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After nearly eight years in the White House and ten years in the Senate,
I found myself right back where I started in Independence, Missouri.
–Harry S Truman, 33rd President of the United States
What does home mean to you? Family? Stability? Security? Memories? From our homes we form our views of the world. We develop our values and beliefs. And while we may stray, we often return just for the simple fact that home reminds us of who we are and where we came from.
For these reasons and more, Harry S Truman, our 33rd president, chose to return to his home, Independence, after serving nearly eight years in the country's highest office. Harry S Truman National Historic Site, located just 10 miles east of Kansas City, offers opportunities to experience the surroundings Harry S Truman knew from age six through his retirement and death at age 88.
A ranger-led tour through the Truman Home is the highlight of a visit. This Victorian dwelling was built in 1867 by Bess Truman's grandfather. After marrying Bess in 1919, Harry called it home for the rest of his life. With his passing in 1972, and Bess's death in 1982, the house and all of its contents were bequeathed to the United States of America. Today you will experience the home as Bess Truman left it, with a majority of the original belongings still in place. Today the site's authenticity reflects the lifestyle of a “people's president.”
Begin your visit at the visitor center. While there you can purchase tickets for a ranger-led tour of the Truman Home, watch an introductory film about the Trumans' life in Independence, and see some of the Truman's most beloved personal belongings. Kids ages 5-12 can also pick up a free Junior Ranger activity book. The book contains fun activities that focus on the virtues Harry learned while growing up in Independence. Once the book is completed, kids are awarded a Junior Ranger certificate and badge.
Be sure to set aside some time to walk in Truman's footsteps as you explore the community that shaped his character and influenced his presidency. Nearly all of the buildings that were significant during his life are still standing. The National Park Service offers two cell phone tours of the neighborhood to help guide you on your way. Free cell phone tour maps are available at the visitor center.
In today's world the presidency is often seen from a distance, which can make it difficult for everyday Americans to relate. A visit to the Harry S Truman National Historic Site can help you bridge this distance by experiencing the place Truman called home before, during, and after the presidency. President Truman summed it up best when he was asked at a press conference whether he planned to return to Independence after he left the White House. Truman responded, “Certainly. That's my home.”
Visit the park's website for a full list of activities. For more information about things to do in town, visit the City of Independence.
By Kristin Gibbs, Park Guide, Harry S Truman National Historic Site