The Harry S. Truman National Historic Site preserves the longtime home of Harry S. Truman, the thirty-third president of the United States, as well as other properties associated with him in the Kansas City, Missouri metropolitan area. The centerpieces of the site, which is operated by the National Park Service, are the Truman Home in Independence and the Truman Farm Home in Grandview, although it also includes the Noland home of Truman’s cousins and the George and Frank Wallace homes of Bess Truman’s brothers. The site was designated a National Historic Site on May 23, 1983.
The museum collection of over 57,000 objects includes furnishings and personal possessions of Harry S Truman (1884-1972), 33rd President of the United States and his wife Bess Wallace Truman (1885-1982). Much of the collection remains in situ in the Truman Home, a 14-room Queen Anne style house built by Bess Truman’s maternal grandfather and known as the “Summer White House” from 1945-1952. The extensive, original contents in the Truman Home create one of the most authentic presidential site experiences in the National Park Service. Artifacts include furniture, household accessories, textiles, the family’s book and phonograph record collections, portraits, clothing, photographs and Mr. Truman’s last automobile. The collection also includes architectural samples from the site’s five historic structures and archaeological materials recovered from the properties.
219 North Delaware is the heart of Harry S Truman National Historic Site. The National Park Service also cares for four other Truman related homes that, along with the Delaware Street neighborhood, help tell the story of this “People’s President.”
The Truman Home (earlier known as the Gates–Wallace home), 219 North Delaware Street, Independence, Missouri, was the home of Harry S. Truman from the time of his marriage to Bess Wallace on June 28, 1919, until his death on December 26, 1972. Bess Truman’s maternal grandfather, George Porterfield Gates, built the house over a period of years from 1867 to 1885.
After Bess’s father, David Willock Wallace, committed suicide in 1903, she and her mother and brothers moved into the house with Bess’s grandparents, George and Elizabeth Gates. At the time Harry and Bess married in 1919, Harry was putting all of his money into his business partnership, a men’s clothing store called Truman & Jacobson at 104 West 12th Street in downtown Kansas City, so living at the Wallace home made good financial sense.
After Truman’s haberdashery failed in 1922, he and his wife continued to live in the house to save money while he paid his debts. After being elected to the Senate in 1935, he moved to Washington, D.C. with his wife and daughter. Whenever they came back to Missouri, the house at 219 N. Delaware was their home.
After he retired in 1953, until the Truman Library was opened on July 6, 1957, the Truman Home served as Mr. Truman’s personal office. Bess lived in the home until her death in 1982, and she bequeathed the property to the National Park Service. The home was closed for 8 months in 2009-10 for a $1.1 million renovation that improved fire safety, visitor comfort and structural stability.
The Truman Home offers a glimpse at the personal life of the 33rd President of the United States, particularly the simple life the family enjoyed in Independence before and after Harry’s eight years as President. The Trumans’ only child, Mary Margaret, was born in the home on February 17, 1924. The site also includes the two adjacent homes of Mrs. Truman’s brothers, and, across Delaware Street, the Noland Home, where the President’s favorite aunt and cousins lived. The site operates a visitor’s center, located inside an historic firehouse, in downtown Independence. NPS park ranger-interpreters lead guided tours of the home on a regular basis, providing a look at the home much as the Truman family left it.
The second floor of the home has never been open to the public – Bess wrote into her will that to protect her family’s privacy, the second floor was to remain closed until the death of her daughter, Margaret. Though Margaret died in 2008, the NPS has maintained the closure in order to best preserve the home. A photo tour of the closed rooms, including Harry and Bess’s bedroom, is available.
On display in the ground floor of the home is the Steinway piano Truman originally purchased as a Christmas present for Margaret, and which was played by Truman in the White House; a portion of the Trumans’ extensive personal library (including the mysteries preferred by Bess); the family record collection; the official White House portrait of the First Lady (the one in Washington D.C. is a copy): and paintings including a panorama of Athens, Greece, a “primitive” of Key West featuring palm trees and a backward-looking donkey, and a canvas entitled “Swan River.” The fireplace is framed with tiles depicting a fanciful Middle Eastern desert landscape with tents and minarets, likely inspired by One Thousand and One Nights.
Truman is one of the few Presidents who never owned his own home prior to his time in office. He lived with his parents until he married, then in the Wallace House, in rented apartments and houses in Washington (including 4701 Connecticut Avenue), in Blair House (the official state visitors residence), and in the White House, but it was not until July 1953, following his term of office and the December 1952 death of Madge Gates Wallace, that Harry and Bess Truman purchased the home at 219 North Delaware Street.
The house is now located in the Harry S. Truman Historic District, a National Historic Landmark District.
The Harry S. Truman Farm Home is located 15 miles (24 km) away from Independence in Grandview, Missouri. A National Historic Landmark, the farmhouse at 12301 Blue Ridge Blvd. was built in 1894 by Harry Truman’s maternal grandmother, and is the centerpiece of a 5.25 acres (2.12 ha) remnant of the family’s former 600-acre (240 ha) farm. Truman worked the farm as a young man, from 1906–1917. It was here, said his mother, that Harry got his “common sense.” There is no visitor center on the site, but the grounds are open year-round for self-guided tours, and an audio tour is available. Guided tours were formerly conducted during the summer, but were cancelled in 2013 due to sequestration-related budget cuts.
The site consists of a two-story farm house; a reconstructed smokehouse; the Grandview post office-turned-garage (Truman moved it to the farm to store his 1911 Stafford automobile); a restored box wagon once used on the farm; and several stone fence posts marking the original boundaries of the farm, plus other original and reconstructed buildings.
After Truman returned to private life he sold portions of the farm for the Truman Corners Shopping Center as well as other Kansas City suburban development.
Over 57,000 artifacts from the Truman Home, Truman Farm Home, and related buildings are associated with the Trumans and their extended family. Proper management and storage of these artifacts is an essential part of the cultural resources program. The artifacts are significant resources for presenting Harry Truman’s private life through their display in the homes and in our Visitor Center.
Approximately three-quarters of the artifacts in the collection are stored and maintained at an off-site storage facility. Most of the stored artifacts were removed for preservation purposes from the basement, second floor and attic of the Truman Home, and from the carriage house/garage. The remainder are on display in the Truman Home and Farm Home. Furnishings on the first floor of the Truman Home remain where they were when the NPS acquired the home in 1983.
Harry S Truman NHS online exhibits feature artifact-supported themes related to the Trumans and their life in Independence and Grandview, Missouri.
Many of the artifacts shown in these exhibits are not normally accessible to the visitor because they are stored on the upper floors of the Truman Home or at our offsite storage facility.