Courtesy of jacksongov.org
By Renee McCormick
On Saturday, a sound will reverberate throughout the historic Independence Square that hasn't been heard for many years. On September 7th at 2 p.m., the bell will chime signifying the beginning of the rededication ceremony for the newly renovated Jackson County Truman Courthouse. This will be exactly eighty years to the day and minute that President Harry Truman led the dedication ceremony in 1933 when he oversaw the redesign of the Jackson County courthouse back then.
The courthouse has gone under extensive restorations since 2009. That's when Mike Sanders, Jackson County Executive, declared a public emergency to free up funding necessary to renovate the landmark. A retaining wall that had trapped water and caused damage to the building's foundation had to be removed.
"We as an administration got together and said we really need to find a way; it's such a beautiful building," he says. "It's one of the truly iconic structures of Jackson County that brings visitors from all over the world."
In the past year, renovations have focused on the interior to return the courthouse back to the integrity of the 1933 design. Visitors will be able to see some of the original architecture: high ceilings, marble tiling, and beautiful woodwork.
"There are elements of that building that were constructed in the 1800's we're still using today," Sanders says.
Truman's office and courtroom have been renovated to mirror the way they were during his time as county judge. The Brady courtroom, which is the original room of the 1838 courthouse, will also be available for viewing.
The Jackson County Historical Society and Department of Tourism offices are now located in the courthouse along with the county's collection and assessment offices, which make it a working courthouse again.
There also will be an interactive visitors center, and a display featuring local and regional art by some of Missouri's most iconic artists, George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Hart Benton.
An elevator, a new heating and cooling system, and public restrooms are among the new additions. The courthouse is also ADA compliant and wheelchair accessible.
The clock and bell tower also received some much-needed TLC. The clocks (there are four clock faces), which haven't kept consistent time for years, now have one motor to synchronize each to the correct time. The faces have been repaired and repainted with gold-leaf Roman numerals, and the wood and trim have been replaced. The bell, which hasn't chimed consistently for approximately thirty years, will now chime each hour, right on time. It has been cleaned, polished, and has received a new striking mechanism that ensures the tone will resonate beautifully throughout Independence once again.
So Much to Do
There are many fun and interesting things to do on the square. The streets are lined with unique shops, antique stores, and restaurants. Take a covered wagon tour and visit the 1859 Jail, Marshal's Home and Museum, the Truman Home Ticket and Visitor Center, and the National Frontier Trails Museum.
"In the mid-1800's, every pioneer that went on the Santa Fe, California, or Oregon trail, virtually every pioneer walked by the shadow of that courthouse," Sanders says.
Stop by Clinton's Soda Fountain for an old-fashioned phosphate or sundae (rumor has it that Truman's favorite ice-cream was chocolate with butterscotch topping,) or one of many other casual and fine-dining eateries.
What to Expect
- At 1:15 pm there will be a procession down Main Street featuring Independence Mayor Don Reimal, US Senator Roy Blunt, and US Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II, along with other well-known dignitaries.
- Also in the succession will be Clifton Truman Daniel (Truman's grandson), and Harry S Truman impersonator Neil Johnson, accompanied by the Truman High School Drumline.
- At 1:30 the American Legion Brass Band will play.
- After the 2:00 ceremony, which will be held on the north side of the courthouse, Kansas City vocalist Ida McBeth will sing the National Anthem.
- Tours of the Truman Courthouse, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972, will be available from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Did You Know?
- The first courthouse was a log cabin built in 1827 (Truman held court here in the 1930's.) It is located at 107 W. Kansas Ave.
- Prior to this, there have been five renovations to the courthouse: 1848, 1872, 1887, 1907, and 1933.
- Because Truman took such an avid interest in the redesign of the courthouse in 1933, it became known as "Truman's Courthouse."
- Which came first, the bell or the clock? The clock was built first - in 1872.
- The bell (which came from a steamboat) is the original bell to the courthouse. It was installed in 1887.
- In the 1830's there was a problem with fleas in the courthouse. Sheep were brought in to stay overnight, and the next morning the sheep and fleas were taken away.
- Harry Truman's first job was in the same building as Clinton's Soda Fountain called Crown Drug Store.
- During the current renovations, two paintings were found in the basement. They were restored, and are now on display in the Brady courtroom.
- It was a tradition for teenagers (especially after a date) to walk or drive counterclockwise around the courthouse to "wind the clock" several times.