White House Heritage Museum Proposal 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, South Bend, Indiana

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White House Heritage Museum Proposal

  • 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, South Bend, Indiana

Presidential Heritage

  • There are 13 (soon to be 14) official presidential libraries and several unofficial presidential museums and libraries scattered around America.

    • Every president since Hoover has an official library; Lincoln, McKinley, and others are unofficial
    • They celebrate only one president each
    • They average 150,000 visitors a year
    • Many are not self-supporting; Congress is trying to raise endowment requirements
  • No museum is dedicated to the White House.

    • The Truman Library contains a great deal about the Truman-era reconstruction
    • The White House Historical Association and the Smithsonian preserve its history but not with substantial standing exhibits.
  • There is only one small museum dedicated to all presidents:

    • The American Presidential Museum in Branson, MO

White House Heritage Museum

  • The White House Heritage Museum is a proposed project to create a non-profit history museum of the American presidency and White House in the form of a full-scale replica of the White House mansion and grounds.

  • The project would create a major tourist attraction and public park in the northern Indiana/southern Michigan area.

  • The objective is to create a place where visitors from around the nation and all over the world can come to:

    • Tour a replica of the White House and visit rooms not open to the public in the real White House
    • Interact with displays of its history and the history of the presidency
    • Enjoy the park and special events

White House Heritage Museum

  • The Museum is an approximately 32-acre campus with White House replica and Lafayette Square Park.

  • The mansion is flanked by two large parking lots where the EEOB and Treasury buildings would be.

  • The north corners provide areas for shops on either side of “Lafayette Park.”

  • Shuttle bus service could be available around the Museum campus as well as to and from the airport, Notre Dame campus, and downtown South Bend.

  • The campus and park are perfect for concerts, parades, foot and bike races, and other events.

  • The retail space and other buildings would be designed to complement the architectural style of the White House.

  • Future expansions could include a Marine One helicopter, Air Force One fuselage, presidential carriages and limousines, and even a research library that is a replica of the Taft-era West Wing, complete with a replica of the first Oval Office.

Why a Replica?

  • A “Hall of Presidents” is not enough of an attraction.

  • The White House has a mystique beyond its physical location.

    • Every presidential library includes a replica of the Oval Office and usually other rooms.
    • The Zweifel miniature White House is a popular traveling attraction.
    • TV shows and movies often capture the popular imagination about what living and working in the White House is like.
  • The White House is not available for special events the way museums are.

    • Parts of the mansion could be rented for private functions of all types.
    • The museum would host special community events open to the public.
  • The White House offers little in the way of historical exhibits of its own heritage.

    • The White House Visitors Center in Washington is virtually empty.
    • Museum exhibits would be substituted for the more utilitarian offices of the real White House.

The President’s Residence

  • The real White House is a working residence and office building as well as a living museum.

    • 18 acres (Presidential Park only; does not include Lafayette Square)
    • 132 rooms; 55,000 square feet (67,000 total)
    • $12 million operating budget—staff of 90 inside and 23 on grounds
    • 1.5 million visitors a year—free admission
    • If the White House charged $8 admission, it would operate in the black
    • A replica would cost less to run and would be self-supporting with fewer visitors
  • Real White House tours are difficult to arrange, very limited in scope, and unavailable on holidays.

  • Security concerns make White House tours subject to occasional suspension or last-minute cancellation.

National Security Concerns

  • The Museum foundation would work with Homeland Security to be certain that no aspects important to the safety of the president or security of the White House would be duplicated accurately or compromised by the museum replica.

    • Most of the detailed floor plan information is already publicly available and does not present a security concern.
    • No attempt would be made to replicate or describe escape routes, command centers, electronic surveillance systems, or sophisticated physical security measures.
    • Private areas used as museum offices would not replicate the actual White House floor plan for those areas.
  • Conventional museum security measures would be built into the design in unobtrusive ways, such as electronic locks, video surveillance, and anti-vehicle barriers.

A Modular Plan

  • A major advantage of this plan is its modular approach.

  • The Museum might ultimately consist of several parts.

  • Each stage of completion presents an opportunity for media exposure and celebration, and therefore becomes a tourist event.

    • Groundbreaking in the Oval Office location
    • VIP tours of the mansion during late-stage construction
    • Opening Ceremonies
      • Museum offices and those rooms that are open to the public in the real White House are completed
    • Garden Party Celebration
      • The White House grounds are completed, including the Rose Garden, Kennedy Garden, tennis courts, swimming pool
      • Lafayette Park is completed
    • Grand Opening
      • Remaining museum rooms are completed
    • Opening of expansion exhibits
      • Presidential auto collection
      • Decommissioned presidential helicopter on the South Lawn
      • 747 fuselage painted and dressed inside as Air Force One

A Museum and Event Host

The Mansion as Museum

  • The White House replica would serve both as a living replica of the real presidential mansion and a museum of American presidential heritage.

  • All public and residence rooms and certain other rooms (such as the Oval Office) would be dressed to replicate the real White House décor.

    • On special occasions, some rooms could be redressed with props and décor to replicate a bygone era, such as the FDR administration or Reagan administration
  • Most staff areas in the wings would feature museum exhibits of White House and presidential history.

    • Floor plan of these areas would be changed to accommodate museum needs
    • Some staff areas would be used as museum offices.
  • Fully secure/classified areas would be eliminated from the replica’s floor plan or used for museum storage.

Architecture and Furnishings

  • The appearance of accuracy is enough.

    • Since the décor changes from administration to administration, an approximation of the drapes, carpets, and furniture at any given time will suffice
    • Initial furnishings can be replaced with more authentic materials over time
    • Woodwork and other permanent fixtures need to appear accurate from the beginning
  • White House historians can help and provide extensive documentation.

    • Trim molding styles, carpet designs, etc.
    • Photos, diagrams, measurements, etc.
  • Replicas of White House furniture and décor are already available and often used by presidential libraries.

    • The Oval Office rug is custom made by Hokanson.
    • New flooring was installing in the Oval Office in 2005 by Carpet One.
    • Some chairs and tables are made by Kittinger.
    • Accurate reproductions of the president’s desk and other White House furniture are available from New York First and Victorian Replicas

Museum Exhibits

  • The Museum would learn from and coordinate with presidential library museums and local attractions to provide interesting and interactive exhibits.

    • Multimedia displays, mannequins, and personal effects of past presidents
    • Photographs and pieces of White House renovations
  • History and trivia exhibits

    • First families
    • One Observatory Circle: the vice president’s residence
    • Camp David history and tradition
    • History of the Secret Service
    • White House pets
  • Interactive simulations and video kiosks

    • Deliver a White House press announcement on camera
    • Sign a bill into law
    • Watch great presidential speeches

The Mansion as Event Host

  • Since the real White House is a working residence of a head of state, replicating its features would make a practical museum and event host.

    • Wheelchair/stroller accessibility
    • Full kitchens for catered events; dinners for 140, receptions for 1,000
    • Ball room and meeting rooms for gala events, debates, lectures, and conferences
    • Restrooms for the public and staff
    • Offices for staff
    • Carpenter, engineer, and flower shops
  • For larger events, tents can be set up on the lawn.

  • Weddings in the Rose Garden, receptions in the East Room, dancing in the Entrance Hall.

Special Events

  • The Museum would host many events to ensure continued service to the community and attraction to tourists.

    • December & January: Christmas décor and events can last from Thanksgiving to January
    • February: Presidents Day celebration, with presidential retrospectives
    • April-June: Easter, Mothers Day, and Fathers Day events
    • July: week-long Independence Day celebration, with concerts and fireworks
    • September & October: School field trips and a “haunted White House” party
    • November: Thanksgiving Day community dinner in the State Dining Room
  • The Museum could host national community events.

    • Speeches and historical talks
    • Political debates
  • The Museum would coordinate with local community events and celebrations.

  • The Museum could be reserved for private functions.

    • Weddings and wedding receptions
    • VIP dinners and political campaign events
    • Business conferences and catered dinners
    • Private overnight stays (8 rooms + 4 suites)
    • Awards ceremonies

The White House Virtual Tour

  • Elevations and floor plans: the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington Post, and elsewhere.

  • Photographs: the White House and presidential library collections

White House Layout

  • The White House mansion consists of:

    • The Family Residence (main structure)
    • The West Wing (president’s senior staff offices)
    • The East Wing (social offices and visitor reception)
  • The White House main structure is a four-story building with basement and sub-basement and multiple mezzanines.

    • Ground floor: smaller public rooms and special staff offices
      • 10-foot ceilings
      • On the north side, the rooms look onto “areaways” below street grade
    • First floor: main entrance and grand public rooms
      • 18-22-foot ceilings
      • Ideal for corporate events and dinners
    • Second floor: family and guest rooms
      • 14-foot ceilings
      • Master suite and Lincoln bedroom
      • Truman Balcony
    • Third floor: family and guest rooms, and offices

The Visitor Experience

  • Visitors would arrive at the Museum on Pennsylvania Avenue and see the fenced-in White House on one side and the open Lafayette Square and shopping district on the other.

  • They would park in the large lots flanking the White House and walk or take a shuttle bus to the Visitor’s Entrance near the East Wing (just as at the real White House).

  • There they would pay the entrance fee and get badges with electronic tags.

    • These “security badges” would become souvenirs
    • They could be programmed to allow entry for one or more days
  • After passing through a metal detector, visitors proceed to the East Wing.

    • Souvenir shop
    • Exhibits on the early presidency and White House
    • In the theater, they could watch a short film
    • Second floor would be museum offices
  • Then they continue on into the Residence Ground Floor….

The Visitor Experience

  • Visitors would browse the public rooms on the Ground Floor and proceed up to the First Floor and Second Floor by stairs or elevator.

    • Ground and First Floor rooms dressed as real with kiosks playing clips of curators and residents describing the history of the room
    • Food and soft drinks in the Family Dining Room on the First Floor
    • Partial Third Floor tours available on special days and for VIPs
  • They would then descend to the Ground Floor again and proceed through the West Wing colonnade

    • Press Briefing Room and press offices with exhibits
  • Then they would enter the West Wing First Floor

    • Mostly exhibits of later presidency and White House life
    • Oval Office, Cabinet Room, and Roosevelt Room dressed as real
    • Situation Room and restaurant on Ground Floor, as well as museum offices
    • Second floor would be museum offices
  • Visitors could exit the West Wing and tour the grounds by a guided electric cart tour or through other exits and take a unguided walking tour of the grounds.

  • The electric cart tour would end at the East Wing, where visitors could buy souvenirs and catch a shuttle bus back to where they parked.

East Wing Ground Floor

East Wing Ground Floor

  • The East Wing contains the visitors entrance, the East Wing gallery, the White House theater, and offices used by some first ladies and their staffs as well as offices for correspondence, calligraphers, and the social secretary.

  • Beneath it is the presidential emergency operations center, which would not be replicated.

  • Second Floor offices would be used as museum staff offices

  • First Floor would be turned into exhibit space and a large gift shop.

East Wing Ground Floor

East Wing Ground Floor

  • The East Wing contains the visitors entrance, the East Wing gallery, the White House theater, and offices used by some first ladies and their staffs as well as offices for correspondence, calligraphers, and the social secretary.

  • Beneath it is the presidential emergency operations center, which would not be replicated.

  • Second Floor offices would be used as museum staff offices

  • First Floor would be turned into exhibit space and a large gift shop.

Residence Ground Floor

Residence Ground Floor

Residence First Floor

Residence First Floor

Residence Second Floor

Residence Second Floor

Residence Third Floor

Residence Third Floor

West Wing First Floor

West Wing First Floor

West Wing Second Floor

West Wing Ground Floor

West Wing Ground Floor


  • The White House grounds include:

    • A tennis court (1), Oval Office terrace, and swimming pool (2), as well as fountains, basketball court, putting green, horseshoe pit, and groundskeeping buildings.
    • Gardens: Rose Garden (3), Kennedy Garden, Children’s Garden
  • Mature trees would be sought out to match White House trees.

Lafayette Square

  • Lafayette Square is the park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.

  • Replicating it would provided a picturesque place for community leisure and events that would be maintained and administered by the museum foundation.

  • The park would be open and free to the public.

Logistics and Funding

Central Location

  • Northern Indiana (Michiana) is the perfect place for a large-scale patriotic-themed museum attraction.

    • Centrally located in the US
    • Strategically located on the 80/90 toll road that connects Chicago to Toledo and Cleveland, and on the 31 freeway to Indianapolis
    • Big enough to support the project, small enough to avoid traffic issues
    • Has a reputation for middle-American values and patriotism (Hummer, Studebaker)
  • Conventions and Notre Dame give the South Bend area notoriety and potential.

    • Attracts affluent and educated visitors
    • Spurred the development excellent shopping, restaurants, and hotels in the area
    • Spurred the development of a small but very good airport facility


  • The project should have a substantial positive economic and cultural impact on the Michiana area.

    • A major tourist attraction for an estimated 500,000 visitors per year
    • An attraction for high-profile corporate executives, politicians, and scholars
    • A public park
    • A center for community events
    • $20+ million in local labor and material expenditures during construction
    • A professional staff of about 20 directors, historians, curators, and department heads
    • An estimated 120 service jobs, post-construction
    • Substantial revenues from retail stores in Lafayette Square shopping district
    • Corresponding increase in revenues from existing area retailers and services
  • There is no anticipated negative environmental or cultural impact.

    • The proposed site would develop an agricultural location
    • Little to no housing would be displaced
    • Close enough to downtown to promote crossover revenue and visitation
    • Relative remoteness would reduce any issues of noise and traffic
    • Environmentally, the construction would compare to the construction of a corporate office complex
    • Green construction techniques would likely be encouraged and supported financially by interested agencies and organizations


  • It’s very difficult to estimate the cost of replicating a 200-year-old world-famous mansion estate.

  • Some model projects are available to help determine the costs involved.

    • Studebaker National Museum 2005 new facility project
      • $9 million, raised privately
      • 24,000 visitors
      • 50,000 square feet
      • Professional staff of 8
    • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center project, 2004 (Cincinnati)
      • $80 million
      • 158,000 square feet (2.4 x the size of the White House)
    • Computer History Museum project, 2005 (near San Jose)
      • $125 million, corporate and private
      • Staff of 30 permanent and 350 volunteers
      • 120,000 square feet (1.8 x the size of the White House)
    • Clinton Library project, 2004 (Little Rock)
      • $165 million, raised mostly privately
      • 150,000 square feet (2.3 x the size of the White House)
      • Staff of 30 archivists alone
    • GHW Bush Library project, 1997 (near Houston)
      • 20,000 square feet of museum exhibit space
      • $43 million, raised privately
      • Additional $40 million for a conference center and school of government
      • professional staff of 10


  • A total of $50 to $65 million would likely be required, with the shopping district paid for by the businesses who will occupy it.

  • The modular design would likely allow the museum to open its doors with $28 million and begin serving the community in approximately 2 years.

Funding Model

  • The patriotic nature and national scope of the project lends itself to large-scale fund-raising at the highest levels, especially federal and corporate.

    • Corporate donations
    • Federal government
      • $40 million
    • Private donations
      • $3 million
      • Raised thru advertising appeals, personal donations, entrance fees
    • State government
      • Road building
    • Local government
      • Zoning and permits
      • Utility service extension
  • A substantial degree of public donation and volunteerism can also be expected.

Next Steps

  • Get support from local officials.

    • Sponsorship of funding at the federal level
    • Recommendations for contacts
    • Recommendations for participants in the project
  • Form a non-profit organization.

    • Create a foundation for funding to be applied to
    • Get an architectural firm to draft concept drawings
    • Create a communication campaign strategy
    • Make first contact with White House historians
  • Create a detailed development plan with cost estimates.

    • Explore architects, contractors, suppliers
  • Pursue broad-based support.

    • The White House Historical Association
    • State and federal legislators
    • General public and news media
    • Corporate and major private sources


  • For more information about this project or this proposal document, contact:

  • Derek Jensen

  • webmaster@WhiteHouseMuseum.org

  • 574-315-8327

  • 364 Pine Crest Dr.

  • Bremen, IN 46506

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