​Bowling Alley in the White House Basement

Author: John LesterBy:
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October 29, 2010

Bowling Alley in the White House basement. The White House Bowling Alley is a one-lane bowling alley in the basement of the White House. President Nixon converted it into a two-lane White House bowling alley in 1969. President Obama told voters that he wanted to remove the bowling alley in favor of a basketball court in 2008.

Bowling lanes were first built in the ground floor of the West Wing as a birthday gift for President Truman in 1947 (in the location of the present-day Situation Room). Truman didn’t care for bowling himself, but allowed staff to start a league. These were moved to the Old Executive Office Building in 1955 to make way for a mimeograph room.

In 1969, President and Mrs. Nixon, both avid bowlers, had a new one-lane alley built (paid for by friends) in an underground workspace area below the driveway leading to the North Portico. In 2008, President Barack Obama announced that he was removing the famous bowling alley. “I have sworn that we’re taking out the bowling alley in the White House and we’re putting in a basketball court,” Obama said.

The basement has a long history. During World War II, a bomb shelter was constructed under the East Wing, later converted into the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. The sub-basement was added during the reconstruction of the White House under Harry S. Truman. It contains storage space, the laundry, elevator control machinery, the water softener, and incinerator, as well as dressing rooms for White House performers.

Dwight Eisenhower made the first White House television broadcast from a special room in the basement in 1953, though the “broadcast room” was soon divided for other purposes. The bowling alley has gone through many changes over the years. It is one of the earliest recreation facilities in the White House.

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