Historic Amtrak Station
"The present station, built in 1913, sits between the main line tracks to the south and a branch line to the north. In the early 20th century, Mayor Llewellyn Jones strove to improve Independence’s public facilities. After four years of negotiations with the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MP), he convinced it to construct the new depot just west of its 1868 predecessor, which then became a freight house.
The one-story building rests upon a foundation capped by light grey limestone from which rise walls of dark red brick laid in common bond. Divided into three parts, the depot consists of a central projecting section with a broad hipped roof that is intersected by those of the smaller flanking wings. Covered in red Spanish tiles, the roof creates a deep eave supported by triangular brackets that encircles the structure and protects waiting passengers from inclement weather. Dormers capped by demi-lune parapets trimmed in limestone rise from the center of the street and trackside facades and provide visual interest as well as ventilation to the attic.
The central section originally sheltered the waiting room and a ticket/station manager’s office; these spaces received ample light from large windows with transoms set in pairs and triplets. On the exterior, each window is topped by a lintel while the sill is accented by a stringcourse which runs around the depot. Similar to the visible portion of the foundation, these details are executed in limestone for material continuity. A three-sided bay projecting onto the main line platform allowed the station master an unobstructed view down the tracks in order to monitor rail traffic.
The eastern wing contained the freight and express rooms as indicated by the wide sliding doors that accommodated the loading and offloading of large crates and parcels; the absence of windows discouraged theft and promoted an idea of security. The furthest portion of the western wing is an open air waiting area, a feature found in many of the stations built in the early twentieth century. Railroad heritage is reinforced by the red Missouri Pacific caboose on display next to the station; rail enthusiasts admire the MP logo painted on its side.
In 1971, the depot was closed to passenger traffic and became a freight building. A decade later, it was threatened with demolition due to lack of maintenance and continued deterioration. During this period, the wood platform around the building was removed, and a later photograph shows that many of the windows were boarded up. In order to bring attention to the structure, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 for its architectural integrity and its associations with President Truman.
By the late 1980s, a group of civic minded residents, many of whom were interested in historic preservation, formed the “Friends of the Truman Depot” to raise money for a full restoration of the building. In 1995, amidst the campaign to increase awareness of the building’s importance to the history of Independence, an arson-set fire damaged the structure. With renewed energy, the friends group was able to gather sufficient funds to replace the roof with Spanish tile, which had been removed before 1940, and to open the former baggage room as a waiting room for rail passengers. The former waiting room has become the research library of the Jackson County Genealogical Society.
In 2008, Independence officials and the friends group announced plans for a comprehensive renovation of the building and ground. The city government’s Historic Preservation Division oversees the continuing work, which has included repairs to the tile roof, painting, interior plastering, the refurbishment of decorative planting beds, and numerous projects to prevent water infiltration such as adjustments to the gutters and downspouts and a re-grading of the land adjacent to the depot. Amtrak has assisted in the efforts by providing funds for a new outdoor bench and decorative trashcans that enhance the passenger experience.
The next phase of the project, planned for 2011, includes repairs to a sliding door and the refurbishing of the “Truman Depot” sign that was erected in front of the building to celebrate the President’s return to Independence in 1953. Money for all of the work—roughly $18,000—was provided from the Historic Preservation Division’s maintenance budget and donations submitted to a local foundation on behalf of the Friends of the Truman Depot. Much of the labor has been undertaken by volunteers, an indication of the value of the depot in the community."