Three weeks of an intensive focus on halting deterioration and starting renovation on the 1872 Neosho Colored School House will wrap up Friday.

Three weeks of an intensive focus on halting deterioration and starting renovation on the 1872 Neosho Colored School House will wrap up Friday.
The historic structure was where future scientist George Washington Carver started his formal education in the 1870s.
The project to save the building has been a passion for a number of people from Neosho, including long time resident Kim Mailes. He has invested hours and hours in the project, not only during the past three weeks, but in the planning that has led up to the recent weeks of work.
He sees preservation work on the local history link and its ties to inventor/scientist Carver as a project of national prominence.
“This is a really important project, I’ve lived in this town all my life and have been a runner all my life,” Mailes said. He used to run by the structure and often thought the deterioration needed to be halted and the link to the past preserved.
He sees the work he and others have been involved in as an important lesson in overcoming obstacles like racism and poverty exemplified by Carver.
Mailes said from a historic perspective there were a lot of wrongs done in the Civil War Reconstruction Period and the Jim Crow period that followed.
“I can’t do anything about that, but I can do right by history and that’s what I want to do here,” Mailes said. “To tell the story of people who had the bravery to pursue education and become part of our society.”
That link to the past has been part of Neosho’s history and the nation’s history, he said.
While much work remains to be done in coming months and years, he said on Thursday the focus of the summer of 2016 is where it needs to be.
“We’re wrapping it up, we’re in the home stretch,” Mailes said.
“We’re going to finish up the siding today, we’re having a load of dirt brought in to fill the front and back where we removed concrete structures,” he said.
“We’re going to get it all boarded up so it will be secure and weather-tight and awaiting the next phase of the project and then we’re going to get the final coat of primer on the building,” Mailes said.
As of Thursday the exterior walls had a coat of gray primer.
“If the weather cooperates with us early in the morning (Friday) we’ll be down here putting on the final color,” Mailes said. A lab analysis of the original clapboard siding took layers of paint down to the earliest coat and determined the building was originally painted a dark brown.
“Optimally, when HistoriCorps leaves here after lunch tomorrow to pull out for their next project, we’ll have this one all brown and buttoned up and waiting for the next phase of the restoration.”
The future of the project should be ironed out in August when a board meeting of the Carver Birthplace Association is held. The association is the owner of the property.
“I’m preparing a document for that meeting that will be a suggestion of recommended work procedures from here on out,” Mailes said. He and project supervisor John Bales went over what they feel is the best coarse of action.
“This is to not only to plan the work, but also to raise funds for the work,” Mailes said.
“The board will take this as a working document. They’ll amend it. Change it and come up with a final document to be adopted by the board that will be the plan for going forward from here.”
Volunteers from across the nation have been involved on the demolition, shoring up and renovation work over the past three weeks under professionals from Colorado-based HistoriCorps. Those volunteers came from Michigan, Florida, California, Texas, New Jersey, Colorado and other states, he said.
“The next phase of the project will probably require some professional work, some masons doing foundation work,” he said. “The main things that will need to be to be addressed before we move inside — which is a whole new episode — are windows and doors and roof.”
Mailes said he anticipates the Carver Birthplace Association Board again making application to HistoriCorps for help next summer. If approved, that work could include installation of cedar shingles on the roof.
The local organization reimburses HistoriCorps for their cost, he said.
The Carver Birthplace Association has partnered with HistoriCorps on the first phase of restoration work on the Neosho schoolhouse.
The building is believed to have been built in 1871 as a residence, but was converted into a schoolhouse in 1872 with Carver getting his first formal education in the 1870s, researchers said.
The school operated for 20 years before again being used as a residence.
 “What the building represents is the initial foundation of all Carver became as a scientist, inventor and more,” said Dr. Luther S. Williams, association chairman from the St. Louis area.
The Carver Birthplace Association has raised funds to restore the property to its original condition when it was a schoolhouse from 1872-1890. Luckily, exterior additions added to the schoolhouse when it was a residence have preserved the structure’s character, organizers have said.
Carver was a prominent African-American scientist and inventor. Born into slavery in 1864 in Missouri, his quest began in 1876 as he walked eight miles from his birthplace and childhood home in Diamond Grove, Missouri, to attend the 1872 Neosho Colored School.
Overcoming many obstacles, his dream became reality in 1894 as the first African American to graduate from Iowa Agriculture College (Iowa State University).
Over a 47-year career at Tuskegee Institute (Tuskegee University), Tuskegee, Alabama, Carver conducted research, taught sustainable agriculture and land conservation, promoted racial cooperation and understanding, and became a symbol of black achievement as he fulfilled his vision to “be of the greatest good to the greatest number of my people.”