George Washington Carver National Monument is in Newton County in southwest Missouri and is composed of land that was the 240-acre farm of Moses Carver. The farm was the birthplace and childhood home of George Washington Carver, the distinguished African American scientist, educator, and humanitarian who became known for his work at Tuskegee Institute.
On July 14, 1943, the bill authorizing the establishment of the monument passed and became Public Law (PL) 148 of the 78th Congress. Congress directed the National Park Service to maintain and preserve George Washington Carver’s birthplace as a suitable and enduring public memorial in his honor. This was the first time in United States history that a birthplace site was designated as a national monument to someone other than a United States president, and the first time a unit of the national park system was established to honor the contributions of an African American.
While the park was established in 1943, it was not until July 23, 1949, that the District Court of the United States for the Western District of Missouri, Southwestern District, entered a judgment decreeing the title to 210 acres of land to the United States for the purpose of establishing the monument. Funding to pay for the decree was not authorized by Congress until September 1950. On June 14, 1951, almost eight years after PL 148-78 passed, 210 acres of the original 240-acre Moses Carver Farm were turned over to the National Park Service. In 2004 the remaining 30 acres of the original Moses Carver Farm were donated to the George Washington Carver Birthplace District Association by Mrs. Evelyn Taylor and her late husband W.J. “Bud” Taylor. The Association later donated the land to the National Park Service, making the 240-acre Moses Carver Farm property complete.
The National Park Service began staffing the park in September 1952, and on July 14, 1953, George Washington Carver National Monument was officially dedicated. The park’s first visitor center, maintenance building, roads, and residences were constructed as a part of the “Mission 66” program, and were dedicated in July 1960. Mission 66 was a program to improve park facilities and conditions within the national park system after World War II. The original visitor center housed a museum, restroom facilities, and administrative offices.
In June 2007 the construction of a newly remodeled and expanded (18,000 square foot) visitor center was completed. This multilevel facility houses a museum, theater, gift shop, interactive exhibit areas, classrooms, additional restrooms, library, museum collection storage facility, office space, and a large multipurpose area that also serves as a tornado shelter.
The current landscape of the monument is a combined setting of restoration prairie, woodlands, streams, riparian corridors, and the manicured lawns surrounding the visitor center.