The seeds of Jackie Kennedy’s White House restoration ambitions were planted at a young age. As a young girl in 1941, she visited the White House and was allegedly saddened to discover that the tour was lackluster and the furnishings meager (via John F. Kennedy Library). Almost exactly 20 years later, Kennedy herself would give the entire nation a tour of her own. Determined to transform the presidential residence into something more befitting her tastes, she orchestrated a grand restoration project and publicized it in Life magazine in 1961.
The first lady turned out to be a pretty demanding but highly competent decorator. She took on board the advice of historical experts, combed over every minute detail, and removed all traces of her predecessor, Mamie Eisenhower. The canny Kennedy was also able to stack the building with antiques using some impressive bargaining skills — notes found from the making of the CBS special indicate that she named the wealthy donors who had contributed to the restoration during the show. The Kennedys ultimately spent an eye-watering $2 million before their restoration project was done, and even then it was only cut short because of John F. Kennedy’s death.