In our continued celebration of Park University’s 140th anniversary, we are taking a look back at its rich history, through a collection of photos. Although it is no longer standing, this building was the original home of Park College. Located on the banks of the Missouri River, just north of the train tracks, “Number One” was the home of Park’s first class of 17 students. To share the story of its beginnings, here is an excerpt from A Chronicle of Memories: Park College – 1875-1990.
Once a rough, hilly spot of rocks and clay and woods, the campus has been transformed into beautiful terraces lined with shrubs and flowers. Buildings have risen, faithfully served their time, and given way to newer and finer structures as necessity has demanded and the means permitted. Practically all has been modified by the changing time except what is familiarly knows as “the old Park Spirit” – the spirit of endeavor, of progress, and of success, which still pervades the college atmosphere and inspires all to greater achievement.
In 1839, Colonel George S. Park arrived at a small hamlet on the Missouri River called English Landing (now Parkville) where he built a stone hotel which he named the Missouri Valley Hotel. This pioneer entrepreneur had a dream of founding a college. At a Presbyterian meeting he met another man with the same dream. As a result, in 1875 the old hotel building was given by Colonel Park to house the nucleus of seventeen students brought by Dr. John A. McAfee from Highland College in Kansas to found Park College. It was called “Number One” or just “The College” and rightly so because it was the first and only building of the fledgling college and because it contained everything pertaining to the institution (except, of course, the grounds and buildings needed for farming, which were leased at the beginning). It was located just west of the railroad depot which you now know as the City Hall. The townspeople were not too happy when the students built a fence around it to keep them from cutting across the yard on their way to the depot.
Parts of this hotel which had once flourished during the Civil War period had fallen into disrepair from abuse by soldiers and border ruffians, and by being used as a saloon and even as a stable for their horses by the renegade James brothers, Jesse and Frank. Dr. and Mrs. McAfee, their five children and the seventeen students all pitched in to clean up the mess and make the building livable. Gradually as time went on and much work was done, the lower floor contained the printing office, dining room, kitchen, laundry, bakery, clothes and store rooms; the second floor a chapel, six recitation rooms, two literary society halls, library, President’s office, parlor, and matron’s and steward’s rooms. The third floor was a sort of conservatory containing eighteen rooms (which by 1886 housed sixty-eight young ladies), a reading and a music room. It was called the “Sugar Box,” presumably because of the sweet young ladies who resided there. On the top was the ten-room “Pepper Box,” so named because of its many windows. Should you want to catch a steamer or row a boat on the Missouri River you would just cross the railroad tracks immediately south of Old Number One, walk a few yards, and there you’d be.
This is just one of the many great stories from Park’s 140 years of tradition. To celebrate that history, Fides et Labor –140 Years of Pioneering Education: The Story of Park University (working title), is currently in production and is scheduled to be available in September. The 160-page publication will be filled with stories and photos covering the University’s history. Pre-orders for the book are currently being filled at the discounted price of $39.95 through Aug. 1; the price goes to $44.95 after that date and supply will be limited. For more information or to order your book, visit www.park.edu/historybook.