Trump's 'dump': White House undergoes $3.4 million renovation
WASHINGTON (WJLA) - Even the heavy rains that went on for hours didn't faze tourists keeping watch outside the White House Monday.
Nor the news that the Executive Mansion, undergoing a $3.4 million renovation, is now a construction zone.
"You expect it, it's the White House, it should be taken care of," says Alison Robinson, visiting from Kentucky. "I think that's a good idea."
Barely an hour after President Donald Trump left for a working vacation at his New Jersey resort Friday, crews began moving furniture and other items from the West Wing.
Trump's social media manager, Dan Scavino, tweeted out pictures of a near-empty Oval Office, and the historic "Resolute" desk being carried out by workers.
"It unquestionably needs some repair," says Paul Brandus, a member of the White House Press Corps, and the author of several books on the presidency. "You're talking about a building that gets tons of visitors every day. The wear and tear is simply too much."
The biggest - and most expensive - job will be the $1.9 million replacement of the heating and air conditioning system, which a General Services Administration spokesperson says would "fail without intervention."
The White House says the 27-year-old system, which runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, has 81 years worth of wear.
The GSA also says a complete carpet replacement will cost $1.17-million.
Repainting sections of the White House interior will cost around $275,000.
"The expenditure is in line, or under what the past three administrations have spent," GSA spokeswoman Renee wrote in an email statement.
The job will also include new cables and wires, and repairs to the South Portico steps, which are showing signs of cracks.
The steps haven't been restored in 64 years, experts say.
"That's really important," says Isabella Saljanin, a visitor from New York. "I think it's kind of funny, that these are issues that modern-day households have. It's not something the White House should be having, but I think it's good they're fixing it."
Finally, there are the leaks in the lower White House press room.
But not the kind Washington is taking about.
"There've been some rain leaks that have come in," Brandus says. "We've had these heavy rains last couple of weeks, even today."
Staffers have had to use trash cans to catch the dripping water.
Brandus calls the project the biggest renovation since 1948, when the White House was declared to be in imminent danger of collapse.
According to whitehousemuseum.org, the ceiling of the East Room, weighing 70 pounds per square foot, was found to be sagging as much as 18 inches.
Inspectors found the plumbing "makeshift and unsanitary," with the presidential bathtub "sinking into the floor."
Experts told the Truman administration that building a brand-new White House would be cheaper than a full restoration.
But the president believed the cultural value of the original building was more important than saving money.
The several-year-long renovation ended up costing $5.7 million.
"He literally had to move out for about four-and-a-half years, down to Blair House just down the street," Brandus recalls. "The White House was literally torn down, rebuilt from the inside out."
This time, the job is expected to be done in only about two weeks, just in time for President Trump to move back in.
Most agree the White House is a historical treasure, a most-valued piece of the nation's fabric that should be carefully preserved.
"I mean, it's beautiful inside," says Adele Igershein, of Bethesda, Maryland, who was conducting a tour for a group of German tourists. "You want to keep this house in good shape for everybody who comes to look at it, not to mention the people who live in it."