Harry Truman might have nodded approvingly.

The building in the middle of the Independence Square over which he saw extensive renovations 80 years ago – now called the Truman Courthouse – is about to be renovated again.

The Jackson County Legislature on Tuesday approved a $4.8 million contract with Universal Construction of Lenexa, Kan., for renovation of the inside of the building.
Three years ago, county officials declared an emergency and launched an effort to save the building itself, essentially preserving the outside of the building and the grounds, which include such things as the statues of Truman and Andrew Jackson, the county’s namesake.

Then they set about looking for the best ways to use the space inside. In addition to moving the Jackson County Historical Society back in and keeping the Truman Courtroom, the county plans to move collections, assessment, communications and recorder of deeds offices into the building. There will be an art gallery and, working with the city, a tourist information site. The renovations are to be done by June 30, 2013.

That move frees space at the Courthouse Annex a couple of blocks away on Kansas Avenue, meaning more courtrooms to handle an ever-growing docket in Eastern Jackson County.

The county came into being in 1826 and built a log cabin courthouse a year later. It still stands, on Kansas just east of Liberty. In 1836, the building in the middle of the Square went up. Harry Truman was a county judge – a lot like the county executive position today – in the 1920s and ’30s, and he oversaw the building’s renovation. It’s been informally called the Truman Courthouse over the last decade or so.