Parkville, MO

Discover 130 Years of history in Parkville, Missouri: Mackay Hall

CJ Coombs
McKay Hall at Park University in Parkville, Missouri.Photo byOriginal uploader was Americasroof at English Wikipedia., CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

The Mackay Building is on the campus of Park University in Parkville, Missouri (Platte County). It’s more commonly referred to as Mackay Hall. The construction of this historic three-story building began in 1886. 

It was started in 1886 with the help of students who quarried the stone from the school’s land, carried it to the site and helped to build the structure as a means of earning their tuition. (Source.)

This rock-faced limestone building has the architectural styles of Richardsonian Romanesque, High Victorian Gothic, and Chateauesque. The building also has a notable clock tower.

On April 6, 1979, the Mackay Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Col. George Shepherd Park

George Park was born on October 28, 1811, close to Grafton, Vermont. When he turned 16, he headed west and taught in schools in Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. 

When the war for independence broke out in Texas, Park went to join the fight. Lucky for him, he wasn’t at the Alamo. He reached the rank of Colonel, was discharged in 1836, and went back to Missouri. Park believed that Missouri could become a new state, so he acquired a lot of land around what would later become Parkville. He is noted as being a founder of Parkville.

In 1839, with a settlement forming under Park, it became a village named Parkville. For about 20 years, he was an important citizen of the town. He edited a free-soil newspaper, The Industrial Luminary, and ended up becoming a target of pro-slavery demonstrators. 

The Free Soil Party was a short-lived coalition political party in the United States active from 1848 to 1854, when it merged into the Republican Party. (Source.)

The demonstrators got a hold of his printing press and tossed it into the Missouri River. For a while, he went into hiding and eventually left Missouri for Illinois where he stayed.

Previously, in 1851, Park offered his hotel property in Parkville known as the Lexington Presbytery as a potential campus for a college. When he met Reverend John A. McAfee at a meeting, the idea to establish Park College for Training of Christian Workers came about. Park’s offer was finally accepted in 1875. Park wanted an institution where the Christian culture could be combined with practical training.

Col. Park died in Illinois on June 6, 1890, at age 78. He was laid to rest at the Walnut Grove Cemetery in Parkville, Missouri.

John A. McAfee

John McAfee was born on December 12, 1831, in Marion County, Missouri. He worked on his family’s farm until he was 21. Then, he became interested in formal education. When he was 28, he graduated from Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri.

McAfee taught in colleges in Missouri and Kansas. He was later ordained as a Presbyterian minister, receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Westminster College. He believed in self-help education which meant that students would finance their education by supporting themselves. Because there were some who didn’t agree with McAfee’s philosophy, he was eventually forced to leave Highland University in Kansas. When he left, 17 students left too. Some 300 students helped to build Mackay Hall over a period of seven years in exchange for tuition.

Those 17 students became the initial student body of Park College. They moved into the Lexington Hotel and college work began on May 12, 1875. Those students were referred to as the original 17. Dr. McAfee was the president of the college until he died on June 12, 1890, which was less than a week after the death of Col. Park. 

Dr. McAfee’s five sons and a daughter served for many years at the college. The first four years were challenging. In 1879, the first class graduated. It became incorporated, and Col. Park gifted 800 acres to the college which is the current campus. 

The building

Mackay Hall is on a high hill and faces south overlooking the City of Parkville and the Missouri River. It’s a massive building. It almost looks like a tall castle. It’s usually the first building I see when I drive through Parkville on my way to the English Landing.

Mackay Hall has a full basement, towers, and many narrow and tall windows. Native Bethany limestone was included in the materials used to build this structure with the foundation made of white limestone.

It took the combined effort of Colonel George Shepherd Park and Dr. John A. McAfee to organize the institution. They supported education policies they believed could help young people, especially out west.

Col. Park’s hotel was used as a dormitory until it was torn down in 1893. The students referred to it as Old Number One. The institution organized by Col. Park and Dr. McAfee was committed to the education of Christian workers. They believed no worthy student should be denied admittance based on lack of funds. 

Their self-help program basically prepared the students for their role in society which included character building. Students who couldn’t attend other colleges received support at Park College. At that time, membership was conditional which involved Christian conduct, attending religious services, and studying the Bible.

The Mackay building was built by the labor of students and materials were donated. Throughout its history, Park College was linked with the Presbyterian Church, but in 1975, it began a new association with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that lasted until l999. After that time, Park College became independent and was no longer affiliated with any religious organization.

Mackay Hall is named after Duncan Mackay, an Illinois banker, who donated $25,000 in materials for the structure

When construction was completed in 1893, there were laboratories in the basement. College records and other documents were stored in a fireproof vault made of brick and iron. The first and second floors contained classrooms and the library. The students who helped with the construction performed wainscoting and woodwork in the hallways of the first and second floors. 

As the needs of the college changed, there were some modifications to the interior. Now Mackay Hall houses administrative departments. This historic building has been well-maintained. 

Thanks for reading!

This is original content from NewsBreak’s Creator Program. Join today to publish and share your own content.

Comments / 1

Published by

Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms, and I retired early so I could be a writer all day. You could say I'm from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri because I was born into the Air Force life. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO

More from CJ Coombs

Comments / 0