Rebuilding where St. John’s once stood


Seven years ago today, Joplin looked very different. And one of the top changes stemming from the EF-5 tornado may be right at 26th and Maiden Lane.

This is a transformation that has taken years. The first changes at the former hospital site took nearly three years. Now, one of the last projects is wrapping up, turning what was St. Johns in 2011 into a place for students, seniors and the public at large.

“The walking path was behind us that’s what I’m saying, it had a lot more trees,” says Larry Nelson.

It’s easy for Larry Nelson of Joplin to still see a landscape that’s been gone since 2011.

“There was a hospital here – there where the doctor’s office and stuff like that and where the school was the Brady building,” says Nelson.

But he’s happy with the transformation at 25th and Maiden Lane, a frequent visitor with his wife Dorothy and their dog Miss Sarah. Mercy Park covers much of what was St. John’s Hospital, 16 acres of walking paths, shelters and a pond. Opening two years ago, it was the second project on the site, following Irving Elementary School which opened in 2014. And 2018 has seen even more activity, first with the new Joplin Early Childhood Center and soon a new senior center.

“It looked like to me like mostly what they have left is landscaping,” says Stan Heater.

Sitting on the east side of Mercy Park, the location is a big plus.

“One of the things that impresses you when you walk in the building – first it’s so much bigger and then you immediately look to those west windows and look out and see the park. It’s awesome,” says Heater.

A wow factor Larry Nelson doesn’t limit to any one part of the former hospital site.

“If people haven’t been out here they need to come out and see,” says Larry Nelson.

The senior center isn’t quite ready to go. They’re hoping the construction crews will be done next week. Then it’s time to move in furniture and open the doors, hopefully in June.

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