Monday, August 24, 2015

Harry S Truman National Historic Site, 8/23/2015

Today we traveled to Independence, MO, to visit the home of Harry and Bess Truman. The home they lived in before, during, and after the White House is located at 219 N. Delaware in a residential neighborhood near town. The Visitor Center is located 5 blocks east of the house on Main Street.

The interior of the house (first floor only) can only be seen with a guided tour provided by a park ranger. The cost is $5/adult but there is no cost if you have a National Park Senior Pass (which we do). The tours are normally held every half hour, depending on demand and tickets must be acquired at the Visitor Center. A 15-minute video that provides a great overview of the lives of both Harry Truman and Elizabeth Wallace Truman can be seen at the Visitor Center. There is a small gift shop located at the Center as well.

Timeline: Harry S Truman was born in 1884 in rural Missouri. His family moved to Independence when he was 6 where he first met Bess (she was 5) at Sunday school. In 1904 Bess and her family moved into her grandparents' house at 219 N. Delaware Avenue. Below are photos of Bess (1901) and Harry (1905).

In 1906 Truman moves back to the 600-acre family farm in Grandview and works as a farmer until he joins the US Army in 1917 after his father's death. He served as a Captain in WWI in France. Harry and Bess marry in 1919 after a 9-year courtship. He moves into the family home in Independence.

He is elected an eastern district judge of Jackson County in 1924 and 2 years later he is elected presiding judge of Jackson Country Court where he serves two four-year terms. Harry is elected to the US Senate in 1934 and serves two terms until he is elected Franklin D. Roosevelt's Vice President in 1944. 

In 1945 Harry becomes the 33rd President after FDR's death, a most eventful year (end of WWII in Europe, authorization of the atomic bomb, and Japanese surrender). He served for 2 terms from 1945 to 1953 (during the Korean War) retiring to the family home in Independence, refusing to seek a third Presidential term. Here are portraits of Harry (1945) and Bess (1952) during those years.

Truman died in 1972 and Bess, 10 years later, at age 97. 

Harry Truman was known as the "uncommon common" man and was the last president without a college education. During his presidency he was faced with many difficult and far-reaching decisions that impacted the history of the US and beyond. 

However, he was largely self-taught and had read every book in the Independence Public Library by age 14. Also, he was an accomplished pianist and a great lover of music. He never succumbed to the pomp of the office of presidency and was frugal in his decisions and lifestyle throughout. His only indulgences were for their beloved daughter, Margaret, who married and had four sons.

The Noland House (where Harry's cousins lived) is across the street from Bess's family home. During their 9-year courtship, he would often spend the night here.

Exhibits about the Trumans can be found on the first floor of the house that is now part of the National Historic Site. 

The House: Bess's grandfather, George Porterfield Gates, built the house on Delaware Avenue in 1867. Bess and her family moved in with her grandparents in 1904. Harry moved into the family home when he and Bess were married in 1919. It was known as the "Summer White House" during the presidency from 1945-1953. Here is a view of the house at 219 N. Delaware from the porch of the Noland house. 

Our tour guide took us through the house but no photos are permitted inside. Here are some views of the exterior. The fence around the house is undergoing restoration and paint with lead is being removed from the porch as well. 

The garage and back porch are shown below. The last car that Truman owned is still in the garage (on blocks). The Trumans planted the shrubs near the porch for privacy from prying tourists. 

Our tour guide was very informative with lots of interesting anecdotes about the Trumans and their very unpretentious lifestyle before and after the presidency. 

For additional information about this historic site, please see the website below. 

The Truman Presidential Museum and Library is located nearby.

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