Independence, Missouri, founded March 29, 1827, has an important and engaging history. It was a major point of departure for the California, Oregon, and Santa Fe Trails; and has also been home to such remarkable people as former president of the United States, Harry S Truman; famous 19th century entrepreneur, Hiram Young; Civil War artist George Caleb Bingham; actor/director Arliss Howard; and the extraordinary dancer and Academy-award-winning actress, Ginger Rogers.
Ginger Rogers was born in this home July 16, 1911 to Lela McMath. Lela, separated from her husband, worked nearby and took Ginger to work with her every day. They lived in this rented house for approximately four years, then Ginger was sent to live with her grandparents in Kansas City until she was nine. At that time, Lela, now, an accomplished screen writer and involved in the theatre, took her daughter to live in Texas with her stepfather, John Rogers. Ginger took the name Rogers early on even though she was never formally adopted.
Ginger Rogers visited her hometown of Independence on several occasions including while performing Hello Dolly! at Starlight, for an interview with LIFE Magazine, while visiting President Triman and the new Truman Library, and for Ginger Rogers Day in 1994 which was hosted by the City of Independence. The celebration included a parade, showings of her films at the Englewood Theatre, and book signing in front of the theater which went on for hours due to the number of people (estimated at 2,000). She ran out of books and people were having her sign almost anything. She visited the house frequently and was photographed in front of it.
Our project to renovate Ginger Rogers' birth home and open it as a tourist attraction is underway. Please watch this website and our social media accounts for news and updates. Fans may contribute memorabilia or monetary gifts to the project directly. Contributions are not tax deductible, however, in appreciation of your contribution, your name will be posted on the property is some form which may include: name plate, display on a framed list of contributors, or, in some cases, a personalized paver brick, tile or stone. See our objectivespage for more information.
We took possession of the property on February 29, 2016. Gene Padgitt, with HearthMasters, Inc. and Three Trails Cottages, LLC is a licensed contractor and is the project manager. We have completed a lot of work on the property both inside and out, to bring the house up to code and safe for visitors. The new wiring and plumbing are completed as well as repair and rebuilding the stone foundation walls, floor joist supports, new floor in the kitchen, and new brick chimney. The kitchen floor was completely removed and reconstructed because it was 3" out of level and the joists were placed at 22" on center, rather than 16" on center. The bathroom floor and joists were also reconstructed, a new tile floor has been installed, a new tin ceiling installed, the old corner sink has been refurbished, and the original claw foot tub was saved with all new period fixtures throughout.
Updates are posted on our Facebook page The Ginger House regularly.
The Heritage Commission of Independence approved our one change to the original house - moving the window in the kitchen to a practical place over the sink. The kitchen is very small and the best layout involved moving the sink from the interior wall to the back wall with the window centered over it. This has been completed and when the exterior siding is finished it will look completely original and no one will know that it wasn't there from the beginning. All other windows and exterior and interior wood trim, siding, including the porch pillars, are original to the house, or have been repaired or restored to original appearance. We were able to save some trim work from another house we own and use it on this home.
We are nearing completion of the interior of the home and plan to have it finished by our grand opening during the Ginger Festival July 2018.
The next steps we are starting this spring are re-supporting the exterior porch, hiring a surveyor and landscape architect, and landscaping which includes adding a driveway and parking area in back, adding fencing, new sidewalks in the front and side of the house, a new sidewalk leading to the front door, new plantings, new sod, and removing two very large trees that are right next to the home and damaging the foundation. The site has to be surveyed, and a landscape architect will lay out a plan which we will present to the city soon. The expected total cost for the entire project is $110,000 - $140,000.
Photo Credits: (Top) In 1964, Ginger Rogers returned to Kansas City, MO to star in Tovarich at the Starlight Theater. During this visit, the image above was taken of Ginger Rogers and her mother, Lela Rogers (right), with Harry Truman at the Truman Library in Independence, MO (July 22, 1964) (Harry S Truman Library & Museum, July 22, 1964; Public Domain). Magazine photos Life Magazine March 2, 1942, (Vol. 12, No. 9) (Time, Inc.). Color photos of the interior and exterior of the home are copyright Marge Padgitt.
Ginger Rogers with President Harry Truman at the Truman Library in 1964 when he declared July 16 "Ginger Rogers Day." Detroit Free Press columnist Shirley Eder is to the left of President Truman.
Ginger is to the right of the president and her mother, Lela Rogers, is to her right