100. Around the Corner: Truman Home

Right now, you ought to be standing in front of the Truman home at 219 North Delaware Street. Harry Truman didn’t move in here until he was an adult, but he would have known of the house ever since he was a little kid. His family came to Independence in 1890 when he was six. The house you’re looking at, the one we now call the Truman home, was originally called the Gates’ home. Bess Truman’s maternal grandfather, George Porterfield Gates, built it. It was finished as you see it now in 1885. Bess moved in to her grandfather’s home in 1904 with her three brothers and her mother. Bess was 19 years old at the time. Harry moved in after Bess and he got married in 1919. They ended up staying here the rest of their lives—before, during, and after he was the president of the United States. Harry and Bess Truman knew where they were going to go when they left the White House. A reporter at a press conference asked President Truman if he planned to return to Independence after he left the White House, and Truman said, “Certainly. That’s my home.” The Trumans had roots and those roots went deep. Just within this one block you’re going to walk around, you’ll see where they first met, where they graduated from school, where their courtship started, where their daughter Margaret went to school, where they voted for Harry for president, where they got their hair cut,—all this in one block. These people had a real sense of “community.” Truman would have seen these buildings on a regular basis, too, because he liked to take walks around his home town. He didn’t have a set route, but diary entries and photographs show that, no matter where you walk around here, he probably walked there before you. He walked 120 steps a minute. He learned that pace in the military. He wasn’t just moseying along; he was walking for his health. He wrote, “After you are fifty years old, this is the best exercise you can take.” He also wrote, “Of course, some aging exhibitionists try to prove they can play tennis, handball, or anything else they did when they were eighteen. And every once in a while one of them falls dead of a heart attack. I say that’s not for me.” You, however, do not have to walk 120 steps a minute. Take your time and walk on to the next stop down Truman Road to the east to the house that’s right behind the Truman home.