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  • 110. Around the Corner: Noland House

    This is the Noland house. The Nolands were Harry Truman’s aunt and uncle. They had three daughters, two of whom, Ethel and Nellie, were close to Harry’s age, so these girls were friends with Bess as well when everybody was young. The National Park Service owns the Noland House now. It’s part of Harry S Truman National Historic Site. Back when the Trumans first came back from the White House, though, his cousins were still living here and they were in the best spot to see how things were going to be different, because now the Trumans were famous and everyone wanted to see where the president lived. And the Noland cousins could see everything going on across the street. At the time, Ethel Noland said, “Of course, since Mr. Truman came back from Washington, the tourists are omnipresent. They’re there when I first look out in the morning. They walk down Truman Road, and they survey the house from all sides. And finally, you find them standing out in front. And one always goes across the street and takes a picture of those at the front gate. It seems to me that’s almost an unwritten law, that they shall do this.” One evening in 1955, Harry and Bess walked over here to the Noland’s to visit his cousins. Remember, there was no Secret Service protection for retired presidents, yet. Bess told the story like this. She said, “We had a funny experience the other night. Dad [Harry – she was talking about Harry – she was telling this story to Margaret] Dad and I went over to see your cousins across the street and there were so many [sightseers] out here in front of the house we couldn’t come home. We had to spend most of the evening on the front porch all by ourselves because our cousins weren’t at home.” That story shows how much the Trumans wanted to be back in their familiar old town. For the rest of their lives, they would have to deal with the headaches that go with being famous. They had the money; they could have moved somewhere where they were more isolated, someplace with more land, if they had wanted to. But they never seriously talked of moving. In fact, they had to buy their house from Bess’s mother’s estate because Bess’s mother died without a will only a few weeks before the Trumans left the White House for good. So it looks like this is where they wanted to be. However, as they got older, their health did get to the point where they needed more help. By the mid-1960s, Secret Service protection was available for retired presidents, and by November 1970 that the agents were back at the Truman home. When Truman was in office, the Secret Service had a little building in the back yard they’d used, but the Trumans had torn it down before the agents returned. So in 1970, the Secret Service base was in the house on the corner across Delaware Street from the Truman home. Walk on up to the corner to Number 224.