Sea Blue Lens

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part III


My sister keeps asking me if I’ve finished the last post about our summer vacation yet. Um, no. Why not? I don’t know. I thought this would be the easy one. Anyway, here goes!


On the Sunday after the second family reunion, we visited Independence, Missouri, with two of our cousins. We planned on touring the Harry Truman home, but there would be a 3-hour wait until it started, so we went looking for something to do in the meantime. Cousin D had heard about a restaurant he wanted to try, but it was closed. We found a local cafe that seemed to be doing a brisk business, usually a good sign, so we stopped for lunch. I indulged in chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy, which was comfort food at its best. I’d like to show you a picture, but I’m afraid I didn’t even think to photograph any food on this trip. I was too busy eating.

We still had a couple of hours on our hands, so we drove around some beautiful, tree-lined streets, admiring stately old homes set back on lush green lawns. Eventually we found ourselves at the Bingham-Waggoner Estate, whose sign proclaimed, “Voted the Best Historic Home Tour in the Midwest.” Well, how could we pass that up? As it turned out, it was the only home tour we took in the Midwest, but I’d say its reputation as “the best” was well deserved.

You’ll soon see why I’ve had so much trouble with this post. I took way too many photographs, and had a terrible time trying to decide which ones to leave out because I want to show you everything! Here are some of my favorites:

IMG_3775The Neverending Porch: It wraps all the way around the house

The estate is named for its best-known residents. The original six-room house was built in 1852 by John Lewis. George Caleb Bingham, a well-known artist, politician and military man, lived there from 1864 to 1870. The final residents were the Waggoner family, who made their fortune milling flour. They bought the house in 1879 and occupied it until the death of the last member of the family in 1976. From 1895 to 1900, the house was enlarged to 26 rooms. The home has been beautifully restored to its turn-of-the-century glory mostly with original furnishings owned by the Waggoners.

IMG_3783The Parlor

IMG_3778The Study

One of the most wonderful things about this place is that you are allowed to TOUCH things! You can sit on the furniture, play the piano, get as close as you want to everything. It was amazing!

Music RoomMusic Room

The intricately inlaid piano bench is not original to the house, but is an example of “prison art” of the era. The beautiful Eastlake-style organ is also not a Waggoner family piece, but perfectly fits the period and spirit of the home.

IMG_3794Dining Room

This room is so elegant, with an African mahogany table that can seat up to 20 for dinner. The built-in china cabinet contains original family silver. If you’d like to have a dinner party here, you can rent the room!

IMG_3795Many chandeliers in the home are fitted for both gas and electricity

Kitchen triptychKitchen: All the Modern Conveniences

IMG_3814A Gentleman’s Necessities

A bathroom on the second floor was outfitted with this convenient shaving stand in addition to a toilet, marble sink, and surprisingly modern-looking tub with tiled shower, circa 1900.

IMG_3811Child’s Room with Hand-crafted Doll House

IMG_3810Doll’s Trunk

IMG_3820Upstairs Sitting Room

If I recall correctly, those are portraits of the original Mr. and Mrs. Waggoner on the wall.

IMG_3824Sewing Room

IMG_3823Steamer “Trunk”

According to our tour guide, this rather massive piece of furniture would be packed up and taken along when the family traveled to Europe by ship. Even empty it must weigh a ton! My back was aching in sympathy for the long-dead servants who would’ve had to manipulate this thing down the stairs and onto a wagon or truck.

IMG_3829Master Bedroom

Every room in the house has its own unique, hand-painted border above the picture rail. Each one was appropriate to the occupant or use of the room, and each was beautifully executed.

IMG_3826Lady’s Lavatory

IMG_3827Dressing Table

IMG_3825Nightcap, Anyone?

IMG_3837Servant’s Room

The large attic space on the third floor was given over to servants’ quarters and play space for the children. It was probably cozy in the wintertime, but it was uncomfortably hot in July.

IMG_3833Quiet Corner

There are a dozen of these beautiful dormers in the attic. The little doors open to storage space between them that was interconnected. Apparently crawling around and popping in and out of the doors was a favorite pastime of the children in the house.

There’s no reputation of the house being haunted, but I have to admit I had a startling experience in the little room above. I took a couple of steps farther into the room, intent on that lovely chair, and glimpsed this out of the corner of my eye:

IMG_3834-3Spirit of Play

I admit my stomach gave a quick jolt in the few seconds until my mind realized it was a mannikin! I don’t know if someone with a sense of humor put it there on purpose, or if it had just been forgotten there. I don’t think anyone else on the tour even saw it.

IMG_3841And that was it, the tour was over and so was our vacation.

You can probably see why we didn’t make it back in time for the Truman house tour, and also why we didn’t really regret it. Those are my cousins walking toward the sunlight, as I called out the eternal chant of the photographer: “You guys go on ahead, I’ll catch up!” We were all tired, happy, and ready to call it a day.

The next day, my sister and I were on our respective airplanes, heading in opposite directions for home and our everyday lives.

IMG_3869Almost Home

IMG_3503The Two of Us

This one’s for you, Sis. It was the adventure of a lifetime. I’m so glad we got to do it together.

My thanks again to all of our lovely cousins (and Aunt Lori!), who so graciously hosted us and never for a minute let us feel like we were strangers. You made us feel like we’re part of the family. More than that, you made us know we’re part of the family. Love and hugs to you all!

15 thoughts on “What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part III

  1. Wow, that house looks awesome. And I would have made sure it was haunted. So jealous! 🙂

  2. I love being able to tour old homes, but I feel self-conscious and usually don’t get very many good pictures. Your’s are fantastic! You must have had plenty of time to wander around. I’m in serious envy of that porch! Beautiful picture of you and your sister!

  3. Oh Leon, what a wonderful culmination of your family union! That house was so YOU!! The photographs spectacular ~ evidence of your hard work especially on your still life photography this past year. Love the picture of you and your sister. What a wonderful life adventure this was for you, I am so glad you had the opportunity!

  4. I couldn’t fall asleep tonight and found the book I just started too heavy ( content, not weight) so I checked my email and found this post. Perfect…a house tour before bed. Your photos and descriptions were perfect…how fun! I need to convince my sister to go on an adventure too. Thanks for taking us along.

  5. How cool is this, just wonderful, loved the tour. I was just thinking of Cathy H while reading all of this because I know how much she loves history and would just love to be there. Such a great tour and I can relate to taking forever posting all the vacation images, I am still in London on mine. I do have an excuse had a nasty cold for the last week and a half and didn’t feel like editing. I just keep telling myself it is my blog and I can do what I want with it. Helped to ease my mind on this. Love each and every one so much.

  6. What a great trip, and I love that you could first of all take pictures in the house, and then be able to touch stuff, how awesome is that for the photographer. Great photo of you and your sister at the end. Great trip!

  7. What fun to be able to have this adventure with your sister. Love the picture of the two of you and those beautiful smiles….I enjoyed the tour and you really were able to get some amazing shots.

  8. This looks like an amazing time! I love the decor, the vintage, the feel! Gorgeous photos.

  9. My goodness, what a beautiful place, Lee!
    You had such an amazing summer vacation, and I am just thrilled for you.
    Thank you so much for taking us along with you. xo.

  10. Your photos of the house are beautiful, such beautiful furniture & gorgeous light in some of those rooms. From The way you describe it all too I can tell that you’ve had the most wonderful time. X

  11. Simply gorgeous! Each scene reminded me of your lovely still life exercises. What an amazing adventure you had – I am thrilled for you and your sister – for this opportunity to become part of this newly-extended family.

  12. That house is beautiful – I wish I had a wrap around porch! Just imagine all the lazy afternoons you can spend there, drinking tea, eating scones and reading good books. How wonderful that you can touch everything in the house – I was surprised that they even rent out the dining room.

  13. What a stunning house full of beautiful things. Thanks for sharing your tour…

  14. You have some great shots of this beautiful old home…I can see why it was hard to decide what to include. I love the rocker next to the window, the nightcap, and the old sewing machine. It’s hard to believe they let you touch things — what fun! I love touring old homes and imagining how the people lived there. What a wonderful experience to share with your sister.

  15. That is quite an amazing house. And you captured it beautifully in these images.

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