The campus’ historic mansion – built in 1920 by Lucius P. “Buck” Buchanan – has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
A ceremony was held on Oct. 21 to formally mark the achievement. Brad Belk, director of the Joplin Museum Complex and member of the MSSU Alumni Association board, spearheaded the lengthy application process.
“To be listed, a building has to have historical significance,” he said. “I feel 100 percent that the mansion has that. For the university, it links the past to the present.”
Built in 1920 by Lucius P. “Buck” Buchanan, a wealthy mining developer, the mansion was constructed with a Spanish motif. It was reportedly inspired by a house he saw in Puerto Rico.
It was later purchased by Frank C. and Juanita Wallower. One of the leading developers of the Tri-State Mining District, Frank Wallower set up a generating plant to produce electricity for Mission Hills, and the mansion was one of the first homes in the Joplin area to be air conditioned.
The 320-acre Missouri Southern State College campus opened in 1967, with the residence housing classrooms and offices, including the office of Leon C. Billingsly, the college’s first president. In 2004, a project began to renovate the Mission Hills Mansion, which had fallen into disrepair. The oldest building on campus became the Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center and the permanent home of the MSSU Alumni Association, which raised approximately $1.8 million toward the structure’s renovation.