Constructed in 1937 on the site of the former North School built in 1882 as the first school in Fulton to serve Fulton’s African American children, the George Washington Carver School was dedicated by Dr. George Washington Carver for whom the building was named. The 78-year old Carver traveled from his home in Tuskegee, Alabama for the ceremony. Many of Fulton’s older residents still remember the dedication ceremony which they attended as children. Born to slave parents on a farm in Diamond, Missouri, his genius led to a life-long career and international renown as a scientist. He conducted scientific experiments with common agricultural products including peanuts and sweet potatoes. Some experiments he even demonstrated during his nearly 2-hour presentation at the school dedication.
The Carver School is a spacious, two-story, t-shaped brick building designed by the architectural firm of Felt, Dunham & Kreihn of Kansas City, MO. The architectural plans for the building still survive. It is one of only a few architect-designed African American schools in the state of Missouri. The masonry structure features an asymmetrical facade. The main entrance door is emphasized by a large, triple-hung mullioned window featuring 9/9/12 lights and a concrete sign tablet with the name of the school inscribed. On either side of the entrance are two, two-story projecting piers finished with concrete caps carved with garlands. Three large expanses of windows on each floor — five double hung windows (9/12) in each bay allow ample light into each classroom. A similar entrance of two story piers capped with concrete caps with garlands appears on the south elevation. This sign reads “North School.”
The school contains four classrooms, a library and an auditorium/gymnasium on the first floor and four additional classrooms on the second floor. A partial basement houses the still functioning original boiler and fuel room, plus a Manual Training classroom. The interior of the building retains much of its original woodwork and doors, hallway light fixtures, and chalkboards.
The new school for Fulton’s black children cost $40,000 to build plus the cost of furnishings. The Carver school remained the only school for African Americans until 1968 when Fulton finally and belatedly integrated its schools. The school closed in 1982 and was used subsequently for storage. The building was purchased from the school district in 1989 by the George Washington Carver Memorial Corporation with the intent of restoring the building to its prominent place in the lives of Fulton’s African American community. The first floor houses a black history museum and library with a special exhibit on Dr. Carver and his visit. In 1996 the second floor of the building was made available to Fulton Family Resource Center, a community service organization dedicated to children and families.
Despite its importance to the black community of Fulton and Callaway County, the school is currently threatened by lack of funds and broad-based community support necessary to complete the restoration. The non-profit board is struggling as further repairs and ongoing maintenance of the building are needed to ensure that this important piece of Fulton and Missouri’s Black heritage is sustained in the new century.