A community loses a piece of its history

The Examiner

The Thomson House on U.S. 40 in southwest Independence was one of those places you might drive by and say, “They ought to do something with that cool old place.” 

Indeed. The community lost the Thomson House this week after yet one more suspicious fire rendered it dangerous. City officials said it had to come down, and a crew got to work. The owner is to be billed for the work. 

The Thomson House on U.S. 40, built with slave labor a decade before the Civil War, was extensively damaged in a fire last weekend.

It’s the right policy and this was the right call, but it stings. That building went up before the Civil War. Even a city as rich in history as Independence ought not let these things slip away easily. 

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.

That is not to say every historic building can or must be saved. The Thomson House sat in the district of City Council Member Dan Hobart, who told The Examiner no one had come forward with an idea or a plan to salvage and reuse it. 

That’s what it takes: A vision that respects a place’s history while wrapping it in a new role – hopefully one that generates a revenue stream. Then committed people to roll up their sleeves, spread the word, raise the money and get going. 

It’s never “they” who do these things. It’s us – or at least a committed handful of us who see it through. That’s what saved, for instance, Swinney Hall at Drumm Farm, a building now well used and blessedly saved. 

And let’s celebrate our successes. Many in town can still remember when the Waggoner-Gates Mill stood derelict and open to the elements after a fire in the late 1960s. Today it houses a fine museum telling the stories of America’s westward trails. The Vaile Mansion and the Bingham-Waggoner Estate weren’t always jewels – but they are today. 

Firefighters put out Monday’s blaze at the Thomson House

But the loss of the Thomson House underlines some fundamental ideas: Don’t take things for granted. Opportunities evaporate. History matters. Some things are irreplaceable.