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Mansion History


52940342947_9eca0f4bff_k.jpgThe Mission Hills Mansion was built in 1926 by wealthy mining couple Lucius and Ethel Buchanan. Its Spanish Revival style architecture was inspired by the couple’s travels, and upon its completion they named the property “Mission Hills.” During his time living in Joplin, Buchanan was instrumental in establishing the Joplin Stockyards and was also a major donor to St. John’s (Mercy) Hospital. 

The second residents of Mission Hills were Frank and Juanita Wallower. They maintained a large herd of Jersey cattle and prized Herefords. They lived on the property and operated their dairy farm until 1964, when it was purchased by Joplin Junior College with the goal of being transformed into Missouri Southern, a four-year institution. 

Just as it was a home to the Buchanan and Wallower families in the past, today the Mission Hills Mansion is the home to all 40,000+ alumni of Joplin Junior College, Missouri Southern College, Missouri Southern State College, and Missouri Southern State University. 

When Joplin Junior College moved from downtown Joplin to the current property in 1967, the Mansion became an integral part of Missouri Southern’s campus. Various areas of the mansion served as student life centers, deans’ offices, classrooms, a cafeteria, the bookstore, and student support and learning centers. Eventually the mansion became idle from 1992-2006. 

In 2004, the MSSU Alumni Association created a strategic plan that included an objective torenovate the Mansion. Alumni staff and board members began raising funds to restore the 4000 square foot building. With a substantial gift from Mary Helen Harutun, restoration efforts began on the Mansion and were completed in 2007. 

After the façade was completed, the Alumni Association focused their efforts on the interior. Through a generous gift from Ralph L. Gray, the interior work began in 2009. After 5 years of planning and fundraising, the Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center was dedicated on September 18, 2010.