Missouri Preservation, a non-profit organization that operates statewide to preserve historical properties, awarded Fort Leonard Wood the Preserve Missouri Award for its role in restoring the Black Officers’ Club and a mural by African-American artist Staff Sgt. Samuel Countee.
The ceremony was held at the Missouri State Capitol rotunda Tuesday.
State Rep. Steve Lynch of House District 122 presented a resolution to Fort Leonard Wood Garrison Commander Col. Eric Towns upon receiving the award.
“It’s an honor for me today to present this resolution to Fort Leonard Wood, because this is more than just a preservation project — this is about the people that serve there,” Lynch said. “May we never forget those that serve us in uniform. God bless them.”
Towns said the award is the result of many hours of hard work from several groups working together.
“I’m humbled to be with you representing my commanding general, Maj. Gen. Donna Martin,” he said. “Today, this is really a result of a team of teams.”
He commended the Kansas City District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office and Fort Leonard Wood’s Directorate of Public Works for their efforts.
In 2014, the 3rd Chemical Brigade set out to save the Black Officers’ Club from possible demolition due to its vacancy.
Several aspects of the building underwent renovation, including the restoration of its original stonework that was laid by German prisoners of war in World War II.
To this day, some German war symbols can be seen on bricks POWs laid around the fort.
The mural painted by Countee remains inside a protective glass case atop the original stone fireplace in the Black Officers’ Club.
Officials from the Fort Leonard Wood Directorate of Public Works believe the piece to be the only surviving artwork from his time in the military. He was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood seven decades ago.
“At Fort Leonard Wood, we are absolutely dedicated to making sure that we preserve the rich and diverse culture of the show-me state for future generations,” Towns said. “You’re all welcome to come see this amazing piece of history.”