The home at 219 North Delaware St. was the home of Harry S Truman from the time of his marriage to Bess Wallace in 1919, until his death on December 26, 1972. Bess Truman's maternal grandfather, George Porterfield Gates, built the house in 1867, and added a grand addition to the two story house in 1885. The result was one of the most prestigious Victorian homes in Independence with 14 rooms and a little less than 8,800 square feet.
George P. Gate's oldest daughter, Margaret Elizabeth ('Madge') married David W. Wallace in 1883. The Wallaces lived two miles away from the Gates house at 117 W. Ruby. It was here that the couple's first child, Elizabeth ('Bessie/Bess') Virginia Wallace, was born on February 13, 1885. The Wallaces moved two blocks from the Gates house at 608 N. Delaware in 1887. Following the death (suicide) of Bess's father in 1903, the family moved to Colorado for a year before returning to Independence, moving into the house at 219 N. Delaware.
On June 28, 1919, Harry S Truman and Elizabeth (Bess) Virginia Wallace were wed. The wedding reception was held on the grounds of the home at 219 North Delaware Street. After the honeymoon, the Trumans returned to live in the family home. Harry Truman acquired a true extended family when he moved into the house. Bess's mother, Madge Gates Wallace, and her grandmother, Elizabeth Gates, lived with the couple. Bess's brothers, Frank and George, built small homes on the property.
During Truman's presidency, the home served as the Truman's "Summer White House," and was often used by the family when away from Washington and on holidays. However, the Trumans did not actually own the home until after Bess's mother died in 1952. After leaving the presidency, the Truman's returned home to Independence.
The post-presidential period represents a time when the Trumans undertook their "modernization" or home improvement program. Over a span of several years, they made changes to mold the old family home to complement their own particular tastes.
Today, the Truman Home offers a glimpse at the personal life of the 33rd President of the United States. Beautiful in its uncluttered commonness, the Truman Home showcases the simple life the family enjoyed in Independence before and after Harry's years as President.
Learn more about the history of home at 219 N. Delaware by viewing the park's historic structures report.
Last updated: April 10, 2015