The “Little White House” was one of our favorite tourist attractions in Key West. President Truman spent 175 days at this house from 1946 through 1952 during eleven different trips. The house, which had been the naval station’s command headquarters during the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II was updated and redecorated to serve as the winter White House of President Truman. Five subsequent presidents have found it a restful place as other presidents have used Camp David.
President Truman recorded his trips in official trip logs, which include numerous mentions of key staff, both political and military, flying to Key West to meet with him. What they did and said are not revealed in the logs as the details may have been classified at the time. Part of the house is now a museum, and houses much of the furniture and decorations from Truman’s presidency.
A few rooms of the house (not on the tour) are still available for use by presidents, their immediate families, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Interior, so it’s protected by the Secret Service. The tour doesn’t allow photos inside of the house, and cell phones must be turned off as their ringing will set off their highly sensitive alarms.
One of the things the tour guide mentions about President Truman’s personality is that he frequently interacted with media at the Little White House and was referred to as “Truman the Human” by its members. He described Key West as his second favorite place after his hometown of Independence, Missouri and visited five times after his Presidency ended.
Another interesting visitor to Key West was John James Audubon, who sighted and drew 18 new birds in here for his “Birds of America” folio. He visited here in 1832 and stayed at the home of Captain John H. Geiger (Geiger Key is where we’re staying), a harbor pilot and master wrecker. In later years, the house, which was scheduled for demolition, was donated and now houses furnishings typical of those found in a prosperous Key West home in the 1800’s. There are 28 first edition Audubon works in the house and one acre of gardens featuring bromeliads and orchids. A great example of the more sophisticated side of Key West. Just beautiful.