Location: 111 Front Street, Key West
Hours: Open daily from 9 to 4:30 PM
Looking for a great piece of living history? If so, visit the Harry S. Truman Little White House. Before coming to Key West, I’d never heard of this landmark. Harry Truman, rated as the fifth greatest US President in history, used to visit a Key West naval base regularly to conduct business so often that the base became known as the “little White House” because he spent so much time there during his presidency.
First built in 1890, the naval base served as a naval command station during several wars, including the Spanish-American War and World War I and II. In 1946, after serving one rigorous year as President, Truman visited Key West on the advice of his doctor as treatment for exhaustion. While at the base, Truman not only conducted extensive official business, but also relaxed with leaders from his Cabinet and with his family. In all he spent 175 days of his presidency at the Little White House.
Visitors to the museum have much to look forward to. Guided tours take you through the very rooms Truman occupied. The house still holds 90% of the original Truman-era furniture.
Some of the standout pieces include the original banana-leaf print rattan furniture in the game room; a card table made from wood native to the island and where Truman spent time playing cards with the likes of his Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; the downstairs full bar where Truman drank his morning concoction consisting of orange juice and whiskey; the upstairs Truman bedrooms, including the master with a couch Truman had brought in by the Secret Service so he could nap during the day and not mess up the master bed; and the formal living room with the original record player that the Trumans used to listen to their daughter Margaret’s radio singing debut.
Tours are brief (around 30 minutes) and guided by excellent guides who pepper each room with humorous and amazing stories of the life and times of Harry Truman. Tours run consistently throughout the day from museum open to close. Be sure to buy your tickets online to save a little money. You can also purchase combo tickets that provide discounts to Key West attractions, such as the Hemingway House or the Conch Tour Train.