• Frank Haight: Bingham-Waggoner volunteer excited for new tourism season

  • At 9:15 a.m. on April 1, Nancy Riotte took a seat at a table in the cozy Carriage House at the historic Bingham-Waggoner Estate and began fielding questions about the stately Victorian home built in 1852 along the 1846 alignment of the Santa Fe Trail.

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  • At 9:15 a.m. on April 1, Nancy Riotte took a seat at a table in the cozy Carriage House at the historic Bingham-Waggoner Estate and began fielding questions about the stately Victorian home built in 1852 along the 1846 alignment of the Santa Fe Trail.
    And who better qualified to answer them than this Independence native, who is steering the Bingham-Waggoner Historical Society for the third consecutive year as its president.
    Elated that the restored home of famed Civil War artist George Caleb Bingham would be opening for the 2013 season in less than an hour, Nancy couldn’t hold back her fervor.
    “I am so excited,” says Nancy, a 7-year member of the Historical Society that operates the city-owned three-story icon. The second part of its name comes from the Waggoner family – founders of Waggoner Gates Mill – who called the estate home from 1879-1976.
    Volunteer guides are always excited when April 1 rolls around, she says, because they can begin doing what they do best – showing visitors the splendor of the historic home.
    No one, though, is more ready than Nancy to don her tour-guide hat and make the Bingham come alive. As one of some 40 volunteer guides, she will take visitors through the estate and adjoining grounds on Tuesdays.
    What impresses her the most about the Bingham is that “it was always a single-family home that was loved and cared for, and was a big part of this community in its day. “I think that is very important,” she says, noting that 90 percent of the furnishings are original to the house.
    “There are many, many interesting historical facts about this house, and (visitors) are always astonished at (its) beauty. When someone walks through the door, it’s hard not to catch your breath because it is so beautiful.”
    Talking glowingly about the Bingham, which she loves and holds dear to her heart, Nancy believes everything in the home reaches someone in someway.
    “So it’s very fulfilling to be able to let these people enjoy the house, and maybe learn a fraction of what there is to know” about it.
    Nancy never knows what visitors may ask about the estate, but should they inquire about its upkeep, she’ll tell them the house, the Carriage House and roofs on the outbuildings were painted last year, and all the large trees gracing the grounds were trimmed with help from the city.
    “We are very pleased at the way the estate looks,” she says. “It presents well from the street ... from every angle.”
    Nancy is quick to note the Bingham will look even better this year with the completion of the following projects: painting and repairing the porch deck, painting the outside trim, repairing chimneys, repairing/replacing window frames and tackling various inside maintenance that needs to be addressed.
    Page 2 of 2 - Painting the outside trim is this year’s No. 1 priority, she says, explaining that if the outside isn’t kept up, “It doesn’t matter what we do on the inside.”
    Says Nancy: “Last year, the lawn was the challenge because of (dry) weather. I hope we don’t have to deal with that as much this year.”
    Last year, the Historical Society presented “Music on the Lawn,” a free event featuring the Kansas City (Kan.) Community Orchestra.
    “The community has supported our ongoing preservation efforts, and this is our way of saying thank-you,” Nancy says of the concert, noting another lawn concert is being planned.
    Known for such fundraising events as the Spring Fashion Show (March 16), Breakfast on the Trails (June 1), Antique and Craft Fair (July 13) and the Pig Roast (Sept. 28), the society is adding another one this year – Independence Uncorked – a wine festival in conjunction with the Eastern Independence Rotary Club.
    The Sept. 14 event features wine-tasting from 1 to 6 p.m. on the lawn, a Wine 101 class for those interested and concessions. Twenty to 25 wine vendors are expected to participate.
    Another first awaits the Bingham. It’s going green.
    “We are excited about that. We have a lot of waste, and it has just been going into the Dumpster and into the landfill. So we will be setting that up now that the weather is warm.”
    Noting the site generates plenty of cardboard waste, Nancy says the focus of the recycling program will not only be on cardboard and paper, but also on aluminum cans and plastic bottles.
    “We generate a lot of (trash) on an everyday basis,” she says, “and when we have rentals, of course, that just makes it that much more...”
    Says Nancy: “This is just our own internal recycling program. We will be doing this ourselves.”
    Adding to the enjoyment of visiting the Bingham is the gift shop in the Carriage House, which has been transformed into a boutique offering clothing, jewelry, scarfs, purses, books and more.
    As for the Carriage House, it’s available for breakfasts, luncheons and dinners, as well as for business meetings, weddings, family outings, baby showers and other events.
    Nancy sees a bright future for the estate, which she says is in excellent shape.
    “We are looking forward to this year. We have been able to accomplish the goals we have set out, and we are just excited about what we’ve done and what we are going to continue to do for the Bingham.”
    Retired reporter Frank Haight writes this column for The Examiner. You can reach him at 816-350-6363.

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