Independence is the hometown of Harry S. Truman who became one of America’s greatest and most beloved presidents. He loved it here so much, he returned home to Independence after serving in the White House. This city, the 5th largest in the state, is a popular tourist attraction for history buffs but also home to many folks who enjoy the small-town feel while still being 15 minutes to downtown Kansas City.
The City of Independence is named after the Declaration of Independence, and was founded in 1827. It quickly became an important frontier town, and is also known as the “Queen City of the Trails” because it was a point of departure for the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails. For decades, Independence has hosted a large festival over Labor Day weekend called Santa-Cali-Gon Days, celebrating the city’s heritage as a starting point of these three major frontier trails. This festival attracts over 300,000 people annually.
Did you know the Midwest Genealogy Center is the largest free-standing public family history research library in America? With the popularity of Ancestry.com, what a gem to have this facility so you can dig even deeper into your family history. It’s a gold mine right here in Independence, and one of the best places in the US to trace your family tree.
If you’re in the mood for Italian, try Café Verona where you can check out the padlocks visiting lovers have snapped on to the lattice in the courtyard.
A must-see and hidden gem is Vivalore, Latin for “Life Story.” It’s an elegant brick building covered in ivy, filled with antiques, fine art, and upscale home décor. The atmosphere is sophisticated and the cuisine is American modern. Don’t miss the decadent line of cocktails and fine wine. The enchanting courtyard garden is filled with exotic flowers, and a perfect place to enjoy an appetizer and glass of wine.
Polly’s Pop was revived in 2016. The bottling company started in 1923 and seized operation in 1967. A 60-year-old bottling machine was restored and now 10+ flavors of pop are produced such as orange, grape, cream, ginger beer and even glazed donut.
Ophelia’s, housed in the old Katz Drugstore building, serves contemporary cuisine such as short rib risotto, and was named one the “Best Neighborhood Hangouts” by 435 Magazine.
Clinton’s Soda Fountain is a nostalgic ice cream parlor where President Truman worked his first job!
Independence’s claim to fame is the many Truman, historical, and architectural landmarks. The Truman Home is a part of the National Park Service.
In 1958, a used building materials dealer nearly got permission to demolish the buildings and the right to claim the salvaged stone, brick and timber as the price for his work. The abandoned buildings were given a new lease on life when a group of civic-minded citizens realized that there was yet another historic role for the unassuming two-story house at the corner of Main Street and what is now Truman Road.
The Owens-Rogers Museum, was the home of Hollywood screenwriter and producer Lela Rogers and is the birthplace and childhood home of the American actress, dancer, and singer, Ginger Rogers.
If you haven’t yet had enough history, make your way to The National Frontier Trails Museum highlighting the journey and starting point for hundreds of thousands of pioneers who risked their livelihoods for a new life in the American West. Not far from the museum, you can still see swales in the ground created by the covered wagon wheels making their way west.
The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum was established to preserve the papers, books, and other historical materials relating to former President Harry S. Truman and to make them available to the people in a place suitable for exhibit and research. Consistently ranked among the top tourism destinations in the Kansas City region, no visit to America’s heartland is complete without a trip to the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum.
Living in Independence has a quaint heartland feel, yet you’re still just a step outside of bustling Kansas City. Brimming with history, Independence is true midwest America.