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