Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Sports Center

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Institution Name: Park University
Original/Historic Place Name: Labor Hall
Location on Campus: rear (north) campus
Date(s) of Construction:
1904-1905original construction Brown, W. D.
Designer: W. D. Brown (Kansas City, MO)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Beaux-Arts classicism (Glossary)
Significance: education, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: native limestone quarried on campus
Walls: brick
Roof: rolled roofing, tar
ca. 1905other (headquarters of the Park College family work program)
ca. 2004-present (2006)other (offices for athletic coaches)
ca. 2004-present (2006)academic department building (athletics department)

Labor Hall was built in two sections. A two story brick building on the west end contained the student work department offices, a waiting room, a reading room, a bath house with showers, and a locker room for each man's work clothes. Upstairs was a small gymnasium, and the basement was used to store tools needed by the various work forces that performed everything from farming to construction. The single story east wing, also brick, contained a 30 x 60 foot indoor swimming pool. The pool provided recreation for both male and female students--at separate times of the day, of course--and also provided a safe place to swim; several male students had drowned over the years while trying to cool off in the treacherous Missouri River. The unheated pool was covered with a wood floor and converted into a gymnasium during the winter for both male and female intramural sports. The pool was covered and uncovered seasonally until 1924, when the floor was left in place and remained so for nearly twenty years.

In 1931, when a new chapel was under construction, an extension was built onto the east end of the pool which served as a stage, and the west end was cut out to make way for a vestry and choir loft. The old pool room was renamed "Gymnasium and Conservatory," and the work department offices were moved to make way for rooms for the college band, orchestra, and glee club. During the summer of 1935, a 68 x 90 foot gymnasium was added to the west end of Labor Hall and served as Park's only gymnasium until 2000, when a new facility was constructed. The pool was finally reopened in 1943 when the Navy V-12 program sent 400 men to Park to continue their education while still in service. For the next forty years the pool was used by the college and also made available to the Parkville community. The old pool was finally retired in the 1980s and demolished in 1999 to make way for the new gym. The offices and old gymnasium are still in use.

When it was founded in 1875, Park College, now Park University, was known for its "Family Work Program," which allowed students with little or no money to work to offset the costs of their education. Although the types of tasks were necessarily altered over the years, prescribed hour of some type of work were required of all students who wanted to live on campus until 1960.

Labor Hall was the heart and soul of the Family Work program for twenty-six years. The portion that remains is a tangible reminder of one of the founding principles of Park University: the dignity and importance of work. It is representative of the program that not only built this school but also allowed hundreds of students to earn an education they otherwise could not have afforded. Regardless, it must be remembered that as needs changed, so did the building, leaving no doubt that old Labor Hall is also an example of the flexibility and innovation that have kept the school alive since 1875.


Elwess, Carolyn McHenry. A Brief History of Labor Hall. [s.l.: s.n.], 1999.


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Last update: November 2006