Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Park House

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Institution Name: Park University
Original/Historic Place Name: Park House
Location on Campus: east side of main entrance
Date(s) of Construction:
1845original construction Parsons, Isaac
Designer: Isaac Parsons
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Regionalist/Vernacular (Glossary)
Significance: education, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: native limestone quarried on campus, concrete
Walls: frame
Roof: composition shingles (new, 2002)
 
Function:
ca. 1848-1874private residence (home of Park University co-founder George S. Park)
ca. 2004-present (2006)alumni center
 

Narrative:
The Park House, a small frame structure, was built in 1845 by Isaac Parsons, an early Parkville settler, soon after Parkville was established as a village. In 1848 it was purchased by Park University cofounder George S. Park (1811-1890), for whom both the village of Parkville and the future college were named. Mr. Park lived in the home from 1848 until 1874, when he moved to a large farm in Illinois. The house has been remodeled several times, and no records exist to reveal its initial configuration. It does, however, retain the original, bark-covered log floor joists. Park House has served various functions throughout its long life, including serving as a "pest house" for quarantined students, a home for faculty, and as the visitors' center for the city of Parkville. It is now home to the Alumni Office. In 1967 the house was moved from its original 1845 location when the State of Missouri widened the highway near which it was located. The administration saved it from destruction because of its importance both to Parkville and to Park University history.

George S. Park came to the area in 1838, the time of the Platte Purchase, and laid claim to a great deal of land which, by 1840, he purchased for a town site. Mr. Park was speculating that the town would become an important center of commerce as it then lay between two rivers, the Missouri and the mouth of the Platte. For several years he succeeded, and in 1851 he proposed to the Lexington Presbytery that they establish a school or college at Parkville; they accepted his plan to donate land for the school, but two years later, changed their minds. Meanwhile, Parkville was decimated by the border wars over Kansas becoming a free or slave state. Later, the Civil War further damaged prospects for meaningful commerce, and Parkville's fortunes crashed, exacerbated by a natural rerouting of the Platte River and by the emergence of nearby Kansas City as a major business community. Regardless, George Park never gave up his idea for a college, and finally, in 1875, he joined forces with Dr. John A. McAfee and the Rev. George S. Woodward to create Park College. Park allowed Dr. McAfree to use his hotel for a college building and to farm a few acres to support the students. The college soon attracted hundreds of students and was officially chartered in 1879. That same year, Mr. Park donated his hotel and some farmland to Park College. Businesses sprang up to serve the growing population, and many homes were built in town for faculty and administrators. Although George Park did not spend the last fifteen years of his life in the old house at Parkville, he visited his investments often and lived to see his dreams of a prosperous town and a thriving college come to fruition.
 

References:

Elwess, Carolyn McHenry. The Park House. [s.l.: s.n.], 2002.

 

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Last update: November 2006