The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House

The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House

3.8 47
by Kate Andersen Brower

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A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve


A remarkable history with elements of both In the President’s Secret Service and The Butler, The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys to the Obamas.

America’s First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day. Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family.

These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion’s 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level’s basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.

Combining incredible first-person anecdotes from extensive interviews with scores of White House staff members—many speaking for the first time—with archival research, Kate Andersen Brower tells their story. She reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades. From the housekeeper and engineer who fell in love while serving President Reagan to Jackie Kennedy’s private moment of grief with a beloved staffer after her husband’s assassination to the tumultuous days surrounding President Nixon’s resignation and President Clinton’s impeachment battle, The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.

Editorial Reviews

Douglas Brinkley
“Kate Andersen Brower’s The Residence is one of those rare books that is both elegant portraiture and highly readable, important White House history. The anecdotes are fresh and the analysis cogent. The stories about Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton, and Obama are irresistible. Highly recommended!”
Norah O'Donnell
“Beautifully written, The Residence offers a unique and compelling view of what really happens inside the very private White House. An absolute must-read!”
Chuck Todd
“This intimate portrait of what it’s like to take care of the first family is a compelling read. Whether you’re a political or history junkie or devoted Downton Abbey viewer, this book adds unique context to understanding our presidents as human beings.”
Judy Woodruff
“Superbly reported. . . . A fascinating backstage account of the world’s most famous residence.”
Chris Matthews
The Residence is a true insider’s tour of the White House. Never before has the president’s home appeared so loud and so human.”
The Washington Post
“The tell-all The Residence, featuring intimate anecdotes collected from past and current White House staff members, is absolutely delicious.”
The Today Show
“A revealing look at life inside the White House…it’s Downton Abbey for the White House staff.”
The Daily Beast
“A juicy new book. . . . A touching story.”
“If you’ve been geeking out over the details of the Underwoods’ residence on House of Cards, or you loved that centerpiece story line on Sunday’s Veep premiere, prepare to encounter the motherlode: Kate Brower’s The Residence.”
Today Show
“A revealing look at life inside the White House…it’s Downtown Abbey for the White House staff.”
Library Journal
America's first families have long been a source of fascination for the people of the United States, yet we rarely get a chance to glimpse anything but their professional and often stoic personalities. Journalist Brower, who spent four years covering the White House for Bloomberg News, explores the personal lives of American presidential families using stories from people who connect with them on a regular basis—the White House domestic staff. Her book provides a day-to-day look at the lives of maids, butlers, maitre d's, ushers, and chefs, as well as at their interactions with the presidents, first ladies, and first children they served. Although most of the interviewees keep their memories close to the vest, some share anecdotes that truly humanize their employers. Brower discusses everything that happens behind closed doors in the White House, from the mundane (Lyndon B. Johnson's shower specifications) to the dramatic (Hillary Rodham Clinton's response to her husband's cheating scandal). VERDICT Fans of Downton Abbey will find this look into the secret world of the White House fascinating. History buffs who would like to learn more about the personal lives of the presidents and their families will definitely enjoy all the intriguing vignettes.—Rebecca Kluberdanz, GB65 Lib., New York
Kirkus Reviews
Anecdotes both touching and hilarious about living and working in the White House, "the country's most potent and enduring symbol of the presidency." While journalist Brower moves by theme in presenting the memories of select long-running staff at the White House—"Controlled Chaos," "Discretion," "Extraordinary Demands," "Dark Days," etc.—there is an irresistible, charmingly pell-mell quality to the arrangement of these dishy stories. The author has managed to track down numerous former staffers—ushers, electricians, maids, butlers, chefs, and florists—to share their mostly loyal thoughts on the illustrious families they served. They (and the families themselves) often compare living in the White House to a prison, albeit a fancy one. The White House has six floors, 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 28 fireplaces, with "shops" in the basement housing departments such as housekeeping and floral. Here, the staffers do not have the freedom to leave, and the work demands mean that they often sacrifice their own social and personal lives. First and foremost, they are fiercely devoted, sworn to be apolitical, serving each family that arrives after Inauguration Day as evenly as the next, despite emotional attachments—for example, chef Walter Scheib spent a stint teaching 17-year-old Chelsea Clinton to cook. The most delicious stories involve President Lyndon Johnson and his extreme shower demands—it needed to have multiple nozzles shooting water at fire-hydrant intensity—while the most heartbreaking delineate Jackie Kennedy's arrangements in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. There is also an affecting glimpse of Hillary Clinton attempting to enjoy a shred of privacy at the pool amid the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Brower is keen to sympathize with the plight of the hardworking help. For example, in her chapter "Race and the Residence," the author reveals the first "revolt" by the largely African-American staff to push for salary equality in the late 1960s. A work of great historical interest that is also quite entertaining.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Kate Andersen Brower spent four years covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg News and is a former CBS News staffer and Fox News producer. She lives outside Washington, D.C., with her husband and their two young children.

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The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
Beachbabe1 More than 1 year ago
Save your money on this one. instead, buy JB West's book, Upstairs at the White House.  The Residence is just a compilation of anecdotes from other sources., mostly the West book  and First  Lady Autobiographies. And those are written far better than this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Same repeated stories.I kept waiting for somethng new to happen.
Aelius More than 1 year ago
An exceptional book that brings one of the world's most important and intriguing buildings to life.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Most books set in and around the White House involve the Secret Service members, but not this one - this one solely focuses on those members who stay in their jobs for a long long time, they are those who become very close with the families who live in these homes all for temporary stays and forego family and personal things for the sake of the First Family.   I loved how this book was laid out by subject and not chronologically, so the author could easily group similar instances amongst the presidents in the same chapter.  It was fun to read similarities and differences among the families and their stays in the White House.  The two chapters that I would read over and over are the one the centers around the children of the Presidents and how their ages impacted their experiences in the White House and the other chapter was the tragedy chapter - JFK assassination and 9/11.  I have read many things about those two incidents, but it was different reading it through different eyes - those who live in the White House and experience those two events in very different ways from many people.  I loved it! Whether you live near DC like me and find the White House and all things like it interesting or you just have a fascination with how this home is still a home to both the nation and a family, this book is the perfect read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great "pick up - put down" book if you are a busy person. The stories were fun, sometimes touching and revealing. It illustrates the dedication of the staff in terms of confidentiality, perfectionism, and pride. The author focuses on the Bush, Clinton, Kennedy, Reagan, Johnson and Obama administrations and is refreshingly non-political. I enjoyed it and have passed it along for others to enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just wasted over $16 pre-ordering this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Save your money on this one. There were absolutely NO surprises in this book. We all know about the Clinton affair, and that LBJ and Nancy Reagan were difficult to please. There are so many better informational books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book....couldn't put it down.An American Downton Abbey!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ms Brower presents many well-known tidbits of the White House's famous residents, spiced with just enough gossip about Mrs. Reagan and Mrs. Clinton to keep us reading. What is appealing are interviews of retired staff because of their loyalty, kindness and talents; they were wholly devoted to caring for the Presidents and their families. The staff represents a unique culture – it’s a refreshing, inspiring and bittersweet walk down memory lane for those of us who’ve lived through the years since World War II.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has to be one of the dryest repetetive compilations of old anecdotes ever. Save you money on this one
KarenEvans 4 days ago
I discovered this book while browsing at Schuler Books, a bookstore from my childhood that I revisited recently due to curiosity. One of the staff members placed a sign near it recommending the book and sharing that she could not put it down. I thought it looked interested but highly doubted it would be difficult to put down. Well, I started it Saturday morning while getting ready. I read some more while I waited for my color to process at Kane and Co. (ask for Melissa), I read through lunch, and I read until 6:40pm when I finished reading the last sentence on the last page. The book was so incredibly interesting and allowed me to see life from the viewpoints of White House staff and the first family- again, my snoopy desire to see what the lives of others are like. One of the most interesting aspects to me was the discussion of the transition between presidents. The White House staff is grieving the loss of a family they have worked for throughout the past 4-8 years and yet have exactly six hours to move the former president out, move the new president in, and instantly start working for the new family without missing a beat. This is a great summer read, especially with the election coming up this November.
Anonymous 30 days ago
Not what I expected, but still a good read.
Anonymous 4 months ago
I absolutely loved this book, I couldn't put it down. All of the "insider" information was very interesting to me and I recommended it to my mom and my sister and they both loved it, too!
reader-on-the-go 6 months ago
I read this book before I read Crisis of Character. This book was most enjoyable and it confirms things written in Crisis of Character. The Clinton's don't need back in the White House. I can't imagine the White House staff is looking forward to their return.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting. But after a while you get tired of reading about how proud the overworked, unappreciated, underpayed black men were to be working for these self-satisfied narcissists (sic). I get it... good job, different generation. But my god! And for crying out loud. You'd think the writer would have done enough research to know it was a myth that JFK, Jr. was ever called John-John.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Got to see behind the curtain. Great stories and people with depth and dignity.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very interesting read. A little piece of history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book very much. Highly recomend it to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It had some great stories. I would recommend it highly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
angeldoveEA More than 1 year ago
It follows several other books already written about the White House. Nothing really new.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Learned so much about past presidents, their wives and families plus life in the White House.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago