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Historic building serving the African-American community in north Springfield hit by vandals

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 9:40 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A historic building in north central Springfield has been hit by vandals.

The Bartley-Decatur Neighborhood Center has served the African-American community for generations.

Now, it’s been tagged with what some consider racial slurs.

Bartley-Decatur Neighborhood Center President Mark Dixon asked, “I have no idea why people would do this. Is it hate?”

He was made aware of the graffiti Wednesday afternoon.

The walls, windows, even surveillance cameras hit with brightly colored paint.

“If it were just vandalism, criminal kind of thing or something, that would be one thing. But with epithet, it just brings a whole other tone to the thing. Pretty devastated. It’s more than a building, a lot more than a building,” he said.

First built as a residential home in the early 1900′s, the building became the a healthcare hub for the African-American community in Springfield.

“Back when segregation was the rule for public accommodations, hospitals, schools, etc., this was the place. This was also known as the negro clinic. This was it. A good friend of mine, his mom, who’s now in her 80′s, was literally born here. It has real deep roots,” explained Dixon.

Over the years the building was also used as a nursing home and eventually a veterans home for African-Americans.

Later it was converted to a day care center operated by Roberta Bartley and her sister Olive Decatur. The pair were teachers at Lincoln School during segregation.

Most recently, 10 years ago it was repurposed again and transformed into a resource center named after the women.

Dixon says, although he’s heartbroken, this recent act of vandalism won’t stop the center’s mission.

“This building has been in the service, primarily of the African-American community and more recently the African-American and Hispanic community, combined, for over a hundred years.

We plan to be here for the next hundred serving those little girls and little boys, giving them hope, a sense of pride in themselves and achievement for every milestone they make. That’s what it’s about,” he said.

Dixon is hoping that those responsible will turn themselves in and apologize.

A police report has been filed.

Right now, he says, they are working to find a way to get the damage cleaned up.

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