Walking up to the The Bingham-Waggoner Estate
A courthouse reenactor greets kids in Independence Square
The unique spire at Community of Christ
Taking a covered wagon ride with costumed reenactors from the past
Vaile Mansion’s impressive architecture
Harry Truman’s bust greets visitors at the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum
Story time at 1859 Jail
History comes alive at the Mormon Visitors Center
Frank James’ Cell at 1859 Jail
Colorful figures at the Puppetry Arts Institute
Seat of settlers, spiritual landmarks and a beloved president
The Truman Show
Given the area’s distinctive history, you’ll want to start at Historic Independence Square, where the Truman Courthouse is the centerpiece. Visit the building’s History Center as well as the president’s old office and courtroom. Outside, check out monuments to pioneers and the trails they followed west. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the square before stopping off at two Truman landmarks, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum and the Truman Home National Historic Site. In the museum, explore exhibits covering all aspects of Truman’s life and time in public office before heading to the People’s President’s nearby home. Get oriented at the Visitors Center, then take a guided tour of the home Truman shared with his wife, Bess. The historic site also includes a cluster of other buildings to see.
Hotbed of History
Once a frontier village, Independence launched thousands of pioneers west by the three major trails – Santa Fe, Oregon and California – that crossed the city. The National Frontier Trails Museum is dedicated to preserving that history, offering films, artifacts and even evidence of pioneer travel in the form of wagon ruts left in the ground. Take a Covered Wagon Tour and a tour of the Chicago and Alton Depot, a restored 1879 train station next to the museum. Head to 1859 Jail, Marshal’s Home and Museum nearby and walk through the old lockdown, an area of 12 huge cells that reflect what awaited in Independence for frontier criminals. See how the other half lived – in this case, the law – in the Marshal’s house, a picturesque home adjoining the jail. Independence’s gracious estates attest to the comfortable lifestyle of many of its 19th century residents. Visit Vaile Victorian Mansion and the Bingham-Waggoner Estate for tours and events capturing the spirit of living in historic high style.
Marvel at the architecture of Community of Christ Temple and Auditorium – with a twisting steeple that seems to puncture the sky – before exploring both. See symbolic and stained-glass artwork, a massive 5,685-pipe organ and a Japanese meditation garden at this denomination’s international headquarters. Continue your spiritual education at Mormon Visitors Center, which stands on the lot originally purchased by church founder Joseph Smith. Inside, exhibits depict the history of Mormon settlers. For a taste of Independence’s quirky side, head to the Puppetry Arts Institute, where a museum houses several collections of them. Catch a performance or take a puppet-making workshop. You’ll find Leila’s Hair Museum just as fascinating. Its Victorian-era hair art includes 300 framed hair wreaths and 2,000 pieces of jewelry made of hair.
Former U.S. President Harry Truman’s original “The Buck Stops Here” sign is on display at the Truman Library & Museum.
Starting in the 1830s, Independence was a key site for western migration in the USA, acting as the primary jumping-off point for the California, Oregon and Santa Fe Trails.
Clinton’s Soda Fountain was the site of former U.S. President Harry Truman’s first job and is still open today, serving “Ice cream, Shakes and Phosphates!”