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Now Published: Cultural Landscape Report, Historic Structure Report, and Environmental Assessment for the Truman Farm at the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site

Document Cover.

The Truman Farm in Grandview, Missouri is the last surviving remnant of the family farm where President Harry S. Truman lived and worked from 1906 through 1917. While the farm is a small fraction of its former size and the fields and pastures that surrounded the Truman Farm Home now support commercial development, this National Historic Landmark with extant historic residential area, the farm yards, and the agricultural fields still collectively reflect the original character of the property.

Lessons gleaned through the farming experience would shape much of Truman’s character and prepare him for the great challenges of his future. The dynamic relationships between the value of the land, the profitability of the family’s farm, and Truman’s own financial and personal success reflect a pivotal time for both the man and the nation. Although he moved away at the age of 33 and served as President of the United States (1945-1953), Harry Truman remained rooted to the farm and to his family’s struggles to remain on the land. 

The National Park Service Park Cultural Landscapes Program is pleased to announce the publication of the Cultural Landscape Report, Historic Structures Report, and Environmental Assessment (CLR/HSR/EA) for the Truman Farm at the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, which presents a comprehensive planning document for this historic landscape. The report provides park managers with a broader understanding of the physical character and evolution of the park’s cultural resources, as well as guidance for more integrated management and preservation.  

The CLR/HSR/EA guides the process for bringing the historic farm into a condition representative of its period of significance, maintaining structures and features that convey its agrarian sense of place, addressing changes in the surrounding land uses, and better accommodating visitors.  Implementation will enable the park to convey the broad story of Harry S. Truman by showing how the community and farm influenced the future president and, in return, how President Truman influenced the community, the farm, and the nation. The result will provide a more cohesive, unified visitor experience.

The Truman Farm
In 1906, 22-year-old Harry turned away from a comfortable bank clerk salary and returned to Grandview to help tend the family farm.  Originally established by Harry’s grandparents, these Trumans had operated the farm during a time that has been called the “Golden Age of Agriculture,” when farms expanded in value and income and farm commodities prices soared. 

Maintaining a sizable family farm was no easy business.  Every morning Harry awoke at five a.m. to feed the animals while his father, John, tended to the milking. Farming in the 1910s relied on animal power,  meaning plowing was slow and laborious. Most of the corn crop was used as livestock feed. The requisite planning, plowing, fertilizing, and weeding to maximize crops was a continual process that involved contributions of the entire family. Having spent many hours behind a gang plow, which consisted of two twelve-inch moldboards on a three-wheeled frame dragged by four horses or mules, Harry once noted, “I’ve settled all the ills of mankind in one way and another while riding along seeing that each animal pulled his part of the load.”   

Historic Truman Family photo.
From left to right, Harry’s sister Mary Jane, Harry, Harry’s mother Martha
Ellen Truman, Myra Colgan Hornbuckle, Harry’s brother Vivian Truman,
and Nellie Noland. The Solomon Young barn (non-extant) is in the
background. (HSTL 62-425, c.1906.).

The Trumans planted half the farm in crops and used the other half as pasture.  They continued with routine farm duties as Harry’s grandparents had done, such as baling hay and raising chickens, but also employed new techniques such as crop rotation. They found time to build two barns, improve the hog pen, and tend to the household tasks such as cooking for the family.  In 1914, the expenses of a new automobile, combined with a property settlement over the farmland and associated legal costs, tipped the family into debt and forced them to mortgage the farm. This marks the beginning of a period of changes for the Truman Farm. In an effort to help the family financially, as well as a desire to support his future wife, Harry pursued investments in land speculation.  Unfortunately, the ventures failed; his efforts to overcome debt and his relationship to the value of the land and the farm would remain a persistent theme into his presidency.  

After the sudden death of Harry’s father that same year, the responsibility of managing the farm fell upon 30-year-old Harry.  Married in 1919, Harry left the farm and sold his portion of the property to his mother, Martha.  At this time, farm prices across the Midwest reached their peak before beginning a long, steady decline.  Still, development in other sectors continued to progress; in an effort to maintain the farm profitably and remain on the land, the Trumans granted rights of way for several roads, railways, and power companies to expand across the property. 

The 1940s marked another period of transition at the Truman Farm; although Harry was away, having entered the political arena, he remained strongly connected to the events and decisions on the farm.   With the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt only three months into his term as vice president, Harry S. Truman assumed the presidency on April 12, 1945. In this same year, a critical land purchase was made to save the family farm and Harry was placed at the helm once again.  Despite public accomplishments, Harry continued to face the lingering debt from business ventures, political campaigns, and the persistent backdrop of the family’s struggling farm. He remained invested in the property transactions, house modifications, and developments of the surrounding land from a distance; influences of his farm life were evident in his political campaigns as well as his personal work ethic.

By 1958, only 40 acres of the original farm remained under Truman ownership. Since Harry S. Truman’s death in 1972, a variety of alterations have been made to the home in an effort to preserve its condition. However, these repairs often included the removal of historic materials and installation of new material, reflecting workmanship of an era later than the historic period.  One primary objective of the CLR/HSR/EA is to rectify these differences. The National Park Service acquired the property on April 4, 1994, and the Truman Farm was opened to the public in 1996.  The structures and landscape of the Truman Farm can potentially convey to visitors the development of a Midwestern family farm during the early 20th century period, as well as the particular connections between the farming experience and President Harry S. Truman’s character and actions. 

Historic Truman Family photo.
In 1984 the Farm Home and adjacent landscape were repaired.
The Farm Home was in poor condition and the adjacent vegetation had
overgrown, obscuring the historic appearance of the farm landscape.
(Photo by Al O’Bright 1983.)

The Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
The Harry S. Truman National Historic Site consists of President Truman’s home and three related homes in Independence, Missouri and the Truman Farm in Grandview, Missouri, including all related artifacts and structures. Significant for its association with Harry S. Truman, President of the United States during the critical period 1945 to 1953, the interpretive site is unique for encompassing the physical context and broad life experiences of a president from his formative years through his retirement. The CLR/HRS/EA identifies and documents the particular characteristics and features that convey the historic significance of one landscape within that site, the Truman Farm, while providing a holistic and integrated plan for the long term preservation of landscape features.   To learn more about the Truman Farm and the entire Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, please visit: https://www.nps.gov/hstr/index.htm

The document was a collaborative effort involving individuals from the National Park Service Midwest Regional Office, the Harry S. Truman National Historic Site, the State Historic Preservation Office of Missouri, and private contractors.  It was funded by the National Park Service for the purpose of guiding management decisions.  To explore a digital copy of the full CLR/HSR/EA report, please visit: https://irma.nps.gov/App/Reference/Profile/2196470

To learn more about the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, located in Independence, Missouri and administered by the National Archives and Records Administration, visit: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/

The site provides access to online documents, including audio recordings of President Truman and photographs of the farm in Grandview.  Direct Link: http://www.trumanlibrary.org/photos/av-photo.htm

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