A year after the city of Independence conveyed the land to the National Park Service, plans for a new Truman Home visitors center on the Square remain in a holding pattern.
Still, a new building will likely go up across Truman Road from the current visitor center site, the old firehouse at the corner of Truman and Main Street.
The new site will be an acre on Truman Road in between the MyARTS building on Main Street and the IndeBus transit center just off Noland Road. Doug Richardson, program manager of Truman Home Historic Site, said the park awaits word on funding and a target year. But the Park Service conducted ground-penetrating radar archaeology tests on the site in December, and it has requested approval from the Missouri state historic preservation officer to conduct soil borings on the site and thus comply with environmental protection and historic preservation guidelines.
With the federal budget approved last fall, Richardson said he hopes the necessary funding for a new visitors center will appear soon and officials can draw serious plans.
In October 2018, the City Council voted its intention to convey the land once the Park Service acquired the land, which happened in March 2019 when President Trump signed the National Resources Management Act.
“In my career with the Park Service, it's one of the nicest things a city has done,” Richardson said.
The Park Service has used the old firehouse as a visitors center since the Truman Home first opened to visitors in 1984, though Richardson said it wasn't the first choice. Another building about a block from the Truman Home at 219 N. Delaware St. had been picked, but just weeks before the opening it burned down. The city had the firehouse available and offered it in a pinch with a handshake agreement. The city still owns the building and has leased it to the Park Service.
“Thirty-six years later, here we are,” Richardson said.
City officials estimated a new visitors center site would cost about $8 to $10 million – a fair estimate, Richardson said. It probably won't be much bigger than the 7,500 to 8,000 square feet the Park Service works with at the current visitors center. The difference will be that they can design for preference from the beginning, rather than trying to fit into existing space.
“We will be able put some more of the Truman collection on display,” Richardson said, as thousands of artifacts remain in storage. “We're going to have to develop adequate exhibit space, administrative space and still have visitor accomodations like restrooms.”
For the first time, though, they'll have dedicated parking space, including room for buses and motorhomes.
“We all have our fingers crossed that we can better serve our visitors, the community and the Truman legacy with a new facility,” he said.
Richardson said he hasn't witnessed an influx of Truman Home visitors since the nearby Truman Library closed last summer for its year-plus renovation, but he hasn't seen a dip, either. The Park Service estimated 28,000 visitors for 2019, he said, and they're anticipating plenty of full tours once the Truman Library re-opens in the fall.
“It will be like no other time,” he said.