The Truman Library & Museum closes after Monday for an approximately year-long renovation, and when it reopens it likely will attract many first-time and frequent visitors alike.
But for those frequent visitors who get their history fix at the Truman Library, where do you go in the meantime?
Between suggestions from readers and social media followers and ideas from the staff, The Examiner compiled a list of possible places to visit and stretch your historical knowledge a bit.
Independence and Kansas City alone have many worthwhile suggestions, and perhaps there are several you haven’t visited, but The Examiner wanted to expand the list to some day trips or even an overnight trek.
Locally, there is the Truman Home on Delaware Street (check out the Truman Farm Home in Grandview, too), where Harry and Bess Truman lived until he was elected senator and then retired to after his presidency, and the National World War I Museum and Memorial next to Union Station. The renowned museum provides an in-depth look at what was first known as the Great War, has special exhibits in adjacent exhibition halls and with Liberty Memorial provides a picturesque view.
Additionally, Independence has the National Frontier Trails Museum, the 1859 Jail & Marshal’s Home Museum, the Bingham-Waggoner Estate and the Vaile Mansion. In Kansas City’s 18th & Vine District you will find the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which next year will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the league’s founding, with American Jazz Museum right next door. Just south of the UMKC campus is the National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.
For day trips or beyond, here are our favorite suggestions:
• The story of Gen. John “Blackjack” Pershing, commander in chief of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, can be squeezed into a day trip.
First, drive to Laclede, Missouri. Take I-35 north, then at Cameron take U.S. 36 east. It’s 113 miles, or about an hour and 45 minutes.
Laclede is where Pershing grew up. The General John J. Pershing Boyhood Home State Historic Site includes the home where tours are given as well as the one-room schoolhouse (relocated to the site), where he taught before enrolling at West Point. His life story is compelling. Summer hours are 9 to 4, and it’s closed Sunday and Monday. Give yourself two or three three hours to take it all in.
Laclede is small and amenities are very limited, so you might want to take a picnic lunch. (Brookfield, 10 minutes east, has a handful of taco/burger/pizza options; and Chillicothe, half an hour west, has a wider selection reaching into the Applebee’s range.)
The Pershing Park Memorial Association has bought land in Laclede for a planned Pershing Memorial Museum and Leadership Archives. Also, a small garden nearby to commemorate World War I soldiers has been started.
Just outside Laclede is Pershing State Park, with trails, camping, bird-watching and more. If you’re into birds and perhaps want to make a weekend of all this, come home by way of Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge. From Laclede, take Highway 139 south toward Sumner, about a 15-minute drive. Follow the signs.
Also nearby Laclede to the west is the covered bridge over the former Locust Creek, one of four remaining covered bridges in the Missouri State Park system. It was built in 1868 and once was part of an early cross-state road. East and then south of Brookfield is Marceline, which houses the Walt Disney Hometown Museum.
• The National Churchill Museum is at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, east of Columbia and then south a few miles from Interstate 70.
Why a museum for the British wartime prime minister in small town mid-Missouri? Because Winston Churchill gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech there as a guest lecturer in 1946. As the 20th anniversary of that approached, school officials decided to mark the occasion by moving a bombed-out 17th century church from London – Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury – stone by stone and rebuilding it on Westminster’s campus to original specifications, with the museum underneath.
Churchill’s granddaughter later created a sculpture from parts of the toppled Berlin Wall, and that piece of art is next to the church/museum. Nearby is the gymnasium where Churchill gave his speech. The museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
• The Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home is in Abilene, Kansas, about 150 miles west of Kansas City and just south of I-70.
The museum has been closed for months for renovations and is scheduled to reopen at the end of July with all new exhibits. Temporary exhibits are in the library building across the grounds. There is a visitors center in front of the boyhood home, as well as the Eisenhowers’ burial site. Open daily 8 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. June and July and 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. August through May.
Added bonus: The Greyhound Hall of Fame is right across the street from the Eisenhower grounds.
• The Museum at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, operated by the National Park Service, reopened a year ago after a massive renovation.
Even if you don't take the tram to the top of the Arch (if you do, buy your tickets in advance if possible, as spring and summer rides tend to sell out), visit the museum underneath that traces the story of Native Americans, explorers, pioneers and rebels who contributed to westward expansion. Check out the Old Courthouse across the street, where the Dred Scott case took place.
The museum has $3 admission for ages 16 and older, with the exception of periodic free fee days and those with National Park passes. Tram rides to the top of the Arch require separate tickets.
The Gateway Arch is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Labor Day weekend, then 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until the Saturday before Memorial Day. The park grounds are open 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. year-round, and the Old Courthouse is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
• The Lincoln Museum is in Springfield, Ill., so this is more than a day trip.
The museum tells the story of Lincoln growing up on the frontier, his days in business and as a lawyer, and then his political career. You can see the museum in two to three hours. There’s a cafe and, of course, a good-sized gift shop and bookstore.
The drive is a 310 miles or a little more, depending on your route – either I-35 north, then east on U.S. 36 across northern Missouri, or I-70 east to St. Louis, then north on I-55.
Or … make it a three-day weekend, skip the driving, and do this:
• Day one: Get on Amtrak’s Missouri River Runner at 8:34 a.m. in Independence or 8:51 in Lee’s Summit and go east to St. Louis, arriving at 1:55 p.m. (Heads up: minimal amenities at the depot in St. Louis.) Catch train No. 304 (Lincoln Service) at 3 p.m., heading north. Arrive in Springfield at 4:56. The depot is on the edge of the old downtown, and hotels and restaurants are within walking distance.
• Day two: Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln. The museum is just north of downtown. The Lincoln Home National Historic Site – highly recommended – is a few blocks south of the museum. The blocks around the home have been restored to a mid-19th century look, and a visitors center tells much of the Lincoln story. There are guided tours of the home.
Also within walking distance: the old State Capitol, where Lincoln delivered his “A House Divided” speech; the current State Capitol; the Illinois State Museum; and the historic Union Station with its distinctive clock tower.
If you want to see the Lincoln Tomb or New Salem, you’ll need Uber.
• Day three: Come home. Get on Amtrak No. 301 at 10:15 a.m. in Springfield, arriving in St. Louis at 12:20 p.m. Or slip in a bit more history and get on No. 303 at 12:50 p.m. and arrive in St. Louis at 3. Leave St. Louis on the River Runner at 4 p.m., and arrive in Lee’s Summit at 8:50 or Independence at 9:06. Cost: Amtrak lists the round trip at $106 per adult. Benefits: A day or more of history sandwiched by two days of riding and relaxing while seeing the country.
A dozen more suggestions:
• Amelia Earhart Birthplace in Atchison, Kan.
• Truman Boyhood Home in Lamar, run by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
• Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield in Republic, Mo. (near Springfield).
• The Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas, a science education center and space museum.
• The George Washington Carver National Monument in Diamond, Mo. (near Joplin).
• The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in St. Louis and Grant’s Farm (animal park) across the street.
• The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa.
• The Battle of Lexington State Historic Site in Lexington.
• The Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site in Kansas City.
• The Missouri State Museum at the State Capitol, plus Jefferson Landing State Historic Site nearby.
• Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site in Lawson, Mo.
• The Union Pacific Railroad Museum, Council Bluffs, Iowa (across the river from Omaha).