provide shade for the first floor portico without the awnings commonly used at the time, which tended to become dirty. Opponents argued that the tall columns were in keeping with the Federal style of architecture (and the Classical Greek style it was based on) and that adding a "porch" for the first family's leisure would ruin the look of the south side of the building.

In the end, Truman prevailed and there was general agreement that the new balcony, finished in 1948, was an improvement in both form and function. However, closer examination of the rest of the White House soon led architects and structural engineers to determine that the whole house was unsound, and so the Truman reconstruction project of 1948-1952 began, which completely rebuilt the interior of the White House.

Presidents today use the Truman Balcony to relax as well as to entertain, as it provides the best of all views the White House has to offer aside from the Sun Room directly above it.

More Images

The balcony in 2008, looking east (C-SPAN)

George and Laura Bush with Mexican President Vincente Fox and wife, circa 2002 (White House)

Hillary Clinton in 2000 (Annie Liebovitz)

The Clintons with King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan in 1998

The Truman Balcony in 1992, looking south (HABS)

The Truman Balcony in 1992; note the door on the left (HABS)

The Truman Balcony in 1987 (Dept of Defense)

The Truman Balcony in 1981 (Architectural Digest - Derry Moore)

Jack Ford with Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol in 1975 (Ford Library)

The Fords mark their 24th wedding anniversary on the Truman Balcony in 1974 (NARA - Ford Library)

Tricia Nixon conducting her television tour in 1970 (White House Historical Association)

Mrs. Johnson on the balcony in 1965 (Life)

The Truman Balcony soon after the Residence reconstruction in 1952, looking northwest

The Truman Balcony soon after completion in 1948, looking west (Truman Library)

The Truman Balcony under construction in 1948 (Life)

1947 architectural model of the White House with the Truman Balcony, shades down (Truman Library)

1947 architectural model of the White House with the Truman Balcony, shades up (Truman Library)

1947 architectural model of the White House with the old awnings that Truman hated (Truman Library)

View from the Yellow Oval Room around 1930, before the Truman Balcony was built (NARA)