Seminar:  Barely Avoiding Disaster: Lessons Learned from the White House Reconstruction Project During Harry Truman’s Presidency

When and Where:

  •  April 21, 2015 (3:00 pm to 4:30 pm
    • Seattle, WA (Bell Harbor International Conference Center)
    • Sponsored by Puget Sound Chapter CSI (Construction Specifications Institute)
  •  May 7, 2015 (1:30 pm to 2:20 pm)
    • Spokane, WA (Spokane Convention Center)
    • Sponsored by WASBO (Washington Association of School Business Officials)
  •  October 2, 2015 (11:00 am to 12:30 pm)

    • Bloomington, MN (Courtyard Marriott, 7800 Bloomington Ave South)
    • Minnesota Chapter of NIGP (National Institute of Governmental Purchasing)
  • October 13, 2015 (8:00 am to 9:30 am)

    • Las Vegas, NV (Tuscany Suites, 255 E. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas)
    • National Procurement Institute

Speaker:  Mike Purdy 

Description:  The groaning and creaking of the White House that Harry Truman thought were ghosts of previous Presidents haunting the famous residence turned out to be the complete failing of the interior beams and walls of the building that had been rebuilt after it was burned by the British in 1814.  Had action not been taken in the 1950s to gut and rebuild the entire interior of the building, it is likely that it would have collapsed in on itself bringing down the sandstone exterior walls as well.

Rebuilding the Interior Walls of the White House

Rebuilding the Interior Walls of the White House

One would expect that a renovation project of this politically and historically significant home would have been an orderly and well managed project that would be completed on budget and on time.

The opposite was true, and the project was fraught with a host of problems including:

  • Political feuding about design and budget
  • An arbitrary contractor pre-qualification process that resulted in a low bid that was shockingly low
  • Significant delays in the architect producing drawings for the contractor
  • Change orders that busted the congressionally authorized budget and required the President to plead for more funds
  • Delays in schedule
  • Inadequate staffing of the project
  • A dysfunctional project management organizational structure
  • A labor strike
  • And more…

The White House reconstruction project serves as a helpful reminder of how not to manage a public works construction project, and in the process teaches us a number of important lessons.

Presidential History: