He loved Key West Florida’s Little White House
In 1942 President Roosevelt had taken a federal government camp built by the WPA and jokingly renamed it Shangri La (now Camp David) for use as a Presidential retreat and vacation ground. Truman used it rarely, finding the rustic nature of the camp not to his taste.
He preferred to vacation instead of at what became known as the Little White House, a former residence of the Commandant of the Naval Base at Key West Florida. Truman made it his winter White House beginning in 1946. Eventually, he spent 11 vacations there for a total of 175 days during his nearly eight years in office.
His vacations were usually working vacations and the activities at Key West reflect that. The meetings creating the Department of Defense were conducted there and the result codified as the Key West Accord. Truman announced what became known as the Truman Doctrine – a promise to resist Soviet expansionism – just before leaving for a working vacation at Key West; dealing with the repercussions and remonstrations of world leaders and the press was handled from there. Much of what became the Marshall Plan was hammered out there.
The Navy expanded communication and transportation capabilities to the point that the President at the Little White House enjoyed the same access to information that he had in Washington. But it wasn’t all work there. While in residence Truman enjoyed deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and occasional cruises on the Presidential yacht, although Army man to the bone he was never an appreciative sailor.
Truman freely enjoyed the small-town atmosphere of Key West itself, and he was never without cronies for a game of poker or conversation over bourbon in the evenings. After he left the Presidency he returned no less than five times, staying at the private residence of friends. The Little White House is now owned by the State of Florida and operated as a museum, remodeled to match its appearance when Truman used it to recharge his batteries.