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Archive for the ‘National Register of Historic Places’ Category

First Christian Church

When I woke up this morning and checked my phone, I had several texts from friends and family who know I love Oklahoma history. Concerned I read the one from Big K first, “The egg church has been torn down”. I hoped that what he said wasn’t true but a quick look at my Facebook feed confirmed it. The iconic First Christian Church, the “Egg Church”, was a pile of rubble.

The First Christian Chruch was one of the first churches organized in Oklahoma City. Historical records show that their first baptismal was in June 1889. By 1910, the congregation had built a new home for their church at 1104 N Robinson after occupying a few other buildings. This would be their home for many years until the completion of the new sanctuary (this building does still stand and is on the National Register of Historic Places). In 1946, the minister of the church, Bill Alexander, helped the church buy land that had previously been part of the Edgemere Golf Club for a new location. By 1947, an outdoor auditorium had been built. The Sunday evening services were held here, “Edgemere Under the Stars”. On Christmas Day in 1953, the church announced its “Christmas present to Oklahoma City”, a new modern building that was a landmark to all who could see it, the “church of tomorrow”. The church was designed by architects R. Duane Conner and Fred Pojezny. They used concrete to make the large dome by pouring the concrete on steel mesh that was laid on a wooden form. After the concrete cured, the form was removed.

Sunday, December 23rd, 1956, the new church welcomed its first worshipers. It is said that over 2000 people attended that first service in the new sanctuary. The architecture for the time was so spectacular that the church was featured in Life magazine in 1957. This church was a center for the community for many years. It hosted events from weddings to funerals, from school concerts to the Miss Oklahoma Pageant. But most importantly it served as “The Center” during the time shortly after the Murrah Building bombing in 1995. Set up by the church, the medical examiner, and a group of funeral directors, the American Red Cross also set up in the building. It served as a safe haven from the media for those who lost loved ones in the attack. It’s rumored that Oprah Winfrey herself even went to the church to help the victims and their families. For 16 days after the bombing, it was a place of solace for those closely affected. In 2016, the First Christian Chruch put the property up for sale. The size of the congregation had shrunk and the building was becoming expensive to repair. By 2018, the first whispers of demolition started. Many tried to fight back, even trying to get the city council involved. Even though it had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2011, it was at risk. A couple of other churches stepped forward to buy it but in the long run the property just needed to many repairs.

I never got to go in the building. I only got a few pictures back in 2019, never thought to go back and take more. A sad day for Oklahoma history and for those who love mid-century designs.

Richardson Building

Sad to say but Oklahoma has a problem with tearing down and ignoring history. On Friday July 22, 2022, Union City lost one of the oldest buildings in town- the Richardson Building. I loved driving through Union City just to see this 112-year-old building standing quietly on the corner.

Founded in 1900, Dr. David Richardson bought the bank in 1906. The bank got its new building in 1910 at the northeast corner of Division St and Main St. (now Kate Boevers Ave.). Built across from the school, this building not only housed the bank on the corner but to the east was a hardware store that later became a grocery. The building suffered a fire in the interior in 1928 and was rebuilt. It was used as a bank until 1977 when a new building was constructed on Highway 81. The old building then sat vacant for many years. It was added to the National Register of Historic Properties in 1983.

The town on Union City was founded on April 10, 1894. Dr. David Richardson moved to town not long after to establish his medical practice. He not only was the town doctor, and later banker, but served as postmaster for Union City. He was appointed as State Bank Commissioner by Governor E.W. Marland in 1938 and served 1 year.

As I stated, this building has been abandoned since at least 1977, it was a cool building but also old and falling apart. I had heard rumors on July 22, 2022, that it would be demolished that day, I waited for a few days before I drove to Union City. There was just a dusty concrete pad where the 112-year-old Richardson Building had sat, another historical building gone.

These pics I took in Aug 2016. As time went on, more things were missing such as the arrow sign.

These pics were taken July 2022. You can see the brick footing for the building.

Food Friday: The Bookmark Cafe

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you would know that my contributing writer Mae has been absent. Well, she had to get through a rigorous high school schedule and now that she has graduated (PC Pirate class of ’21) she is studying at the great University of Oklahoma (proud 3rd generation Sooner). To help pay for this new adventure in education, she is working for food services as a barista. Her first semester she spent at The Hive, a coffee shop on south campus (more on it in another post) but now she is at The Bookmark Cafe in the first lower level of Bizzell Memorial Library.

This is just a small coffee shop, very similar to the ones you see in bookstores, where they have coffee, lattes, frappuccinos, along with light sandwiches and pastries. Last Sunday was my first visit and I was impressed, the space that had once been where the newspapers and magazines were kept was transformed into a study lounge with separate rooms for groups. Bookmark Cafe has a large area with tables and booths for group or individual study. They are part of Starbucks “We Proudly Serve” program, where they do serve up the same drinks that you can find at a Starbucks. Many of the pastries are cooked on site with the salads and sandwiches coming from Cow On the Fly. I didn’t get a chance to try any of the food yet, because of the snowstorm the previous week, the food delivery hadn’t come in yet. The double chocolate chip frappuccino that I had was awesome though. The staff is all students, they were all friendly and happy to be at Bookmark.

Now for some history- there was nothing like this when I was a student at OU in the early 1990’s (BA in Journalism, ’94). The coffee shop craze hadn’t hit Oklahoma yet. I guess there were some around but to me, coffee was just something that my grandparents drank. I had never heard of a frappuchino, latte, or macchiato. Bizzell Memorial Library was built in 1928 for the growing university and expanded, first in 1958, then again in 1982. Lower level 1 is part of the 1982 addition. Like I mentioned earlier, it held the periodicals. I used to sit at the microfilm readers and journey through the past with their newspaper collection. The Bookmark Cafe officially opened for the spring semester 1998 to give students a quiet place to study. The official grand opening was held on February 11, 1998 (I didn’t know this information until Wednesday of this week as I was researching, so the fact I’m publishing this on the same date 24 years later is just a coincidence). In August of 2013 construction began to transform the space into the study area it is now, Bookmark Cafe was temporarily moved but returned to its now larger location in September 2014 with a ceremony held on November 7, 2014, to mark the reopening of the lower level. In March 2020, it closed, not to reopen until January 2022.

Overall I will give them 5 strips of bacon, just for the fact that my child works there, but I would like to try more of their menu items. Project for the rest of the semester. So if you find yourself in Norman and near campus, stop into the historic library and grab a treat.

Anadarko Heritage Museum and The National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians

Sometimes when I go out for a drive, I have a destination. Other times I just go driving and stop whenever I see something interesting. A few months ago I got in the car and took off to the southwest. No particular place in mind, but when I came upon Anadarko I drove around and found their historic Rock Island Train Depot and the Anadarko Heritage Museum located within.

This museum has a mix of Native American artifacts along with photos and items from local residents. One room on the east end of the building holds all of the Native American items- moccasins, costumes, headdresses, and lots of items with intricate beadwork. The rest of the building has various other items such as cameras, boots, hats, clothing, tools, and lots of photos from around the area.

The most interesting part of the museum is the building it’s housed in, the Rock Island Depot. Built in 1911 as a passenger station for the CRI&P (Chicago Rock Island & Pacific) railway, it sits just off Main Street between two rail lines- one ran alongside the building to the north and the other still runs along the east side curving to the south. The station was used for passengers for many years until it closed in 1974. The museum was opened in 1979 by the Philomathic Club of Anadarko. This group has been in existence since 1899 and they founded a town museum in 1936. The depot was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

We also stopped at the National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians. This is really a nice place to visit if it’s a nice day. The majority of the hall of fame is outside, a nice walk with statues and busts of famous Native Americans. There are descriptions along with each statue to tell of the persons achievements. Inside is a small visitor center with some artwork by different Native artists.

These two locations are a great way to learn more about the history of Anadarko and the Native Americans who live in and around the town.

Address- National Hall of Fame for Famous American Indians- 901 E. Central Blvd., Anadarko; Anadarko Heritage Museum- 311 E. Main St., Anadarko

Geary, Home of the Gillespie Building and a Water Trough

Gillespie Building

1903 Gillespie Building in Geary, OK, placed on NRHP in 1989.  2016

Since the month of February was abnormally warm, we picked a nice Saturday afternoon and just went out for a drive.  We ended up in the town of Geary, a small town of about 1,200 people forty miles west of Oklahoma City.  Not really much there and nothing really to do, but they did have a really nice old downtown with some interesting buildings.

Downtown Geary

Downtown Geary, OK. 2016

So lets start with a brief history of Geary first- founded in April of 1892 when the first non-Indian settlers were allowed in during the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening, the town was actually over a mile north of its present location.  It was moved south shortly after to meet the Choctaw, Oklahoma, and Gulf railroad being built from El Reno.  The post office was officially established on October 12, 1892 with the town being named after Edward Guerrier, a U.S. Army scout and interpreter who settled north of the town site.   The town grew rapidly with the population getting all the way up to around 2,500.  A big boost for the small town came in 1912 when the Postal Highway came through, this later became the original path for Route 66.  Unfortunately, Geary’s portion of Route 66 was bypassed in 1934.

Now the town is quiet, not much to do.  So why was I there, I wanted to see two places that are on the National Register of Historic Places.  The first was hard to miss- The Gillespie Building.  Siting on the southeast corner of Main and Highway 281, can’t miss the big red brick building.  It was built in 1903 by Ed Gillespie.  Originally a bank, it served many other businesses until it became a museum.  Unfortunately it looks as though the museum has been closed for a while.

Just a block east on Main Street is the second NRHP location and has to be the most unique, the Public Water Trough.  I know it sounds weird right, but this was really a big deal to farmers who came to town.  The trough was placed near the railroad depot and grain elevators in 1901.  This was at a time when the farmers would bring their product into town by horse-drawn wagons and it was helpful to have somewhere for those horses to get a drink.  You really have to think of it as an early gas station.  The original trough was wooden with the water pumped from a well close by, but sometime in the 1920’s it was redone with concrete and connected to city water.  It was used frequently up until the 1940’s.  The city of Geary had four of these troughs around the city and for some reason this was the only one to survive.

Public Horse Trough

Public Water Trough, Geary, OK, placed on NHRP in 1989. 2016

So that was my exciting visit to Geary, I did walk around the small downtown but there were no restaurants and all the businesses were closed.  If you ever find yourself in that direction, just take a few minutes to walk around and enjoy the history.

1910 building in Geary

1910 Brake Building in downtown Geary, OK. 2016

old service station in Geary

Another old building in downtown Geary, OK.  Possibly had been a service station or automotive dealership.  2016

 

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

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Many don’t realize that we have three National Parks in the state of Oklahoma.  All three are beautiful places to visit and each unique.  Unfortunately two are places where great tragedy and loss have occurred.  The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in one of the oldest and most tragic.  So on a nice fall day a few weeks ago we made a trip to the far western part of the state to visit this historic location.

Near the current town of Cheyenne, Chief Black Kettle and his tribe of Southern Cheyenne had made winter camp on the Washita River in early November 1868.  There had been an uneasy peace with the Cheyenne after the Medicine Lodge Treaty signed in October 1867.  In the summer afterward, that peace was broken when groups of Cheyenne, along with other tribes, started attacking white settlers in Colorado, Texas, and Kansas.  This marked the tribes as “hostile” according to the United States Army.

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Along the banks of the Washita River, 2015.

With winter coming, many of the tribes settled along the banks of the Washita River (or Lodgepole River, as named by the tribes because of the numerous trees) Black Kettle’s village of around 250 was the western most settlement.  The Army had been stationed near Fort Cobb in western Indian Territory.  General Philip Sheridan decided on a “winter campaign” against the tribes to try and get them to surrender.  So in late November 1868, the general ordered Colonel George Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry to attack Black Kettle’s village.  Early on the morning of November 27, 1868 Custer’s forces converged on the village and in no time had taken control.  Black Kettle and his wife were amongst the first killed.  The exact death toll isn’t known but it is believed that around 50 Cheyenne were killed along with 21 soldiers.  To keep any of the Cheyenne from escaping, Custer also ordered over 700 horses to be slaughtered and dumped in a ravine.  He then took the surviving women and children as prisoners and burned he camp.

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Site of Black Kettle’s Southern Cheyenne 1868 winter camp, 2015.

So with this kind of history it’s obviously a sad place to visit.  The location was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 and in 2007 the state built a new visitor center and museum.  After you walk through the museum, you can go out to the site and walk the 1.5 mile marked trail.  It wasn’t a long walk but it can give you the creeps especially near the reported location of the horse grave.  You can see where the army scouted out the village and get an idea of what the land would have looked like around the time of the massacre.  This is a place to take older kids to help them learn about Oklahoma history and since it is part of the park service they do offer a Junior Ranger badge for completing a booklet geared toward different ages.  I would recommend going but make sure you have some walking shoes on.

Hours: Visitor Center open 7 days a week 8am-5pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and January 1st.  Overlook and trail open from dawn to dusk daily.

sunflower

Sunflower on the trail to Black Kettle’s village on the Washita River, 2015.

Museum of the Western Prairie

Museum of the Western Prairie in Altus

Windmill at the Museum of the Western Prairie, Altus, OK, 2015.

A few months ago I went on a road trip to the southwestern part of the state.  It was August and 104 degrees out but I didn’t care, there were places I wanted to go and see.  I went looking for the Cross S Ranch Headquarters south of Olustee and couldn’t find it.  Eventually later that day I ended up in Altus and had time to visit the Museum of the Western Prairie.

It’s back off the road in a park, a low building with dirt up around it to make it look like an old dugout home from the late 1800’s.  I had been there before many years ago and saw a picture of downtown Eldorado, Oklahoma, that showed the Farley blacksmith shop.  This was the shop that my great-great grandfather Jeff Farley ran in the 1890’s.  So on this visit I wanted to find that picture again and show it to Mae, just to emphasize our family history here in Oklahoma.

The building had been remodeled a few years ago, so things had changed and the picture was no longer on display, but there were still plenty of other exhibits to show her just how our family lived in that time period.  They had the usual covered wagon and other household items from the time of settlement in Jackson County.  But one of the more interesting items on display was a console from the Atlas missile silos that surrounded Altus and it’s air force base from 1962-1965.

Control board for Atlas rocket in Altus

There is more outside in the courtyard that showcases the history of southwestern Oklahoma.  Windmill, farm equipment, a buggy, and the Criswell half-dugout.  Davis and Sarah Criswell built the half-dugout in old Greer County (now part of Jackson County) around 1900.  This dugout is a great example of what a family home looked like out on the western prairie.  But also in this courtyard is where I finally found the Cross S Ranch Headquarters building.  It’s still in the process of being restored (for more info read my previous post about the history of this building).

The museum was started in 1966 when the Western Trail Historical Society started raising money to build a museum in Altus.  The building was completed in 1970 and officially became a Oklahoma Historical Society field museum in 1973.  The Criswell half-dugout was placed there in 1976 and the Cross S Ranch Headquarters was rebuilt there in 2009.

So if you’re a history nerd like me or just want to get an idea of what life was like on the western prairie around the turn of the century, stop and check this museum out.  Takes about an hour to see everything.  Older kids might like it but younger kids would probably be bored, not a lot of kid type stuff to do.  I do hope the next time I visit they have that Eldorado picture back out.

Address: 1100 Memorial Drive, Altus, OK.  From Main Street (or State Highway 6), turn east on Falcon Road, then go less than a quarter of a mile to Memorial Drive.  The museum sits at the end of the road.

Hours: Tuesday- Saturday 10am-5pm.

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Haunted Fort Washita

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The west and south barracks at Fort Washita, OK, 2015.

Hey, it’s the week of Halloween so let’s have some fun and talk about one of the most haunted places in Oklahoma- Fort Washita.  I had heard the stories for years, ghosts wandering the property, strange experiences, weird feelings.  So back in 2002, we decided to visit (this was before children) and yeah, the place definitely had a creepy vibe.  We never actually saw a ghost or had anything unexplained happen to us, but we both felt like someone was watching us the whole time we were there.  After that visit we have talked about the place just giving us the creeps and that we never wanted to go back.  So like morons, we went back a couple of weeks ago, taking Mae with us this time just to see if a pre-teen girl could get the spirits worked up.

The fort was placed on top of a hill not far from where the Washita River joins the Red River in 1842.  It was built by the military to protect the Chickasaws and Choctaws from other Indian tribes.  The original fort was spread out over an area of seven square miles and contained almost 100 buildings constructed from locally quarried limestone.  By 1861, the fort was abandoned and taken over by confederate troops as a supply post.  Although no battles were ever fought here, near the end of the war the confederates burned the buildings and abandoned the post.  The United States military turned over the property in 1870 to the Chickasaws who then allotted the land to the Colbert family.  The state of Oklahoma took over ownership of the land in 1962, this is when the historical society added the front entrance and started work on the reconstruction of the south barracks.  In 1965 the fort was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The south and west barracks in background with remains of the commissary in front, Fort Washita, OK, 2015.

As I said earlier, my first trip was in 2002, you can walk or drive around the ruins.  The south barracks weren’t open to tour but you could go in the rebuilt chaplains’ quarters and the D.H. Cooper cabin.  On this recent visit we discovered that the rebuilt south barracks had burned down in 2010 but everything else was the same as before.  I didn’t get that same strange feeling I had the first time and neither did my husband, even though he told me later at one point near the old post road he heard “thundering hooves”.  I didn’t hear or see anything and neither did Mae even though she kept her guard up.  I was hoping that at least one ghost would come and scare her.  It’s an interesting place to visit and if you see a ghost or hear something unusual don’t be surprised.  The fort is in far southern Oklahoma near Durant and Tishomingo off state highway 199.

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South barracks at Fort Washita before they burned in 2010, Fort Washita, OK, 2002.

Fort Washita

Map of Fort Washita, 2015.

Cross S Ranch Headquarters

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Cross S Ranch Headquarters, Museum of the Western Prairie, Altus, OK, 2015.

While I was bored over the summer, I found a listing of all the locations in Oklahoma on the National Register of Historic Places.  I then started getting curious, do some of these places still exist?  So just using Google Maps Satellite Images I would put in the address or coordinates to see if the building was still standing or if something had happened.  The majority of the time everything was the same but there are some places that are gone.  Why are they gone?  What happened to them?  Fire, tornado, moved?  So I have set out to find these historic places and give everyone an update.

One of the first places that caught my interest was the Cross S Ranch Headquarters in Jackson County.  It should have been on a country road West of Elmer and South of Olustee but no matter how many times I looked, I could not find a building on this piece of farm land.   So off to southwestern Oklahoma I went, at the beginning of August in 100 degree heat (I’ve never been accused of being smart).  After a short drive through Elmer, trust me it’s a small town, I ended up close to where the ranch headquarters should be.  I was close because the road didn’t look too good and after the rains they had in May and June, I didn’t know what I would find further out.  But I was on the location of Cross S Ranch.

Cross S Ranch

Actual location of the Cross S Ranch, the headquarters building would have been in this field.  Looking to the west from County Road N199, Olustee, OK, 2015.

The Cross S Ranch was started on this open prairie in what was then Greer County, Texas by the Eddleman Brothers.  L.Z., Ira and Lee Eddleman started grazing cattle in this very area in 1880.  This was in a time that the cattle could roam free without fences or borders.  In what many believe was 1891, the brothers built the two-story headquarters building out of limestone.  It was not only the headquarters for the ranch but a home for L.Z. Eddleman.  Around 1893 the brothers moved out of cattle ranching and solely into the breeding and breaking of horses.  This continued until the 1900’s when the brothers eventually moved away from the Cross S ranch, onto other ranches they owned not only in Oklahoma but around the country.  L.Z. Eddleman did still own the Cross S and used it from time to time at this point, mostly for farming.  The headquarters building was still used as a home until the 1930’s and afterward may still have been used by members of the family for various reasons, such as family reunions.  By the 1970’s the ranch was no longer owned by the Eddleman family and the headquarters had been abandoned.

In 2006 the ranch headquarters was included on the National Register of Historic Places.  But the building was in horrible shape, the roof was falling in, the second story floors had rotted away, and the stone blocks were collapsing.  That is when the Museum of the Western Prairie in Altus moved in, raising money to have the headquarters building moved.  In 2009, they started dismantling the stones and moving everything to Altus, where the building was then reconstructed.  This is why I couldn’t find it, the building had been moved, it is now rebuilt in the courtyard next to the museum.  It is nice the way it’s been refurbished but I think I would have liked to have seen it restored on the prairie where it had been.

If you want to go look for it, you can find it at the Museum for the Western Prairie in Altus, 1100 Memorial Drive.   The original location of the ranch can be found 5 miles south of Olustee west of the intersection of County Roads N199 and E1750.

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Inside the Cross S Ranch Headquarters.  The first floor has been restored, the second floor should be done in a few years.  Museum of the Western Prairie, Altus, OK, 2015.

Cross S Ranch Headquarters marker

Stone marker with the Cross S brand stamped on it.  Museum of the Western Prairie, Altus, OK, 2015.

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