This presentation is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
by Stephanie Nutt, Adam Smith, and Steven D. Smith
No one at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, knew in 1992 that the evaluation of an unobtrusive World War II temporary administrative building would eventually lead to more than a decades long effort to preserve and rehabilitate a significant segment of the installation’s, and the Army’s, history. Likewise, no one knew the name of the artist who painted a mural of an African American couple at a picnic, which hung over the fireplace of the building’s addition. Today, though, Building 2101 stands as a tribute to the history and experiences of African American Officers who served during WWII and to Sergeant Samuel Countee, an African American soldier who was also a talented young artist. Also of note at Building 2101 is a two-story cut stone chimney and interior fireplace and mantle, over which hangs the mural. The stonework was constructed by German POWs imprisoned at Fort Leonard Wood during WWII. The property also contains stonework sidewalks, retaining walls, and drainage ditches constructed by the POWs.
Fort Leonard Wood determined that the WWII-era Black Officers’ Club was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places in 1992, and the Missouri SHPO concurred. As such, the planning process that lead to the rehabilitation of the building required consultation with a variety of stakeholders, per the National Historic Preservation Act. There were few WWII military training centers designed to train and house African American servicemen, and of those, very few of the original facilities survive today. Building 2101 provides a unique opportunity to share its valuable WWII, African American, and POW history, making it one of the most important extant WWII temporary buildings in the Army inventory. The building now contains an exhibit dedicated to these significant themes and serves as a training facility for several Fort Leonard Wood Garrison organizations. This paper tells the story of the amazing discovery of the artist, and the evaluation, preservation, and rehabilitation of both the building and the painting. The effort involved not only the authors but also many other experts including, archivists, art specialists, architectural historians, historic architects, and the family of Samuel Countee.
Stephanie Nutt is an historical archaeologist and cultural resources specialist at the US Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She has worked at Fort Leonard Wood for sixteen years. Her primary duties include ensuring installation compliance with historic preservation laws and regulations, coordination of cultural resources survey and evaluation, and Native American consultation efforts. She has taught anthropology and archaeology courses at Drury University and East Central College in Missouri. Stephanie holds a BA in Anthropology from Texas A&M University and a MA in Anthropology from East Carolina University.
Adam Smith is an architectural historian and project manager at USACE-ERDC-CERL, Champaign, Illinois. He has worked for CERL for over twenty years managing cultural resources projects covering military installations across the DoD. Some of his major projects have included Arlington National Cemetery’s nomination to the NRHP, the Merchant Marine Academy nomination to the NRHP, and a historic context on Vietnam and the Home-Front. Prior to working at CERL, he taught cultural geography and architectural history at Parkland College, Illinois. Adam holds a BARCH from the University of Southern California, and a MARCH in architectural history from the University of Illinois.
Steven D. Smith, Ph.D., is the Director of the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology and Research Associate Professor at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina. He has over 30 years experience in historical archaeology and specializes in military sites archaeology. Prior to his appointment as Director he worked in Cultural Resource Management. He currently teaches Conflict Archaeology in the Department of Anthropology and has taught African American Military History, the Evolution of Warfare, and the Anthropology of War.