Founded in 1825, this rough and rugged frontier town still offers a chance to experience first hand what it was like to live on the edge of civilization. Peer into the dark and chilly two foot thick limestone walls of a cell in the 1859 Jail, 217 N. Main, which housed famous outlaws. Tour the 1827 Log Courthouse, 107 W. Kansas, built of sturdy black walnut, or learn about pioneer life at the carefully restored Pioneer Spring Cabin, Truman and Noland.
Take a narrated tour in a swaying covered wagon past Civil War sites, historic homes, and the still visible wagon swales cut by the wooden wheels of thousands of wagons heading west. Stroke the fur pelts like the ones mountain men tanned and hear the words of travelers who followed the Santa Fe, California and Oregon Trails from Independence at the National Frontier Trails Museum, 318 W. Pacific.
Wander through the many impressive rooms at the Bingham-Waggoner Estate, 313 W. Pacific, furnished with countless unique artifacts and treasures original to the families who lived there. Wonder at the elegance and majesty of the opulent Vaile Mansion, 1500 N. Liberty, known as the House of Gold, adorned with 9 marble fireplace mantles, hand painted ceilings and tastefully crafted woodwork.
Stop in at the fascinating restored 1879 two story Chicago and Alton Depot, 318 W. Pacific, which houses not only antique railroad artifacts, but the upstairs living quarters of the station master. Don’t forget the historic Truman Depot just down the street, which President Harry S. Truman and his wife used many times as he traveled back and forth to Washington. Truman’s Courtroom , Main and Lexington, with an audio-visual slide show at the historic Jackson County courthouse just inside is also open for touring.
A modest two story white Victorian home at 219 N. Delaware Street was the home of Bess and later the home of Harry and Bess until their deaths. Everything has been kept just as it was when they lived there, including Harry’s hat, coat and cane hanging in the front entry. (
The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, 500 U. S. 24 Highway is a must-see, with major audio visual interactive displays and exhibits, "decision" theaters, a replica of the Oval Office, monumental movies about the life and presidency of Truman, gravesites of Harry and Bess, and children’s activities on the lower level.
Visitors can also investigate the incredible story of the Mormon pioneers who settled in the city during the 1830s at several religious legacy sites. The Community of Christ Temple, 201 S. River and Auditorium, 1001 W. Walnut, offer tours, free organ concerts, artwork and a children’s hands on museum known as the Children’s Peace Pavilion. The newly renovated Mormon Visitors Center, 937 W. Walnut, offers many exhibits and displays which are highly interactive and feature cutting edge technology. This free attraction is open daily 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
You can even learn about the history of puppets and marionettes in the many displays of both at the Puppetry Arts Institute, 11025 E. Winner. All ages enjoy the chances to view puppets from around the world. For a small additional fee, children can select a puppet head, paint and clothe it and stage an impromptu show.
The history of a Victorian art form using human hair is illustrated by thousands of pieces of jewelry and art work made of hair at Leila’s Hair Museum, 1333 S. Noland, the only one of its kind in the world. The collection includes over 2,000 pieces of art and jewelry made partially or entirely from human hair.
History seems to come alive in the charming bed and breakfasts and in the quaint antique and gift stores lining the streets of the square area surrounding the historic Jackson County Courthouse. Free brochures for marked walking trails (Mormon History and Truman legacy sites) follow bronze sidewalk plaques through leafy shaded streets and around the square or follow the Civil War driving tour (also with free brochure) . For an eye opening pioneer experience, take a covered wagon historical tour of the city with Pioneer Trails Adventures, operating from the Square year-round (weather permitting).
The Midwest Genealogy Center, largest free standing public genealogy library in the nation, is a major draw for those searching their family trees. And the newly opened (November 2009) Independence Events Center is home to the professional Missouri Mavericks Hockey team and venue for concerts ranging from Disney to Kenny Rogers to Riverdance, as well as a community ice rink.
Lodging information, a calendar of events and current Visitor Guides are online at www.visitindependence.com.