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Echoes From the White House
about the program
In celebration of the 200th anniversary of America's most prestigious residence, the White House, Kunhardt Productions and Thirteen/WNET New York bring voices of the past to life in ECHOES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE, a one-hour documentary hosted by Martin Sheen. Premiering Monday, September 17, 2001, at 9 p.m. (ET) on PBS (check local listings), this new show offers an intimate tour through the house and its history via the personal letters, memoirs, and diaries of presidents, first ladies, staff members, dignitaries, and other eyewitnesses.

Their words -- as read by Philip Bosco, Avery Brooks, Kathleen Chalfant, Blythe Danner, Robert Prosky, Campbell Scott, Regina Taylor, Sam Waterston, and Dianne Wiest -- reveal stories, both public and private, and capture the urgency and immediacy of American history in the making. It took 100 stone masons and a large team of laborers seven years to erect the original White House under the supervision of architect and master builder James Hoban. In November of 1800, with the plaster still wet in many of the rooms, George Washington's successor, John Adams, became the first president to live there.

Over a century later, Harry S. Truman said that he could hear voices from the past echoing in the hallowed halls of the White House. Indeed they must have, as this is the house where Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, after all.

The personal anecdotes that ECHOES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE offers, add a new dimension to the objects and rooms contained in this mansion. Did you know that Dolley Madison's claim that she saved the famous portrait of George Washington after the British set a devastating fire to the White House in the War of 1812 has been disputed? According to the First Lady's account: "I insist on waiting until the large picture of General Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvas taken out." Find out who really saved this national relic!

Most spectacularly, the show takes the viewer through the changes various presidents have brought to the structure and interior of the presidential mansion. This includes scenes of President Truman's massive renovation and an account of the beautiful artwork brought on during the Kennedy and Nixon administrations.

ECHOES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE is written, produced, and directed by Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, and Peter W. Kunhardt. The executive producers are Peter W. Kunhardt and William R. Grant. Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., a former managing editor of LIFE Magazine, is the author of numerous books, including the Christopher Award-winning memoir MY FATHER'S HOUSE, and A NEW BIRTH OF FREEDOM: LINCOLN AT GETTYSBURG, which won the Barondess/Lincoln prize in 1984 as the outstanding Lincoln book of that year. William R. Grant has been executive producer of INNOVATION, GOING PLACES, AMERICA ON WHEELS, SAVAGE SKIES, SAVAGE EARTH, KNIFE TO THE HEART, STEPHEN HAWKING'S UNIVERSE, ON THE TRAIL OF MARK TWAIN, and THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT.

The ECHOES FROM THE WHITE HOUSE Web site is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York, with generous assistance from the White House Historical Association.

Thirteen / WNET