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Mackay Hall was built with the help of student labor over a period of seven years, 1886-1893. Mackay is a three-story limestone building with three towers, one on each end, and a central clock tower that is 135 feet tall. It was then, and is now, the signature landmark building of the Park University campus. With the exception of thermal windows that were installed in 1994, it retains its original exterior appearance. During 2002-2003, the entire roof was replaced with full attention to historic detail; the repairs included replacement of metal ornaments and complete re-roofing with slate, just like the original 1891 roof. The interior has been changed radically over the years. Originally the building housed scientific laboratories in the basement, offices, and classrooms on the first and second floors, along with four literary society halls on the third floor. Today, the structure contains mostly administrative offices and a few classrooms.
Mackay is significant not only for its imposing architecture but for its place in university history. By 1886, Park University (then Park College, founded in 1875) had outgrown its original building, an 1852 hotel donated by university co-founder George Park, because of its unique student work program called the "Park College Family." The Family was the brainchild of co-founder and first president Dr. John A. McAfee. Impoverished students could, after promising to pay a small annual fee, enter the Family to offset the costs of their education. They constructed buildings, farmed, cut wood for fuel, milked cows, cooked, ran a laundry, and performed nearly every task necessary for keeping the school alive. Scores were turned away for lack of space, and as a result there was pressing need for a classroom and administration building. After securing a major donor, Mr. Duncan Mackay of Morrison, Illinois, college officials began the grueling task of constructing the huge building. Although professional masons were hired to build the walls, students quarried the stone on campus and delivered it to the site. Students also did most of the framing and carpentry. As a result of its architectural and educational significance, Mackay was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 6, 1979. Today, this magnificent building stands as a monument to the school motto, "Faith and Labor," and its image is synonymous with the university.
Elwess, Carolyn McHenry. A Tale of Endurance: The Story of Mackay Hall. Parkville: MO, Park University, 2003.
Mackay Building [Park University]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1979.