Pre-Civil War mansion in Independence coming down

By Mike Genet
The Examiner
Demolition started Tuesday on the Thomson House on U.S. 40. The building, constructed in the 1850s, suffered its third fire in nine months Monday and was deemed a dangerous structure as a public health risk.

After this week’s extensive damage from a fire – the third in nine months – Independence officials ordered the historic but long-vacant Thomson House on the city’s west end demolished. Inspectors deemed it a public and health safety risk.

The building predates the Civil War and was hailed for its Greek Revival style of construction.

Demolition started Tuesday morning. As with other vacant, hazardous buildings that the city demolishes, City Manager Zach Walker said, the owner will be billed for demolition costs.

The building has been vacant for years and last served as the Mexican restaurant Las Playas and as a residence. 

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City Council Member Dan Hobart said no significant or definite plans for the building had been brought to the city after a fire last November put the building in the public spotlight.

Firefighters from six Independence stations stamped out Monday’s fire, which investigators said was “incendiary” but with an unknown origin. Because of previous fires last August and November, firefighters could only make a defensive effort from the outside instead of going inside the building.

Firefighters put out Monday’s blaze at the Thomson House

The Thomson House is on the north side of U.S. 40, west of Nativity of Mary Catholic Church and not far from Dixon’s Chili. According to the Civil War Roundtable of Western Missouri, from research by the late Kathleen Tuohey, former county sheriff and state Rep. Benjamin Franklin Thomson bought the 300-acre farm in 1842 and had the house built with slave labor from 1849 to 1855, with bricks made on site. The house, formerly known as “Old Plantation,” used to face north toward what is now Blue Ridge Boulevard, with a long lane leading to the house. Thomson helped establish the First Christian Church of Independence and organize the first school district.

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The structure was turned in the 1930s to face south and toward U.S. 40 – the city’s major highway at the time – and received improvements. A cannonball reportedly was found embedded in the walls during that time. In the mid-20th century, the Kiekert family ran a formal restaurant and banquet hall at the house, and it hosted dances.

Although there has been a historical marker in front of the building for decades, the Thomson House is not on the National Register of Historic Places. The marker reads: “This imposing farm mansion was erected in 1855 for B. F. Thomson by his slaves. The Thomson family fled during the Civil War. In 1866 the farm was sold on the Courthouse steps to Rev. J. D. Gossett. One of the finest Greek Revival mansions in Jackson County.”