Built in 1890 on the waterfront as a two-family dwelling for the base commandant and paymaster, this building was known as Quarters A and B. It was converted into a single-family residence in 1911. President William Howard Taft visited this site in December 1912. Thomas Edison lived here for six months during World War I while inventing 41 new weapons.
President Harry S. Truman used this house for 175 days during his administration of 1945-1953. In 1948, the joint chiefs of staff met at this house to create the Department of Defense by merging the Department of War and Department of the Navy.
While here the President discussed the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, the Truman Doctrine that changed American foreign policy, the recognition of the State of Israel. He wrote his fourth Civil Rights Executive Order requiring federal contractors to hier minorities and he drafted a letter that called for a two-week cease fire in Korea. The reaction of General Douglas MacArthur to this letter led to his dismissal as Allied Commander. President Truman made five post-presidential visits to Key West between 1957 and 1969, each time visiting his former Little White House, but staying in a private residence in town.
President Dwight Eisenhower used the house for meetings in 1955 while he recovered from a heart attack.
President John F. Kennedy used this site for a summit meeting with British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in March 1961 just 23 days before the Bay of Pigs.
The Navy base was named the Truman Annex in 1973, following the death of President Truman. In 1974, this portion of the base closed. For twelve years the property was abandoned. In 1986, the Truman Annex, including the Little White House, was sold by the government to developer Pritam Singh. On January 1, 1987, Mr. Singh transferred this property to the State of Florida in exchange for certain easements and development rights. It is held in trust by the state for the citizens of the world. Over the next three years, Mr. Singh privately funded and directed the restoration of the building and the grounds to reflect the Truman era. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Drettman funded additional restoration in the 1990s. In 1996, President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter used the house for a family gathering. In 1999, Historic Tours of America entered into agreement with the State of Florida to help continue the restoration and became a major donor and corporate sponsor of the important historic site.
On April 2-6, 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell opened peace talks in this house between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In 2005, President Bill and Senator Hillary Clinton used the house as a weekend retreat. President Clinton became our sixth President to relax and enjoy the Little White House as a presidential retreat.