Harry Truman may be known as the man of independence, but his first steps as a politician occurred at Lee’s summit.
This year marks the centenary of the start of a political career at Lee’s summit that ended with Truman taking the nation’s highest elected office. The political event took place at 123 SE Third St. , where the Betterment of Ourselves Club met in 1922 and where the Third Street Social Restaurant stands today.
A plaque adorns the entrance to Third Street, indicating the historical significance of the address.
It read: “In the Lee Summit Veterans Memorial Building, which stood at this location, Harry S. Truman, the thirty-third president of the United States, announced his candidacy for elective political office. Here on March 7, 1922, Truman agreed to become a candidate for county judge. in the eastern district of Jackson County, Missouri, to whom he was elected on November 7, 1922, and thus, began his rise to the highest office in the land.”
In 1922, the building was the epicenter of the social community, said Fred Grogan, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Lee Museum of Summit History.
Grogan said the original structure burned down in 1941. The Sherwood Manufacturing Plant was built in 1946 on what is believed to be the original foundation. The building was named Arnold Hall, in recognition of Joseph Arnold who purchased the building and then donated it to the city in 1950.
“It’s been a number of things over the years,” Grogan said. “It had an interesting history.”
The building was not in good shape when partners Domhnall Molloy and Andy Lock purchased the building. They opened Third Street Social in 2016.
“It was worth it,” Molloy said of the overhaul and restoration. “The building was in dire straits. My business partner and I loved giving it a new lease on life because it has a history.”
Third Street Social has embraced its unique place in history with menu items and photo displays. Molloy said the restaurant entrance on Third Street had intentionally preserved the same building exit in 1922.
The fact that this is where Truman began his political campaign does not surprise Molloy.
“He had to get votes here, too,” Molloy said.
Groan said Truman’s campaign issues were important to Lee’s summit area.
Truman was a regular figure on top of me. “Lee’s summit was part of his constituency,” Grogan said. He campaigned to improve the roads because at that time the country roads were not paved. It was a real obstacle in terms of farmers’ access to the market. And with his efforts, the roads were paved.”