Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders reminded us again on Tuesday that bringing down a retaining wall around the Jackson County Truman Courthouse is an essential step in saving the national landmark in Independence. Officials from both Jackson County and the City of Independence decided to forego a traditional ground-breaking to commemorate the March 16 start of building renovations. Instead, they wielded sledgehammers to help bring down remnants of that wall during a “wall-breaking” ceremony Tuesday afternoon.
“The reason so many people are here today is because of the great importance of this courthouse,” said Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders, who also stressed, “This is a national historic building. Our goal is to once again make this a working courthouse for the people of this community.”
The courthouse has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972—the same year the retaining wall was put in place around the perimeter of the property as part of an urban renewal project. That wall has continually trapped water around the courthouse, causing the foundation to deteriorate to such an extent that Sanders indicated the survival of the building was at risk when he declared a “public emergency” January 30. The declaration enabled the County to use money from its state-mandated contingency fund to cover the costs, in the short-term, of preserving the courthouse.
Independence Mayor Don Reimal and members of the Independence City Council joined Sanders and Jackson County Legislators Fred Arbanas, Theresa Garza Ruiz, Greg Grounds and Dennis Waits in participating in the wall-breaking. This phase of the renovation will remove the retaining wall and restore the courthouse grounds to their 1933 appearance. It is scheduled to be completed August 1, before Santa-Cali-Gon Days later that month.