Independence, Missouri was the hometown of President Harry S. Truman and has many historical sites.
Known as the Queen City of the Trails because it was a popular departure point for the California, Oregon and Santa Fe Trails, this beautiful city is the fifth largest in the state of Missouri and has plenty of sites to see for history lovers.
Historical Sites in Independence, Missouri
Are you taking a trip to Independence, MO? Here are eight historical things to do that you shouldn’t miss.
1. Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
Harry Truman and his wife Bess Wallace lived in this home on 219 North Delaware Street from the time of their wedding in June 1919 until Truman was elected to the Senate in 1935. Once winning the Senate seat, he moved to Washington D.C. with his wife and his daughter and would stay at the home whenever visiting Missouri.
Visitors to the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site will get a glimpse of what life would be like for the 33rd President while enjoying the simple life before his eight years of presidency. Although the second floor is not open to the public, you will be able to tour the first floor and see the Steinway piano that Truman bought as a Christmas present for the couples only daughter, Margaret, and played in the White House by Truman.
Additionally, you will be able to see a portion of Truman’s personal library, record collection, White House Portrait of the First Lady, and other landscape paintings.
2. Fort Osage National Historic Landmark
The United States Government used Fort Osage as a factory trading post for the American Frontier in the early 19th century.
Officially closed in 1822 the post was still used as a landmark for those on using the Santa Fe Trail and was a transit point for supplies that were heading north. The structure was utilized for its pre-cut wood by settlers building houses and barns in the area and was almost completely gone by 1836.
In the 1940s, archaeologists rediscovered the foundations of Fort Osage and the station was rebuilt to portray how Fort Osage would have looked in 1812. The site is now used as an educational center with exhibits discussing the Hopewell and Osage native cultures, the Lewis and Clark expedition, and a living history demonstration about military and civilian life in the 19th century.
3. Jail, Marshal’s Home & Museum
In 1859, Jackson County built its two-story jail.
The jail consisted of a home for the county marshal and his family, and twelve jail cells at the back of the residence, six downstairs and six upstairs. The small six by nine-foot cells were meant to hold three prisoners but during the Civil War, there were as many as 20 locked in at a time.
Visitors to Jackson County will get to see what the living conditions were like for the county marshal, his family, and the prisoners. One of the most notable prisoners held there was Frank James, older brother to the notorious outlaw Jesse James.
During his time there, James’ cell was furnished with carpeting, fine paintings, and furniture, and is preserved in the same fashion as when he was held there for visitors to see.
4. Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum
The Truman library was dedicated in 1957 and was the first presidential library to be built under the 1955 Presidential Libraries Act.
After his presidency, Truman spent a lot of time at the library and participated in many of its day-to-day activities, such as training museum docents and talking to visiting students. He was also known to arrive at the library before many of the staff and answer the phone, surprising the callers.
Those who visit the library and museum can see his office in Room 1107 just the way he kept it, as well as two floors of exhibits showcasing his life and presidency. A recreation of the Oval Office is also available where you can pretend to be the president and make important decisions.
5. National Frontier Trails Museum
The National Frontier Trails Museum tells the story of the pioneers who risked it all to start their new lives in the American West via the Oregon, Sante Fe, and California trails.
These pioneers risked it all and traveled across rugged trails through mountains, prairies, deserts, and swollen rivers to reach their destination.
The museum offers a 17-minute film that provides an overview of the westward expansion of America, interpretive exhibits, and a covered wagon tour.
6. Bingham Waggoner Estate
In the frontier days, the Bingham estate was considered a short-cut on what would later become the Santa Fe Trail. The estate passed through many owners during its time and George Caleb Bingham was one of its most distinguished residents. Bingham was a famous American artist and Missouri politician.
Later the Waggoners moved into the home and the family lived in the estate until the 1970s.
Those who wish to visit the estate now can walk through the well-preserved furnishings, paintings, and see what it would be like to live the lifestyle of a wealthy resident in 19th century Missouri.
7. Vaile Mansion
Vaile Mansion was built in 1881 by Colonel and Mrs. Harvey Vaile.
The Gothic style mansion is three stories high and is an anomaly amongst the Midwestern style homes. With 31 rooms, 9 marble fireplaces, and beautifully painted ceilings, the home was really quite splendid for its day.
The kitchen was a marvel of its time having indoor hot and cold water, and speaking tubes to assist the kitchen staff with communicating with the other servants.
Visitors will be welcomed by a large solid black walnut staircase when they enter through the vestibule doors. While touring, you’ll also get to see the rooms decorated and furnished in the same style they would have been during its time. You can also walk the grounds and visit the beautiful garden and fountains.
Ready to Plan Your Trip?
There are so many wonderful historical sites in Independence, Missouri that you won’t want to miss. This list is just the beginning!
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