Marge Padgitt had always loved Ginger Rogers.
“I was a fan of Ginger Rogers, as was my mother,” said Padgitt, a longtime resident of Independence, Mo. “She got me interested in old-time movies and, of course, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing. There was nothing like the two of them. They were the best.”
So it’s only fitting that Padgitt not only owns the Independence home where the beloved actress, dancer and singer was born but has turned it into the Ginger House Museum Birthplace of Ginger Rogers, which opened to the public recently.
The process began in early 2016, when Padgitt was planning to buy a house as part of her real estate investment business, Three Trails Cottages. Her daughter, the company’s finance manager, immediately started looking.
“Ten minutes later she said, ‘Mom you have to buy this house.’ And I said, ‘What house?’ And she said, ‘Well, it’s the Ginger Rogers house,’” Padgitt said from the living room of the home. “I went out the next day and put money down on it.
“We paid too much, but considering what it is, we didn’t mind doing that because we really wanted to have it.” And she wanted the public to enjoy it, too.
Rogers, born Virginia Katherine McMath in the home on July 16, 1911, is best known for the many 1930s musicals in which she danced with Astaire, most notably “Top Hat” and “Swing Time.”
The last time Rogers visited the Craftsman-style bungalow was July 16, 1994, for her 83rd birthday celebration.
By the time the Padgitts bought it, the house was in poor condition. Marge’s husband, Gene Padgitt, a general contractor, handled the renovation work. Meanwhile, Marge was been busy collecting Ginger Rogers memorabilia: gowns, Ginger Rogers “trading cards,” a pair of dance shoes, gloves, theater programs, movie posters, as well photographs and news articles about the Academy Award-winning actress.
Rogers was also a talented artist, and the museum has three of her works: a self-portrait and two paintings. Original milk bottles from Rogers’ Rogue River Ranch in Oregon are on display, and reproductions are for sale.
“I’ve bought some items on eBay and some items have been donated,” Padgitt said. “We got a large collection of items from Roberta Olden she was Ginger Rogers’ secretary for 18 years.” The collection included a gown worn by Rogers at the 1967 Oscars.
Next July, the museum plans to host Ginger Fest 2019, featuring 1940s big-band music, a fashion show with Rogers’ gowns, a silent auction, Rogers’ movies, and ballroom and swing dance lessons.
The Ginger House Museum, 100 W. Moore St. in Independence, is open Wednesday through Sunday from April 1 through Sept. 30. Admission is $8, $6 for seniors over 60, $4 for ages 5-12 and free for children under 5. For more information go to thegingerhouse.org.