MARYVILLE, Mo. — From the outside, the building on the corner of Water and East Jenkins streets looks like a simple white house, but its bones tell another story.

Today, the residence is nearly unrecognizable as the school for black children of Nodaway County that first opened its doors more than 140 years ago.

Since then, ownership of the building has changed more than half a dozen times. Due to numerous renovations, the structure looks little like the square, white schoolhouse it used to be.

When Tiffany and Ben Scott bought the house four years ago, they considered remodeling it and living there.

“The house we’re in barely won,” Ben said.

The Scotts live in a house directly east of the property now, and they currently rent the old schoolhouse. As they were updating the old Douglass School, they found pieces of the past.

When the Scotts finished the basement a couple of years ago, they discovered the outlines of the original windows, which had been significantly reduced in size. In addition, much of the original frame structure still remains. The Scotts extensively photographed the remodeling process, so they were able to share their findings.

“It’s got really neat character,” Tiffany said.

Ben said the building’s original design creates a unique living space with 10-foot ceilings and a living room that measures 20 feet by 20 feet, rare dimensions in a modern home.

Evidence of the past
When Ben and Tiffany Scott renovated the old Douglass School on Water Street, they discovered the outlines of the frame windows reduced in size long ago when the structure was converted for residential use.


“My problem is I get attached to these homes and their stories. I have a hard time letting go,” Ben said. “I could live in it in a heartbeat.”

Retired teacher David Primm of Ravenwood acknowledged the structure in a historical record of area schools in “Tales of Nodaway County,” which was published in 1977.

In 1986, Martha Cooper collected ephemera related to the school in “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Nodaway County, Missouri: a Black history 1840-1940.” The chapter on the school includes enrollment lists, newspaper articles, Board of Education minutes, and recitation programs.

Read the full story that was published December 1, 2015 in the Maryville Daily Forum, a daily newspaper in Maryville, Missouri.

Photo credit: Jennifer Ditlevson Haglund