The Trumans at Tilden Gardens


In 1935, newly elected Senator Harry S Truman arrived in Washington and was able to rent a four-room apartment for his family at 3016 Tilden Street - part of the Tilden Gardens complex, but not part of our cooperative - because the Depression had compelled Tilden Gardens' developers to offer some units for rental. He filled the $150-a-month apartment with furniture, for which he had to take out a small loan. His wife Bess and daughter Margaret split their time between the District of Columbia and their native Missouri. Here is how Margaret recalled her time at Tilden Gardens in a 1973 memoir:

Apartments were expensive in those days, and my father was appalled to find that some wealthy senators were paying as much as $1,500 a month in rent. This was out of the question for him. We had to live on his $10,000 a year salary. He rented a four-room apartment for us at Tilden Gardens, just off Connecticut Avenue in the northwest part of Washington. It was a shock for all of us to find ourselves crowded into this tiny space after living in fourteen big rooms on North Delaware Street [the Truman home in Independence, Missouri]. By way of consolation, Dad provided us with a piano, which he rented from a local music store. By now I had become fairly proficient on my baby grand, and I enjoyed many an evening of music on that spinet. 

When the weather was clear, David McCullough relates, the Senator walked the several miles to Capitol Hill; when it was inclement, he took the trolley down Connecticut Avenue and then followed Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House to the Capitol. The Trumans returned to Tilden Gardens in 1939, leasing unit 102-I at 3000 Tilden Street, N.W. and subsequently unit 403-H at 3930 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. in 1940. They remained there until 1941.

Sources: Margaret Truman Daniel, Harry S Truman (New York: William Morrow, 1973), 90; David McCullough, Truman (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 214-215 and 229 and bank statements and invoices on file at the Harry S Truman Library, Independence, MO.