Alumni Center building designated a Historic site

Jessica Witman

A dedication to honor the Lucius P. Buchanan mansion’s addition to the National Register of Historic Places took place Oct. 21 at the Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center.

Missouri Southern faculty, students, and alumni were invited to attend as new decorations, two bronze plaques, were placed on the structure. One is located at the original entrance, which faces the biology pond, and the other is at the current entrance to the Alumni Center.

         “To have this designation for Missouri Southern and Joplin is an amazing accomplishment,” said Lee Elliff Pound, director of the Alumni Association, which is now housed in the mansion. “Not everyone has the chance to work in such a gorgeous facility with such rich history.”

The mansion, which was built in 1926, was constructed based on inspiration gained in Puerto Rico by the original owner, Lucius P. “Buck” Buchanan, who was a wealthy mining developer in the area. It passed to Frank and Juanita Wallower after Buchanan’s death in 1939.

The Jasper County Junior College District purchased the building and the surrounding 320 acres in 1964, and the Missouri Southern State College campus opened in 1967. It has since grown into the University campus of today.

The original mansion was renovated in 2004 to became the Ralph L. Gray Alumni Center. It is the oldest building on campus, which is why Brad Belk, director of the Joplin Museum Complex, brought up the idea of getting the building registered with the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office. The renovations helped the building maintain much of the original look it needed in order to gain the distinction.

The plaque unveiling and ribbon cutting ceremony was held last Friday, but the building was officially added to the National Historic Register on Aug. 22.