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Posts tagged ‘Oklahoma history’

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.

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History

If you want to learn about Oklahoma’s history way before it became a state, take a trip to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Here you can see dinosaurs, get an idea of current animals native to the state, and learn about the history of the natives who lived here before us.

Opened on May 1, 2000, this museum is popular with schools and any parents who have dinosaur loving children. There is so much to learn here as well. Upstairs is the Hall of the People of Oklahoma exhibit, here you can learn about the residents in Oklahoma over the past 36,000 years. There are clovis tools on display along with a map showing where these items were found. Spiro Mounds is also featured prominently in this exhibit, with several items that were unearthed from the mounds in the late 1930’s. There are reproductions of Native homes and transportation as well as artifacts from those who lived here many thousands of years ago.

Another part of the museum is the Hall of Natural Wonders which has taxidermy of animals that are native to Oklahoma. It’s a nice way for kids to get up close to an animal. They have been placed in settings that are natural to their habitat.

Of course, the big draw to the museum are the dinosaurs. The Hall of Ancient Life where you can trace the history of the Earth from formation. You can see the different time periods that dinosaurs roamed the lands. They do have the largest skull on record for the Pentaceratops. You can also get in the elevator and see the Apatosaurus looking at you. Several of the smaller dinosaurs were unearthed in the Tillman County area of southwest Oklahoma. I like to make the joke that some of them were pets that my dad had.

The long history of the museum goes back to 1899 when the territorial legislature created the Department of Geology and Natural History. The first curator of the museum was Dr. Albert Heald Van Fleet, who spent much of his time collecting artifacts. There were 2 fires, the first in 1903, the second in 1918, that damaged much of the collection. But professors at the University of Oklahoma kept collecting and displaying artifacts in buildings around campus. After many attempts to fund a proper museum, this museum found a home in 1947. Housed in former military buildings on Asp Avenue, south of the main campus, it became the Stovall Museum of Science and History. Named after Dr. J Willis Stovall who came to the university in 1930 and helped fight for funding to house the collection. While the collection grew, there was a danger of the artifacts being destroyed by fire or water, so in 1991 the city of Norman passed a bond that helped the state fund the new building. The new building is named after Samuel Noble, an oilman from Ardmore.

I always enjoyed the Stovall Museum and now enjoy this new museum as well. I encourage all to visit if they are in Norman. It is a fun way to learn about the early history of Oklahoma.

Address: 2401 Chautauqua Ave., Norman.

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.

Center of the Universe

So I like to visit silly places and tourist attractions. Some live up to the hype, some don’t. The Center of the Universe in Tulsa sounds silly and a waste of time but in reality, it was cool.

First up is to find parking near the attraction, looks like parking is free on weekends and at night. You can park near the Union Depot, in one of the parking garages or just on the street. You then walk up onto the bridge that goes over the railroad tracks. When you get to the brick circle you are there, no signs or anything to point it out. Just go and stand in the center of the brick circle and speak. Sounds like you’re in a tunnel or in a pipe with the echo. I was skeptical at first but it really is strange. Just stand there and start talking, you will hear yourself. You can still hear those outside the circle and they can hear you.

No one is really sure why this happens, the bridge was reconstructed in 1983 after a fire damaged the original bridge. It wasn’t designed to be an “acoustic anomaly” but for some reason it is. Many people have theories, nothing scientifically proven. On the south side of the circle is a statue called The Artificial Cloud by Robert Haozous, it was placed there in 1991. It just seems to help with the eeriness of the location. If you’re in Tulsa this is a good place for a short side trip. Also it’s free unless you have to pay to park. Shouldn’t take any longer than 15 minutes unless there’s a crowd.

Address: 1 S Boston Ave., Tulsa.

Food Friday: Eskimo Joe’s

There are a lot of places I’ve gone that are tourist traps, many fall flat and don’t live up to the hype. Being the good Sooner, I always felt that way about Eskimo Joe’s. Just a place for OSU fans to go, and it can’t be that good or it wouldn’t be in Stillwater. I started to change my mind about it in 2018, when Mae’s band stopped there for lunch before contest. Since we were both nervous, we just got Little Joe burgers with no sides. No, we didn’t try the cheese fries or anything else but we did come home with a couple cups to remind us of the trip. For the years since that trip I think about making a real visit but never had the chance. Last weekend I had research to do in Stillwater, so lunch at Eskimo Joe’s became a priority.

I’m lucky we decided to go earlier than noon, at 11:22a that place was already packed with a 40-minute wait time. This is probably why they have a store next door, so you can shop while waiting for a table. So while we wandered through the colorful shirts, we patiently waited for a text telling me they were ready. After a little over 30 minutes, I got the text and upstairs to our table we went. This time I was getting the world-famous cheese fries, topped with sweet peppered bacon of course. I now understand why this is one of their most popular items, they were so good. The fries were perfect, covered with a generous amount of cheese, topped with a mound of bacon. This is a must order if you go. I might try them other ways on a next visit but even if you get just the plain, it’s worth it.

Next up were our burgers, I chose to order the sweet peppered bacon and cheddar while my husband got a fire burger. This burger was one of the best I’ve eaten in many years. Juicy, well flavored meat, soft bun, and that bacon. If you are a bacon connoisseur like me, I highly recommend the sweet peppered bacon. It is the true definition of meat candy. Cooked perfectly, not too crisp or limp, covered in brown sugar with just a touch of pepper. This was true culinary heaven. My husband loved his fire burger, said it had good heat to it without being overpowered. He did add the sweet peppered bacon to his burger as well and totally agreed that this was the best bacon. We were too stuffed for dessert, so back down to the store to actually buy some shirts (once again being the good Sooner I couldn’t have one that said Stillwater or OSU, so I got one with the dog).

Eskimo Joe’s really lived up to the hype and then some. Even though it’s in Stillwater (and I could see the campus for little brother), I’m ready to go again. Full warning, give yourself plenty of time since there will be a wait. The service was excellent, even with me in my finest crimson and cream, everyone was nice and friendly. Didn’t wait long for any of the food to come out, so that’s a big plus. Overall I will definitely give them 5 strips of bacon, especially if its the sweet peppered bacon. Their food is worth the drive and wait, trust me.

A bit of the history, Eskimo Joe’s opened in 1975 as a bar. That’s the old stone building at the east end of the complex. They added food to the menu in 1984 when the drinking age was raised in Oklahoma, including the famous cheese fries, which got an endorsement from President George Bush, Sr. The building has been added onto and remodeled several times, adding a huge store to the west end.

Address: 507 W. Elm St., Stillwater.

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

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum

On a crisp Saturday morning we decided to take off and road trip out old Route 66. This is always a beautiful drive, heading out west from Yukon, past the small town of Banner, into El Reno. From there keep going out west, past the farms and valleys, listening to the rhythmic thumping of the original Portland concrete. I love going down the Bridgeport hill, with the South Canadian River valley spread out in front of you as you glide down the incline. There is a small piece of original pavement where it swept to the left to go across the Pony Bridge. Past the crumbling Hinton Junction, with a quick stop at Lucille’s Provine Service Station, through Weatherford, then into Clinton. Lots to see on the way here but I am here to talk exclusively about the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.

Opened in Sept 1995, this is a nice stop to learn about the history of Route 66 though the state of Oklahoma. Through the black double doors, the first stop is the building of the highway. Not just pictures but the actual tools used are on display. Smudge pots and surveyors tools that show how rough the building of the highway was back in 1926. The next display is of a service station. These were vital along the route back in its heyday. So many cars would fail along the trip, the service stations were a life line for those who had car trouble. Another display shows bus lines and freight transit along the route. Then into a replica diner, just like today, you needed to have a place with good food to sit and relax. Next up is a hippie painted VW Bus, to show how the route was used by their free spirits. Then onto the decertification of Route 66 and its resurgence over the past 25 years.

This is a really cool place to visit. Takes about an hour to go through but you learn a lot about the history of Route 66 through Oklahoma. I love seeing the pictures of what the road looked like not only during the building of the highway but of the years following. The museum also has plenty of static displays inside and out of life as it was on the old route. Of course the heyday of Route 66 was from the 1930’s to the late 1950’s. As the road was bypassed by Interstates 44 and 40 in Oklahoma, many sections of the old highway were left abandoned. Oklahoma does still have over 400 miles of Route 66 still drivable and I’ll talk about that some other time.

The Oklahoma Route 66 museum is a nice stop to get out of the car, stretch your legs, and learn about the old road as it meanders through the state.

Address: 2229 W Gary Blvd., Clinton.

Reproduction of an old gas station on Route 66
Reproduction of an old Ford used to take Oklahomans to California in the 1930’s
Old VW Bus
Diner moved to the museum site

Updates

DSCN6324

I found these gentlemen walking down a road in rural Kingfisher county.  You can always find asses on the roads of Oklahoma but not often are they of the four-legged variety.

Now that summer is coming to an end and fortunately school is back in session, I can get back to telling everyone stories from the back roads of Oklahoma.  But first I need to give a quick update on places I’ve been and foods I’ve eaten.

First we’ll get right to the food: most places I’ve already reviewed are going to keep their bacon rating status but I need to adjust a few after further visits.  Empire Slice House is even better than the first time I went, on my second visit the family enjoyed the Notorious P.I.G. and yes it is as good as it sounds with plenty of bacon, Canadian bacon, sausage, capicola, and pepperoni, it really is almost a heart attack waiting to happen.  We had our pie for lunch and left ready to burst.  So I’ll have to give it a 5+, it was really that good.  The Fixx is another restaurant that will get a 5+.  The burgers have really been getting better since opening last year.  Service has also been great during very busy lunch times.

Now for the places losing a strip of bacon: Tucker’s Onion Burger- food is still good but the service has been slow.  Not sure what’s going on with that, only a few people there the last visit but it took forever to get the food out, so they are right now holding at a 4.  Same with Cajun King- love their food but it’s hard to enjoy it when the buffet is bare.  Last visit they seemed to be out of everything except their wonderful catfish and that bread pudding, which will send you into sugar shock.  So I will drop a piece of bacon off of them for now, hopefully I don’t have this problem again.  And then I have Fuze Buffet and Bar, sad to say but it’s really only gotten worse.  My last visit almost nothing was edible, nothing tasted fresh.  I was very disappointed and will be dropping them down to 1 slice of bacon.  I do know there are plans to open a new Fuze at the disaster called Penn & Memorial.  Building has been sitting there done for a few months, don’t know when it will open but maybe it will be better than the NW Highway location.

As for places I’ve been- well I’ve taken my truck out on several of these wonderful dirt roads.  I’ve done pretty good, haven’t gotten stuck yet but it’s only a matter of time.  I have seen cool old houses, interesting roadside attractions, historic landmarks, and beautiful fields with windmills in the middle.  I’ve also walked around some cool towns- a couple of true ghost towns and a couple more that are sadly dying.  I’ll be telling you all about it in the next few weeks.  And if anyone reading this wants me to research anything historical, just leave a comment and I’ll look into it.

 

 

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

 

Kingfisher in Lights- Back Again

Kingfisher christmas lights 6

UPDATE-  Great news for those of us who loved the lights in Kingfisher, they are back on!  A group of Kingfisher residents have gotten together to restore this tradition, now under the name Kingfisher Winter Nights.  I haven’t been yet to see how many of the old displays are still there but hope to make it soon.  Hopefully they have enough visitors to keep the lights on for years to come.

From the time I was a little girl, one of our family Christmas traditions was driving around neighborhoods looking at the Christmas decorations people had put on display.  We did this every year, I remember going around Brookhaven in Norman, when almost every house was lit up.  We were some of the first to drive around Ski Island, before the crowds got too big that the residents shut it down.  Now that I’m older I love the light parks that different cities in the metro have for everyone to drive through.  I’ve been going to Midwest City since the first year the lights were turned on, we’ve gone to Yukon so many times they should at least name a light bulb after me, Chickasha is a long drive but a special treat but one that I really liked the best was the one that was the least popular, Kingfisher in Lights.

Not many knew about the Christmas display that the city put on every year in the park since 1996.  Everything was east of downtown right off of Highway 33 at the Kingfisher Park.  You could park your car, walk to the train station and for a dollar get a ticket to ride the small train through the displays.  It was almost always too cold and the lines really long but it was worth the 20 minute ride.  Most of the time you would get a seat in the enclosed cars but once we got to sit in the coal tender.  Yeah, it was cold but fun.  After the train ride, we would then get in the car and idle through the display, seeing everything from a different angle.  From the car you could talk to the fire-breathing dragon or watch the angels climb into the air.  You could get a better view of the baseball game being played in lights or just count the candy canes along the trails.  There was a cute display of a frog eating a fly and another with firemen putting out a fire.  Sometimes Santa would be out there, handing out candy to all the kids.  After you drove through you could then go back on another road to the the west side of the park and walk across the one hundred year old suspension foot bridge.  The bridge was lit with over 1000 white Christmas lights and you could see the creek very clearly from the deck.  One year while walking across, I saw something swimming in the water twenty feet below, it was a very large beaver that was making his home in the branches piled up along the small concrete dam.  I had seen lots of beavers dead along the side of the road but never out in the water, doing beaver stuff.

Kingfisher christmas lights 2

The fire-breathing dragon, 2010.  (Sorry, didn’t have a good camera at the time.)

Sadly this has all come to an end- in 2014 the lights were canceled because of road construction on Highway 33.  You just couldn’t get to the park.  I could understand that, I was disappointed but was hoping it would be up again this year.  Unfortunately, the display now been closed down for good.  Many of the residents of Kingfisher just didn’t have the time to volunteer and put the lights up.  So now it’s just a memory just as the one year Guthrie had a display (east of Cottonwood Creek, best I can remember is late 1990’s or very early 2000’s) and Duncan’s display (also in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s).  Maybe someday the town will realize they miss it and bring it back.

Christmas lights on bridge in Kingfisher 2001

Uncle John’s Creek bridge in lights, 2001.

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