If you would like to purchase Ginger Rogers’ childhood home, now is the chance.
Marge and Gene Padgitt, who opened the Owens-Rogers Museum in northern Independence in August 2018 and closed it in August 2019, have the house up for sale. They own it through their business, Three Trails Cottages.
The house, at 100 W. Moore St., is the early 20th-century home of screenwriter, film producer, film editor and journalist Lela Owens-Rogers and her famous daughter, actor and dancer Ginger Rogers (her real name was Virginia Katherine McMath).
The Padgitts have listed the price at $109,500, and it includes everything in the house, which features furniture, and kitchen, bath and light fixtures true to the period when Rogers lived there. The house itself has undergone major renovations, including foundation repair, floor repair, woodwork repairs, interior and exterior painting and updated electrical and plumbing. Items that were on display at the museum are now in storage.
“There are several reasons we’re trying to sell it,” Marge Padgitt said. “We tried to make it a go with the museum, but we didn’t have enough traffic in it to cover the costs. Another thing is that we didn’t have much cooperation from the Independence Tourism Department. We wanted them to put it on their list of attractions in the city, but they said they would only list it if the city or federal government owned it.”
“Plus it was all this coronavirus stuff. Like everyone we have issues with trying to keep our businesses afloat during this.”
Rogers was born in Independence in 1911. She gained fame largely for the 10 dance movies she made with Fred Astaire in the 1930s and ’40s, and she won an Oscar – Best Actress – for the 1940 movie “Kitty Foyle.”
The Padgitts said they were closing the museum dedicated to her in August 2019, citing a lack of visitors and no room to display items. They opened it on Wednesdays and Saturdays through the end of September and made the 1906 craftsman bungalow-style structure occasionally available for special events.
Now it’s for sale.
“We hate to do it because we put a lot of work into it to get it ready, but we have to now,” Padgitt said.
Padgitt said they will sell the house to any buyer, whether they want to make it their own home or use it as a short-term or long-term rental. She said the city has approved the house as a short-term vacation rental.
“But ideally we’d like to have someone buy it who can take it over and run it as a museum again,” Padgitt said. “The items for the museum could be sold as well, and the items we have on loan could go to another caretaker if someone can do that. We’d prefer that.”
Padgitt said in the last few days that she has sent a letter to Independence City Manager Zach Walker and City Council members with a plea for the city to purchase it.
“I think it would be best to be owned and operated by the city to preserve the history for the public,” Padgitt said.
Padgitts said they have already had much interest since listing the house in mid-April.
“We’ve had lots of people looking at it,” she said. “The price includes everything. The people could walk in and immediately have a house. We just want someone who can take care of it.”
When the Padgitts announced the museum was closing last fall, they also announced plans to possibly open a museum in a larger building, through the non-profit group they formed, the Local History Preservation Society. That museum would be dedicated to the history of the Jackson County area and celebrities who lived in it such as Lela and Ginger Rogers, Walt Disney, actors Jean Harlow, William Powell and Ed Asner, outlaws Jesse and Frank James and others. Padgitt is hoping to find a donated building where it can be housed, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put everything on hold.
“We’re not sure; the coronavirus has us rethinking all of our plans now,” Padgitt said. “We won’t make a decision on that until all this blows over. … It’s not off the table, but I guess you could say it’s halfway off the table.”
Photos of the house can be seen at www.threetrailscottages.com. For more information, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.