Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency--21 Presidents, 21 Rooms, 21 Inside Stories

Under This Roof: The White House and the Presidency--21 Presidents, 21 Rooms, 21 Inside Stories

Paul Brandus

Language: English

Pages: 296

ISBN: 149300834X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“Like taking a tour of the White House with a gifted storyteller at your side!”

  1. Why, in the minutes before John F. Kennedy was murdered, was a blood-red carpet installed in the Oval Office?
  2. If Abraham Lincoln never slept in the Lincoln Bedroom, where did he sleep?
  3. Why was one president nearly killed in the White House on inauguration day—and another secretly sworn in?
  4. 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:

  1. Walk with John Adams through the still-unfinished mansion, and watch Thomas Jefferson plot to buy the Louisiana Territory
  2. Feel the fear and panic as British invaders approach the mansion in 1814—and Dolley Madison frantically saves a painting of Washington
  3. Gaze out the window with Abraham Lincoln as Confederate flags flutter in the breeze on the other side of the Potomac
  4. Be in the room as one president is secretly sworn in, and another gambles away the White House china in a card game
  5. Stand by the presidential bed as one First Lady—covering up her husband’s illness from the nation—secretly makes decisions on his behalf
  6. 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.”

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Someone else turned a tablecloth into a rucksack, stuffed it full of silver and plates, and hauled it away.68 Finally, Cockburn gave the order to burn the building down. Windows were smashed. Furniture, carpets, and some of the drapes Dolley Madison had so carefully selected were piled together and doused in lamp oil and coal taken from a neighboring tavern. About 12:30 in the morning on August 25, sailors outside hurled flaming torches through the smashed-out windows.69 “Our sailors,” wrote one

president and first lady had been prepared (though some spaces like the Oval Room remained boarded up), and a kitchen to support them downstairs was ready to go, as were a wash-house, meat house, and other rooms for support staff. Monroe, not one to let perfect be the enemy of the good, thought it sufficient enough, though he was “apprehensive of the effects of the fresh painting and plastering.”19 A few things, however, were quite different from the Adams move-in. On both the front and rear of

some intriguing possibilities to do something more modest, such as build in a southerly direction. Standing in the way were the massive greenhouses installed by prior administrations. TR, the activist president and man of action that he was, was neither shy about expressing his desires nor sentimental toward parts of the mansion that he disdained. “Smash the glass houses,” he bellowed,14 and down came the conservatories that had been part of the White House since the days of James Buchanan

sub-basements. One significant alteration: The grand staircase off the central foyer, which led to the private quarters in the second floor, had been widened and elevated, allowing Truman and future presidents to make their entrance in dramatic fashion.82 The gleaming marble floor sported a long red chenille carpet, which ran the entire length of the Cross Hall, linking the State Dining Room with the East Room, which was reduced a bit in size and given a lemon-gold splendor.83 The Green Room was

science in botany, natural history, mineralogy & astronomy, joined the firmness of constitution & character, prudence, habits adapted to the woods, & a familiarity with the Indian manners & character, requisite for this undertaking. All the latter qualifications Capt. Lewis has.37 Jefferson knew this because Lewis had access to the president’s extensive collection of books and maps at both Monticello and in the president’s office in the mansion; the two talked incessantly about them. Some of the

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