These two little bungalows, 601 and 605 West Truman Road, were built by two of Bess Truman’s brothers: George and his wife lived in the green house and Frank and his wife lived in the brown one. These homes were built on land that originally was part of the back yard of the Truman home. Stand where you can see the garage behind the Truman home; that was originally the barn. The building goes back to the 1870s. But, just because there was a barn here doesn’t mean any of these houses you see anywhere around here were ever out in the country.
In fact, the amount of land you see around the Truman home now is about all there ever was. But before folks had refrigerators and such, lots of folks had their own milk cow, chickens for eggs, horses to get around, and a garden. The garden for the Truman home (or the Gates home as it would have then been known) was were the two Wallace boys homes are now. There would have also been a little bit of pasture for the animals.
When the boys got married, their grandfather Gates gave them each a 50’ strip of land to build their houses on. So George and Frank ended up living right behind their grandfather’s house.
Bess’s brothers were only a few years younger than she was, so during the time Harry and Bess were dating, George and Frank were also dating the girls they would eventually marry. This meant they all hung out together, went on dates together, picnics, walks, sometimes to plays or concerts in Kansas City—they all knew each other and were friends. Bess’s youngest brother, Fred, was going to build a third home in the yard, but never got around to it. So when he got married, his wife moved into the big house and they had two kids while there were living here. So you had that family, plus the Trumans, living in the big house, and then these boys and their wives out back, who were up at the big house for supper a lot—all in all, Harry Truman knew these folks most of his life, but he also ended up living with all of them.
Both these homes, now, are part of Harry S Truman National Historic Site. We use them for offices. At the time Bess moved into her grandfather’s home, her younger brothers were still in school and they only had to walk a block to get there. In fact, it was the same school from which their older sister, Bess, and their future brother-in-law Harry Truman, both graduated back in 1901. It was right at the other end of the block. Walk on down to the school and stand on the corner where Pleasant Street runs into to Truman Road.