Renovation of historic Young School building in Independence gets started

By Jeff Fox
The Examiner

The old Hiram Young School in Independence is being renovated and put back into service as a community resource. 

The Truman Heritage chapter of Habitat for Humanity has broken ground on the project, and Habitat plans to move its offices there by October. 

The centerpiece of the building is to be a family services center for such things as classes on homeownership and household budgeting and planning.  

The project also saves a part of local history. Hiram Young, the school’s benefactor, was born into slavery in Tennessee around 1812 and was brought to Missouri. He trained as a woodworker, became highly successful and bought freedom for his wife and then himself. They came to Independence, where his business turned out hundreds of wagons a year for pioneers headed west in the decade before the Civil War. 

He also was an advocate for education, particularly for Blacks. Thus, the school building on Dodgion Street north of Truman Road that bears his name. It was open from 1934 to 1956.  

Habitat envisions a “center for education and community gathering,” said Truman Heritage chapter President and CEO Christina Leakey. Habitat not only harnesses volunteers and clients to build and repair homes but also offers classes on such things as homeownership basics and financial planning. The vision is that such classes would be open to all in the community, not just Habitat clients. 

“We have an opportunity to do something very meaningful that aligns” with Habitat’s overall mission, she said.