President Harry S. Truman officially opens the first White House bowling alley on this day in 1947. The two-lane bowling alley, situated in the West Wing, had been constructed earlier that year.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, a group of Truman’s fellow Missourians funded the construction of the bowling alley in honor of the president. They had intended to open the alley as part of Truman’s 63rd birthday celebration on May 8, but construction was completed ahead of schedule. Truman’s favorite pastime was poker and although he had not bowled since he was a teenager, he gamely hoisted the first ball, knocking down 7 out of 10 pins. One of the pins is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution.
Truman did not use the alley much himself, but supported a group of White House employees in forming a White House Bowling League in 1950. Teams included Secret Service agents, household staff, secretaries, switchboard operators and groundskeepers. The teams competed in tournaments across the country; many opponents were surprised to discover that the players were from the real White House.
Eisenhower closed the alley in 1955 and turned it into a mimeograph room. Later, another alley was opened next door in the Old Executive Office Building (now the Eisenhower Building), which President Johnson and his wife Lady Bird used frequently. Nixon used that second bowling alley until he had an additional one-lane alley installed underground directly beneath the North Portico entrance of the White House.
Bowling is just one of the many recreational facilities presidents have enjoyed the use of at the White House–over the years, the presidential residence has also been outfitted with putting greens, swimming pools, a jogging track, a tennis court and a pool table.