Last updated: April 10, 2015
Inside the White House; America's Most Famous Home. Caroli, Betty Boyd. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest, 1999.
he White House has a long and interesting history that unfolds in the splendid book, Inside the White House; America's Most Famous Home.Author Betty Boyd Caroli explores the building and its occupants in great detail and includes hundreds of photographs along the way. The author covers over two hundred years of history, stopping at the Clinton administration in 1999.
Caroli informs readers that George Washington, the only president to never occupy the White House, was the one who decided it would be a good idea to work and live in the same building. His successors followed his lead despite the misgivings of their families. President Chester Arthur didn't like the idea very much."You have no idea," he once told a reporter, "how depressing and fatiguing it is to live in the same house where you work." In the early 1900s First Lady Edith Roosevelt compared the arrangement to a storekeeper "living above the store."But somehow the idea caught on and now most first families seem to relish living in such a splendid and palatial home.
The overall feeling the reader gets from this book is that even through many incarnations, the White House has become a much-beloved space for both its occupants and the public.
The text and illustrations convey how the various parts of the White House changed over the years, depending on the occupants and their particular needs. All the renovations of the house, both large and small, are discussed and illustrated in the book. Readers understand how popular the White House is when they see a photo of the floor being replaced in the famous East Room. The floor, we are told, wears out quickly because of the thousands of tourists who visit the White House each year.
The White House is also, of course, a museum of sorts.With thousands of pieces of art and furniture, the building reflects the tastes of many people who have lived there.Somehow the overlapping of art and personal tastes come together and it all looks like it belongs in one building.
It's interesting to see how the house plays multiple roles as a domicile, business center and state house and how things co-exist in this busy and public space. The author sheds new light on both the building and its occupants and along the way illustrates the changes in the country and its people.