President Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt, after a sharp downturn in health and passed on in 1945. Truman immediately went to work, and took his role as the President very seriously. After Truman’s first 19 months in office and working relentlessly, he went to the his doctor for a perpetual cold that didn’t want to seem to go away. Truman’s doctor diagnosed him with being physically exhausted and prescribed him to take a tropical vacation.
Truman started using the former naval officer residence in 1946, in November. After the first time visiting Key West, he was immediately charmed by the town, locals, and the climate. He even declared Key West to be his second favorite place on Earth, the first being his hometown, Independence, Missouri. He used it as his winter house, and second White House. He spent vacations there working during tumultuous times with war, and nuclear weapons being introduced. Truman invited important figures from all over to have discussions about important topics such as the Marshall Plan. He made huge decisions, and signed historical legislations in the Little White House, including Truman’s fifth Civil Rights Executive Order, a requirement that all federal contractors to hire minorities. Truman had an advantage in communications having had improvements in technology of communications, and was able to run the government from Key West.
After Truman’s Presidency was up in 1953, he continued to visit his Little White house, making 5 visits between the years between 1957 and 1969 and staying at a nearby private residence. After Truman, six U.S. Presidents have used the Little White House as a work retreat, and as a “little White House” and summit meeting location. Most recently, the Little White House was a used as a retreat for former President Clinton and his family in 2005, and President Carter and his family in 2007.
Today, the Little White House is owned by the State of Florida and is open to the public. The historic house needed some upkeep done, and was restored thanks to some private donors. The Little White House is still used regularly by the Federal Government for diplomatic dinners and missions.
To visit and see the Harry S. Truman Little White House while on your Key West vacation, take a look at our Little White House tour we offer.