Rehabilitating a WWII Black Officers’ Club Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
In 2011, Fort LeonardWood, Missouri, seriously considered the complete demolition of Building 2101.Today, the building serves as a training facility featuring classrooms, offices, and an unexpected history lesson for its visitors. Building 2101 is one of two remainingWorldWar II-era black officers’ clubs in the nation. Its 2018 rehabilitation preserved one of the few tangible pieces of the segregated Army’s history.The central focus of the building’s restoration and reuse is the hand-painted 1945 mural by Staff Sergeant Samuel Countee. Countee was stationed at Fort LeonardWood where the former Black Officers’ Club now bears his name as Staff Sgt. Samuel A. Countee Hall.The rehabilitation of the building was the result of a successful Section 106 consultation process that involved the Missouri SHPO, the ACHP, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Pulaski County NAACP, Rolla NAACP, SammieWhiting Ellis (Countee’s niece), Missouri Preservation, and Center for Sustainable Solutions.
Countee Hall acts as a setting for the story of theWWII-era segregated Army to be told.The rehabilitation allowed for the mural and stonework constructed by German prisoners of war to survive in its original context.Without the building, the stonework would be an incongruous feature on a forgotten corner of the installation.The Countee mural, while impressive in its own right, taken out of context loses some of its significance because it would no longer be viewed within the setting of the WWII-era club. In March 2020, the project was awarded the ACHP’s Chairman’s Award for Achievement in Historic Preservation.“There was an enormous outpouring of support for preserving one of only two remaining black officers’ clubs so that the story of African American soldiers during a time of segregation could be told to future generations,” then-Chairman Aimee Jorjani said.“The United States Army worked with federal, state, and local partners, as well as individuals with family ties to the historic building. We honor the U.S.Army’s commitment to preservation and applaud the efforts of the partners to bring this project to fruition.”
The award presentation; from left to right: Paul Edmondson, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation; Hon.Alex A. Beehler, former Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment; former Chairman Aimee Jorjani; SammieWhiting Ellis, Countee’s niece; Major General Donna Martin, former commander of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort LeonardWood; Charlie Neel, chief, Environmental Division, Fort LeonardWood; Stephanie Nutt, cultural resources manager, Fort LeonardWood. (ACHP)
SSG Countee’s mural, considered the defining feature of the building, depicting a couple at a picnic. (U.S.Army)
10 | IN A SPIRIT OF STEWARDSHIP: A REPORT ON FEDERAL HISTORIC PROPERTY MANAGEMENT 2021
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