The Muehlebach Hotel's Presidential Suite, which Truman and his associates apparently called simply "the penthouse," served as Truman's headquarters in Kansas City from the time of his vice presidential campaign in 1944 until he left the presidency in 1953. Truman stayed in the Presidential Suite during a Battery D reunion in November 1944, held about a week after he had been elected Vice President. He had asked his political associate and friend Harry Easley to come to Kansas City from his home in Webb City and stay with him. "He wanted to visit with me," Easley remembered. "I went up there [to Kansas City] and they had the penthouse there at the Muehlebach. And I stayed with him that night, I slept there with him. He told me just lying there in bed after things quieted down that he had been lonesome ever since the day they put the Secret Service on him…. He told me that the last time he saw [President Roosevelt] that he had the pallor of death on his face and he knew that…he would be President before the term was out. He said he was going to have to depend on his friends. He was talking about people like me, he said…. He knew that he was going to be the President of the United States, and I think it just scared the very devil out of him. I think it frightened him, even the thought of it." (Harry Easley oral history interview, Truman Library, 1967.)
After Truman became President on April 12, 1945, he and his staff conducted the business of the presidency in the Presidential Suite when Truman came to Kansas City. A communications center run by the U. S. Army kept the penthouse suite in direct communication with the White House. The days around election day, 1948, were a particularly lively time in the Presidential Suite (right). The rooms were filled with the noise of teletype machines. The outcome of the election was so uncertain that Truman's Secret Service detail had been split between himself and Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey. The day before the election, Truman's close friend Tom Evans came up to the Presidential Suite to talk to him. "What do you actually and honestly believe?" Evans asked Truman. "Do you think you can win?" "Yes, I'm going to win," Truman responded. Evans was not so sure. "I've always said you ought to be the international president of the Optimist Club…," he said. Truman spread out several charts on the bed in the penthouse suite; they showed the results of the 1944 election by voting district. "Now you see," Truman told Evans after he had explained how things were going to come out the next day, "I'm going to fool everybody."
On election day, November 2, 1948, Truman sat with his staff in the suite and followed what news they could get about the voting. When Tom Evans told Truman about some good early results, Truman responded, "I've been telling you I was going to win all the time. It's nothing new." Evans stayed in the Presidential Suite most of the night. Truman left first for Independence and then for Excelsior Springs, where he hid away from reporters in the Elms Hotel. He called Evans from time to time during the night to see how things were going. He returned to the Presidential Suite at 6 a.m. the next morning. "...It was a madhouse," Evans remembered. "The halls going into the penthouse were full and I walked in…and it was packed full.... [Truman] was all joyous and everything.... It was quite a party and the Secret Service men certainly did not have much control of who came in or out that particular morning." (Tom L. Evans oral history interview, Truman Library, 1962-63.)
The Presidential Suite experienced many other important events during the Truman presidency, including the signing on May 22, 1947 of the legislation authorizing Truman Doctrine aid for Greece and Turkey. But November 1st through 3rd, 1948, brought probably the most exciting times the room ever knew. The Presidential Suite was a famous place to stay before and after Truman's time as President. Every President from Theodore Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan stayed in or at least spent some time in the suite (a few of them before or after their presidency). Many entertainment personalities also stayed in the suite.
The Muehlebach Hotel sits at the southwest corner of 12th Street and Baltimore Avenue.