"Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better." -- Harry S Truman
Truman would be proud of the progress made to save the courthouse that bares his name. Vital renovations to prevent irreparable harm to the historic Jackson County Truman Courthouse on the Independence Square have been completed -- on time and on budget.
When work on the courthouse grounds began in the spring, Jackson County made a commitment to the City of Independence to have the projected completed in time for the Santa-Cali-Gon Days. The mission has been accomplished.
"Although Mother Nature didn't always cooperate with us -- we had snow in late March and more rain than usual throughout the summer -- we were able to keep the project moving forward," said Jackson County Public Works Director Jerry Page. "We got the job done with as limited a disruption as possible for the businesses on and around Independence Square."
Saving A Landmark
County Executive Mike Sanders stated, "What's most important is that we've saved this historic landmark."
This summer's renovations were essential to preventing further damage to the courthouse, Sanders stressed. Work commenced with removal of a retaining wall placed around the Truman Courthouse grounds as part of an urban renewal project in 1972, the same year the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. For more than 35 years, the wall continually caused rain and the run-off from melting snow to pool around the courthouse. Deterioration to the foundation posed a risk to the building's survival, prompting Sanders to declare a "public emergency" January 30, 2009, to free up money from the County's contingency fund to pay for preserving the courthouse.
"The weekend after we had the wall taken down this spring, it rained and the basement stayed dry," Sanders said. "With the late snow in March and heavy downpours we've had this summer, I can't imagine how much more damage might have been done to the building's foundation had we not taken the steps we did to get these renovations and repairs done now."
The contract for the renovations was awarded to Kidwell Construction Corp. with a bid of $776,005 -- less than the $800,000 previously estimated for the project.
Phase II Of The Project
In addition to knocking down the retaining wall, this summer's renovations included adding 70 parking spaces around the Courthouse grounds, moving the Andrew Jackson statue and other monuments, installing new entry stairs, upgrading the building's utilities, and laying new sidewalks and asphalt. The Truman statue remained in its original place throughout the renovations, althought the Jackson statue required being moved to restore the Courthouse grounds to their 1933 appearance as called for in Phase II of the three-phase Truman Courthouse preservation projection.
"I think being able to keep the Truman statue in place was symbolic," said Sanders. "It was as if Harry was watching over us the entire project, making sure we got the job done right."
As a presiding judge of Jackson County in 1933, Truman oversaw the construction the new County Courthouse in Kansas City. But at the same time, he took such keen interest in remodeling the historic courthouse on Independence Square that the building soon became know as "Truman's Courthouse."