Oklahoma Architect Leonard H. Bailey

Masonic Lodge/Journal Record Building
designed by Leonard H. Bailey
What do the Masonic Lodge Building (now the Journal Record building), the old multistory Kinkade Hotel and Lawrence Hotel, a small town jail, an Army Chapel at Fort Sill (1933) and Wesley United Methodist Church (1928) share in common?
The architectural skill of Leonard H. Bailey and the firm Bailey and Alden.  After completing training in London, Bailey traveled to the United States, finally arriving in Oklahoma in 1903.  William Matthews, busy then designing the Overholser Mansion, took him on as a very junior partner.
As Oklahoma entered the Union in 1907, he was launching out with his own firm.  He went into partnership with another local man, Virgil D. Alden in 1920.  Both men were members of the American Institute of Architecture.
Postcard of the Hotel Kingkade
designed by Leonard H. Bailey
Other buildings designed by Leonard H. Bailey exist around the state and some have achieved a place on the National and/or Oklahoma Register of Historic Places: The Prague Courthouse and Jail (1936), New Chapel at Fort Sill (near twin in style to Wesley Methodist; 1933).  Other jobs included the 1909 St. Paul's Parish House in Oklahoma City and the Woodward Arts Theater.

Wesley Methodist Church (UMC), designed by Leonard H. Bailey and his partner Virgil D. Allen, 1927-1928. 

Wesley Methodist Church Interior - Bailey and Allen architects, 1928

New Post Chapel, Fort Sill, Ok (1933) designed by Leonard H. Bailey



New Wesley Ties to Anton Classen Unearthed

Anton H. Classen Jr.
This early business leader of Oklahoma City was also a Methodist and he supported several early Methodist colleges, churches, and outreaches. He donated land to Wesley Methodist Church  in the early days; an area now known as the "Triangle".  For many years it was thought this was merely another example of his long standing support of Methodism and Oklahoma City groups.

The Triangle at NW 25 and Classen Blvd and the later landscaping all were evidence of the same generous spirit that supported the early Epworth University effort.  To see an excellent historical overview of Classen Blvd. fronting Wesley on the east, see this page.

Now, through research of this blog, it has been discovered  that there was more than mere civic support behind his gifts.  While searching through early membership rolls it was found that the brother and a sister of Anton H. Classen were members of Wesley Methodist Church.

John Randolph Classen, his wife Nysa and daughter Ruth J., while living at 1512 W 30th Street, united with the church on June 8, 1919.  The pastor at that time was Dr. Dean C. Dutton.
Anna Classen Wahl

Also, it has been discovered that other relatives were also members of Wesley.  Anton's father had been a member of the German Methodist Church of Oklahoma City. There was a daughter there as well named Anna Helena Sophia Classen Wahl.  The Wahls and several of their children's families were active members of Wesley (The McBride family and McAlister family). [See entries on the Wahl's elsewhere on this blog]
In the dedication program of May 1928 it reads: "Between the church building and Classen Boulevard in the foreground to the east is a triangular plot of ground which was given to the church by Mrs. Anton Classen and her late husband.  Mrs. Classen has provided a plan prepared by Hare and Hare, landscape architects of Kansas City, Mo., and will park the triangle according to the plan, thus providing an ideal setting for this beautiful Temple of God."(pg.16)

New Chronology of OKC Church Discovered: Wesley Methodist 1910

In convention in October of 1910 the Oklahoma Methodist Episcopal Church, North set aside $300 to build a new work in what was then the northwest outskirts of Oklahoma City. In 1900 a lot of the land in the area had been cornfields but developer I.M. Putnam, Anton Classen, Shartel and others saw opportunities and began selling.

1. First location: NW 25th and Military Park, 1910-1911

First service here was Sunday, Dec. 25, 1910 with Bishop William Quayle preaching. He gave the first $100 to a building fund begun that day. The above building was built using a $300 mission grant from the M.E. North Oklahoma Conference in October 1910. The church formally organized on Nov. 10, 1910.

2. Second church, NW 25th and Douglas Blvd, Epworth View Addition,(separated from
Classen Blvd. by a triangle of land given to the church by Anton H. Classen)

The "Sheep Shed" at NW 25 and Douglas, just off Classen Blvd.
An addition buts out on the right side. ca. 1911/15. They moved in the spring of 1911 to this location due to an influx of members with the closing of Epworth University.

3. Third Church structure, NW 25th and Douglas Blvd, Epworth View Addition,(separated from Classen Blvd. by a triangle of land given to the church by Anton H. Classen). Classes and events were conducted across NW 25 on land later sold to Kamp and on which he built his historic courtyard apartment complex in the late 1920's.

"The Dutton Tabernacle" 1920; You can see the 'bones' of the other structures if you look closely. Aggressive growth, diverse program and strong membership participation saw the church grow to nearly 1,000.

4. Fourth incarnation of the church's physical sanctuary, NW 25th and Douglas Blvd, Epworth View Addition,(separated from Classen Blvd. by a triangle of land given to the church by Anton H. Classen). Dedicated in May of 1928.

In 1924, F.A. Colwell, first pastor and now a contractor was responsible for tearing down the Dutton Tabernacle to make room for the new English Gothic sanctuary; a building across NW 25 was used for classes and events. In 1928 the above sanctuary was completed and dedicated. Later, the house was used as a youth and education building, Hadduck Hall. It was torn down in the 1970's.

Appreciation to the library and archives of Wesley UMC for use of these valuable images relating its history and its links to Oklahoma City history. For more incredible history of this church and its people (many deeply imbedded in the building of the city) visit here.



The House

For me, there is no greater mystery than an old house.  I want to know its history, the people who
lived there and the times they experienced.  A house says so much about its setting, its slice of history and the values people had.  It reveals the advances and trends in technology, motion, social relations and family values.
It is like a sponge in the way it can absorb the energies - both good and bad - of the people who resided there.  Its poor construction can cause headaches like the sprawling Winchester House of California.  Bungalows, designed to fulfill a life philosophy of comfort, welcome, and artistry can retain a sense of home even while setting trash strewn and vacant.
This photo I found in a tiny old shop ages ago...the photo called to me as these houses so often do. I see this photo and I see mystery...was it torn down or lovingly restored?  Do cars park where that house once stood so lovely and proud?  Have other families been sheltered and welcomed through that front door?
Unknown, and unanswerable, the house represents all the history lost, forgotten or discarded.  We are all poorer for the absence.


A Link to Some African-American History in Oklahoma

One of the interesting and noteworthy aspects about the work of the modern antiquarian is that in this connected and tech rich world so many are involved.  This means that so much more data can be uncovered, fresh views taken free of the biases of traditional disciplines and the linking of information to present a fuller and more comprehensive history of a subject.  A recent blog came to my attention, Black and White Journal, and it has some impressive research related to little known, and often ignored, aspects of Oklahoma history.  Hopefully, it will be a model for others to dig deep and share their findings...one person's tiny puzzle piece may be the answer to a long standing query.

Kudos to Black and White Journal.


Halliburton Department Store - Oklahoma City

During its life the Halliburton also existed in partner forms.  Scott-Halliburton (later Gloyd-Halliburton, McEwen-Halliburton, finally simply Halliburton's) (Oklahoma City). 

The popular department store was 118 feet high with 8 floors and 4 elevators and was constructed in 1920 at 327 West Main, it was a leading Oklahoma City department store until 1960 when urban renewal spelled its demise.

This sticker was on the back of a framed photograph.  


The Swastika in Early Oklahoma City

Forever connected to the Nazi Movement beginning in 1920's Germany, the shape commonly known as the swastika has much older roots. It is actually a prehistoric shape with associations to Hinduism, Native American art in Mound Builder cultures in Ohio, in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and into Central and South America, and can be found in some form on nearly every continent with strong presence in Asia. 
It had long associations of good fortune and this element was rediscovered in the late 1900's and became part of the spiritualism and alternate religious beliefs that emerged at that time. It was also first coming to the attention of the budding anthropologists of Native American early cultures.  
As early as 1906 there is an advertisement of the shape and the selling of various trinkets of luck. It cited the book by Thomas Wilson.  Thomas Wilson, curator of the U.S. National Museum authored a book, "The Swastika:The Earliest Known Symbol, and Its Migration; with Observations on the Migration of Certain Industries in Prehistoric Times" (1896), emphasized its role as a charm or amulet for good fortune.
In 1909 Duncan-Stone Reality was selling "Swastika Lots" around the area of the proposed new capitol building on Lincoln Blvd.
During the early statehood days until just the late 1930's there was literary club in Oklahoma City called the Swastika Study Club.  They formed in March of 1907 as a self-improvement and charitable organization according to The Story of Oklahoma City. In 1908 they met at the home of Mrs. G.A. Finninger, 3301 Epworth Blvd. (Oklahoman, Feb.16, 1908,pg.15).
File:IndusValleySeals swastikas.JPG
Indus Valley Civilization Seal
It was not such a lucky sign in 1940 when resident Clarence Hicks Jr. was faced with living in a home adorned with a yellow swastika on the brown brick face of the house.  The headline said it all: "It's An Old Indian Sign: But It Looks Mighty Nazti (sic)" (Oklahoman Dec.29, 1940, pg. 23).  The house was located at 208 NW 32 in Oklahoma City. How it was dealt with then is unknown but today, it appears to have a coat of paint over the location of the offending symbol.



In the 1980's alternatives to traditional jail sentences for sex predators were gaining popularity. It was a process of slowly accepting new ideas in psychology, social systems and behavior modifications.  It was clear that the old way of sentencing, early releases or even counseling were not totally successful in every case. So much was still unknown...
Drugs seeking to achieve a form of chemical castration were popular at first. The time was ripe for kinder and gentler treatment of prisoners, mental patients, and the handicapped. There was a groundswell call for re-examining the way sexual predators were sentenced, treated, and handled.
It was a time of sexual revolution and that meant there was   still a great confusion existing about the motivations and stimuli for sexual assaults. 
It was still a time when women were fighting for acceptance in male dominated professions, men felt threatened and a hyper masculinity often emerged in attitudes called 'macho'.  Women were no seen, treated, and understood to be equal.  Courts and public opinion were most likely to judge a crime on the basis of the victim's life, choices, or accidental presence than on the willful acts of a man acting in a criminal fashion.
Sexual assault was commonly thought of as "the woman's fault".  She was "asking for it" and various other common tags.  The court of popular opinion could never get beyond that first word to the vicious actions of the second.  Any action using the sexual organs was immediately confused with acts of sexual pleasure.  The understanding, and wide-spread acceptance, of sexual assault and rape as actions of violent dominance and control were still a long way off.
Compounding this was a "good old boy" atmosphere that ran a "boys will be boys" world and allowed male criminals to get off easy.   Rape victims, unlike other victims, had to prove they were above reproach to be taken seriously.  This would be akin to someone who had a television stolen needing to prove they had never had a television before for the crime to be logged and investigated. The ability to distinguish between willful and consenting participation in sexual behaviors and the forced and violent use of sexual means to inflict unwanted pain were hard for some to understand. The world had too long believed that when a girl said "no" she really meant "yes" to ever hear the voice of the girl screaming 'No!"
In the early 1960's one popular drug being suggested for this patient control was Depo Provera. Over the years its use as a chemical castration treatment created many controversies.  Some wondered if it might simply force aggressive patients to replace sexual assault with assault with a deadly weapon instead because the motivating factor was a search for dominance and power rather than sexual gratification. It was the topic of many studies and seen as a possible treatment in pedophilia.

As a result, there is a great deal of disparity between cases of sexual predators from the 1980's through the 1990's (and maybe still today).  The issue was too confused with the mystery of human sexual behaviors, social mores, and social control to clearly see the intentional victimization of women (and children) at the hands of people seeking , not sex, but control.


Crime Wheels

For a automobile that did not have a long initial life the 1982 Grand Marquis apparently was a popular car then - and now - for criminal elements and for authors and movie makers portraying criminals.  The older vehicle reflected that whole 'land yacht' days of cheap gasoline and long road trips on low speed roads.  It was roomy, comfy  and just looked perfectly designed to haul crime friends, stolen goods or dead bodies.   Author  Giles Blunt in 2011 included such an item in his 'Crime Machine' novel featuring the fictitious character of ‎Cardinal, John.  True life criminals often were reported driving such autos as well.  Among them are the fact that  when Timothy McVeigh, was caught he was driving a beat up yellow Mercury Grand Marquis and numerous such vehicles crop up over the years, just as it did in this murder in Texas.

Older version from early 1980's (Public Domain Image)

Newer version is nice but lacks the sinister aspect of the earlier model - intentional?
(Public Domain Image)
Do such vehicles reflect certain drives (no pun intended), mindset, or motivations to meet some social expectation?  Cars are often the extension of a man's masculinity and sometimes men will equate their own 'prowess' with that of high speed engines, powerful transmissions, and unrestricted speed.  Perhaps a new field of criminal research will explore the pathology of the automobile selection by the criminally inclined.
Do you know of such cars used in unsolved crimes in your area of the world over the last forty years? Leave a comment with place, date range and as many details as known.


The Most Notorius Oklahoma Murder: 1920's Style

The post WWI years were wild, frenzied, and tended to flaunt social conventions in response, no doubt, to the combustion of war, the loss of life, and the shattering of a generation's illusions of innocence.
When a 47 year old millionaire, leader in politics at the state level and on speaking terms with a presidential candidate, dies after being shot by a woman not his wife, well heads turned.
Late in the evening of November 20, 1920, young Clara Barton Smith, who shared connecting suites with Jake L. Hamon at the Randol Hotel in Ardmore, Oklahoma, was greeted by an inebriated Hamon.  He seemed disturbed by her going out 'automobiling' with someone.  The story becomes a little murky as to details at this point, but apparently they went to the suite of rooms where the argument continued.  At one point he allegedly choked her and lifted a chair to hit her (this action seen in profile by a witness on the street below) .  A gun materialized and she either threatened to use it and it went off accidentally or she intentionally withdrew it intent on stopping her older 'companion' in mid-assault.  Which version depended on whose side a person was on in the matter.
Wounded in the liver, Hamon walked approximately five blocks to a nearby hospital for treatment. There he gave the statement he had been shot by Smith.  One heard him denounce the woman with a statement suggesting she had intentionally tried to kill him and others heard him say no such thing. He was on record as saying it had been accidental.
Local police, despite the victim's assurances that it was an accident seemed determined to hunt down the young woman and arrest her for attempted murder and then later after Hamon died, for murder. Hamon's lawyer would report in court that his client had told him to write a check for $5000 to the girl and send her away to safety.
Witnesses saw Hamon kiss the girl in the hospital and would testify that there seemed nothing but fondness between the two.
Yet, local and state law seemed abnormally determined to hunt her down as a murderess. She successfully disappeared, as instructed by the victim, and was actively tracked for nearly a month all around the country. Her luggage was confiscated and searched in Kansas City.  Leads and tips followed and dead ends exhausted.   Crack reporters from around the country swept into the state, swept out and located information the police seemed unable to find.  The woman had been in Mexico.  Soon, she was meeting with local police and lawyers to ensure a safe and protected return to the 'scene of the crime.'
The case, as is often the situation, brought into focus a growing trend in American society.  Relationships were often fluid and did not adhere to a previous generations more strict Victorian mores about marriage, sex, and what constituted a family.  Although married, the wife spent most of her time in Chicago and not in Ardmore.  A young son, Jake Jr. was 18 at the time of the shooting and his sister Olive Belle only 11.  Reading between the lines in some stories there was the tantalizing scent of scandal kept unacknowledged and hidden while being in plain sight.  The social clothing of the railroad emperor Hamon were distinctly see through.  Everyone 'knew' about the affair of the man with the pretty young girl he had first met when she was 17 tending shop in Ardmore.  She was his companion and secretary but he was obviously jealous of her seeing other men and shared (as they did at the Randol Hotel) adjoining rooms.
The scent was sometimes even fetid as it was found in 1917 she had married Frank Louis Hamon, the nephew of Jake L. Hamon, in El Paso and three months later divorcing him.  The second wife of  Frank muddied the tabloid waters when she hinted that the millionaire had paid his nephew to marry the girl and given him a monthly salary for the deed.  Frank Hamon denied she had been bribed to provide the girl with a name she could use to travel without question with the millionaire uncle.
In 1922, the notorious woman was acquitted of murder by a jury who had listened to a great deal of testimony.  Included was that of the widow of the dead man who said it had been an accident.  The lawyers were skilled but it does seem that the Oklahoma delegation were bull dog determined to ignore the faults of the man and create a callous killer in Smith.
As Oklahoma columnist Edith C. Johnson noted in an essay Smith was apparently just a young girl who had made a series of poor choices in her life.  The image emerges from Johnson's profile of vain, perhaps silly, girl who fond it easier to enjoy the pleasures her looks might bring than to safeguard her innocence and acquire a finer caliber of man. For Johnson, she might have had a good, solid man taking care of her rather than being a punching bag for an older and meaner man. Johnson's interviews with Smith apparently uncovered an elephant in the room of 1920's domestic reality.  Hamon was a controlling man with abusive tendencies ranging possibly from emotional to physical (the chair raised to hit Smith as an example).
In 1920, however, men were men and women were...less. Men with money, status, political connections and the ability to benefit individual and state coffers were definitely more valued than silly young women who became companion mistresses to such men. Oklahoma was on the verge of a decade to be noted by corruption, racism as the KKK took positions in government, socialism's growth in society and in every level of society power-mad deals as well as vast economic growth. The escape of the post WWI era would led to increased social problems, a frenzied focus on money, and a tendency to shake off the restrictions of the past with no idea of what to put in its place.
In terms of out of the state press coverage the case was definitely notorious. It was dramatic, shocking, and titillating.  In fact, there appears more detailed information on the case in the papers of other cities than in major news sources of Oklahoma City. 
Is it, however, the most notorious?  We will have to see about that...
Some sources:
Johnson, Edith C. "The Might-Have-Been In Clara Smith's Career". Oklahoman (Dec. 29, 1920)6.
Stewart, Ray. " Spectacular Murder Case Brought Swarm of Writers to State." Oklahoman (Sept.8, 1966)8.
"Hamon Death A Mystery." Los Angeles Times (Nov. 27, 1920)11.
"Girl Near Collapse." Los Angeles Times (March 16, 1921)1.
"Hamon's Widow Testifies." New York Times (March 15, 1921)6.


A Scream Rang Out!

July 11, 1942 a young waitress in Oklahoma City, Norma J. Cowan, ended her shift, put away her apron and decided to walk the five blocks to her home. It was clear and so she decided against a taxi and set off on foot. The restaurant was located on NE 23 and so she headed toward Broadway and cut through Winan's Park.  Broadway was a busy street, the other streets were well-lit and the only dark patch was the stretch through the park. 
A youth emerged from the shadows and attacked the young woman and a tense struggle ensued. She cried out gaining the attention of a security guard from the nearby Braum's plant to note the sound.  Assuming it was mere horseplay, it was not until the girl scrambled out of her attacker's grasp, hair ornaments falling away and loosing one shoe, that it sank in that someone was wrong.
A Oklahoma Highway Police officer James Long passed, heard the commotion, and pulled in to see what was wrong.
The girl hobbling away in one shoe, sobbing, bruised and afraid.
The onlooker still not sure what was going on.
The assailant screams out after the fleeing girl,, "I'll get you!"  He pulls up short as he sees the patrolman stopping and getting out of his patrol car.

 He turns. He fires.  The officer is struck in the chest and goes down. The youth sprints away.
Although desperately wounded, the officer returns fire with the youthful assailant who now ducks and dodges among parked cars near the plant.  The security guard now leaps into the fray and chases the youth but looses him in the dark streets.
The officer will be able to only briefly state events, before he is whisked away and will die later at a local hospital.   As dawn broke that morning in 1942, dozens of police and special units from local police and state law enforcement were searching for clues, witnesses, and suspects.

Eventually the search would include 38 states and several false leads but, by 1959, it remained unsolved.  The would be victim had moved away  and things had changed.  One thing remained for local officers and the family of a slain officer.  That was the mystery of just who had been responsible for the attack and the shooting.

About six months after Pearl Harbor, young men joining up or being drafted, made locating and identifying the mysterious attacker an impossible task.  Did justice catch up with him and he died on some foreign battle field or did he remain free and mobile walking the bright streets and shadowy corners of Oklahoma City?

 "A Scream in the Park Brings Murder to Trooper, Mystery to Investigators". Oklahoman (Jan. 18,1959) 13.
"Police to Quiz Three in City Park Slaying." Oklahoman (July 15, 1942)9.
"Youth Insists he shot Long Despite Record." Oklahoman (Oct. 18, 1942)5.


Ada Curnutt: A First Woman U.S. Marshall

In 1893, Ada Curnutt (or Carnutt) as a deputy U.S. Marshall for a brief time in 1893 as she arrested a couple of forgers.  Normally the District Court Clerk in Norman, when a wire came in calling for the arrest of two men no male officers were on duty, she did the job.
This daughter of Methodist minister had a high degree of ethics regarding the work of the law and the courts. She took the train to Oklahoma City, confronted the men in a local saloon and convinced the men and the people in the bar to recognize her authority. 
Ron Owens writing about it in Oklahoma Justice indicates she seemed willing to enforce all she said and that, along with many willing would-be deputies among the spectators, caused the two bad men to give in and go with her peacefully.
Local newspapers could not resist the temptation to note she finished her task and then went back to her favorite hobby...china painting.  It was only one of many eruptions of dynamic womanhood to emerge in Oklahoma - and around the country - as the new century loomed.
Soon would come Lucy Mulhall as one of the first professional 'cow girls', women in politics, and local female doctors. 

See more on U.S. Marshalls at http://www.usmarshals.gov/history/loyal_community.htm


Some Early Chinese Business Men of 1905 OKC

The city directory of Oklahoma City for 1905 lists several business men. These may not be the only ones - others may have been in the community but simply not recorded in the directory or may have been in other business fields.
The men all operated laundries and in a city bursting with single men, traveling business people, numerous hotels and boarding houses they no doubt did well. Laundry was a labor intensive work and not everyone could afford the new up-to-date hand crank wringers and still had to use a serious of wash tubs for cleaning and rinsing soiled clothes and bedding.  Once cleaned they had to be hung and then steam iron and folded. 

In 1905, at 230 West Second (modern Kerr) was John Chee and there is no mistake as to ethnic origins because it states after the name '(Chinese)'.  Almost center in the wildest part of town was Sam Lung at 124 1/2 W. California.  John Lee was found at 209 W. California, also just at the west edge of the notorious Hell's Half Acre.  At 306 W. Main was the establishment of Sam Fong or Sam Lee Fong or Sam Fong Lee.  All three were listed so there may have been some confusion as to his name.  Sing Lee was at 110 W. Reno and Wah Hop was at 7 N. Harvey.
Shortly after this period, however, governmental regulations and openness to oriental immigrants cooled and many of the Chinese in Oklahoma went back to the west coast in order to connect with communities there and to find passage back home.  Some appear to have possibly stayed in OKC but adopted a less politically volatile ethnicity by the time of the next census as similar names appear but cite Japan as their place of birth.

Some are still in Oklahoma City in 1908 and 1910 as ads for laundries and cafes can be found. Also, apparently there was a crackdown of standards of hygiene in various Chinese and Japanese restaurants ca 1910 that noted the presence of the odor of opium as well and unclean kitchen standards. Most, however, 'cleaned' up their act in response to state investigations.
One of the issue facing many Orientals in this time period was the issue of acculturation.  Many had come to earn money to acquire wives and property at home but became mired in social attitudes and manipulating employers in mines and railroads.  Others became westernized in dress, attitudes and skills alienating them, and in some cases violating rules laid down in China and Japan.  Many thus 'burned their bridges' to remain in America. 

Entertainments, social centers, businesses, libraries and religious houses all developed in response to the Asians in the Oklahoma City society. Unfortunately, by the 1960's when proof positive was found for the underground world of rumor-it was too late to save any of it.

Select Sources:

Urban Archaeologist, Slice
U.S. Federal Census
Encyclopedia of Oklahoma, Asians
"No Celebration Held by Chinese". Oklahoman (Feb.2, 1908)13. Noted there were 22 Chinese residents of Oklahoma City.


Urban Renewal Victim: The Buckhorn Saloon

I remember when I first learned of this thing called 'Urban Renewal' that left in its wake the slaughtered bodies of the past, that allowed what had been to be set on the wind, and overlaid the fine and historic with the smooth surface of asphalt for parking lots or high rise soulless mid century modern blocks inspired by prisons more than palaces.  It was when I first read Oklahoma history.
In the mid-to-late 1960's the government program misnamed Urban Renewal made possible the destruction of areas of cityscape in order to build new cityscapes.  It was a vast experiment in social engineering but it also coincided with an era seduced by the idea that the past was not something to be remembered unless it memorialized some mighty person, deed, or act.  The era of common history was only then emerging. That was a philosophy of history, archaeology, and anthropology that realized history is made by the person who was living it everyday and the rich, the well known and the lionized might not be the best expression of life in the past and that learning more about everyday life and common people might be valuable.
In 1968, a building was torn down to make way for the parking lots and new convention center to be known as the Myriad in Oklahoma City.  A starkly modern block building it epitomized the futuristic bent of the time period.  Old buildings, especially buildings from the wild and reckless and sometimes roguish childhood of the city could not stand in the way of Urban Renewal (insert dramatic echo here).
The Buckhorn Saloon, Sheridan and Santa Fe (now Gaylord), was one such building.  It was recognized as probably the first stone constructed building of the new city after the 1889 land run birth.  While all around were still the flapping tents and wood buildings, this one rose up and took a solid stand hinting at a future of similar construction.  Sheridan had been known first as Clark and then Grand Ave. before it became Sheridan.  Santa Fe had been Front, Santa Fe and then most recently Gaylord.
The problem was that the earliest buildings of the new city were often ones used for drinking, gambling, 'socializing', and similar rough entertainments. The early hotels were usually simple wooden structures or resembled Victorian homes.  The first 'grand' hotel was the Lee Hotel and it would be several years before the Skirvin was built as a competitor.
At 1972 meeting of the city Historical Preservation Commission, former mayor George Shirk said plans were made to remove the historic plaques from the razed buildings (placed there in the 1930's by the '89'ers', survivors of the original run) and set them in the sidewalks around the Myriad as a memorial and reminder. He said the building memorial should say: "On this corner was located one of the city's first permanent buildings. Erected in 1890, until statehood it housed many saloons and gambling houses of which one of the most famous was The Buckhorn." (Oklahoman, June 2, 1972, pg. 20).  Did this ever happen? 

According to contacts, the location of the markers have been identified. According to the fine people at the Visit OKC Office, the markers are located in Bicentennial Park (500 Couch Drive) in front of the Civic Center Music Hall. If you are standing on the steps of the Music Hall looking towards the park, they are on the right hand side about halfway down. All the monuments from bicentennial park are there and they include some of the history of OKC.  As this map shows, it is quite a distance from the building sites of old Hell's Half Acre. On foot from the old Santa Fe Depot and the current Amtrack depot it is about .7 miles or a brisk walk of about 15 minutes.
In the earliest newspaper and reports of the new city established at the location of the old 'Oklahoma Station' and settled by Land Run in 1889, there was the chorus of progress! Like a child rushing to those magical 'teenage' years or adulthood, OKC was not content to merely grow. It felt it had to 'catch up' to be just as grand, prosperous, cultured, and civilized as any city of substance in the country.  Instead of savoring its history, coming to appreciate what those old buildings meant, it sought to replace them with status symbols reflecting their personal and communal successes in ways competitive with Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, New York or San Francisco.  The struggles of the Dust Bowl no doubt compounded these feelings and by the 1960's OKC would claim its frontier heritage but only through the rough and distorted lens of cinema and television portrayals. When it was popular to remember the wild old days then OKC added stereotype representations of the old west in jails, saloons, and outhouses in its 'Frontier City' (these are now gone being replaced by a modern and wonderful theme amusement park), artificial cowboys, and plastic badges recalling the U.S. Marshalls who once rode the streets keeping peace.  Caricature understandings of early day OKC might imagine it as wooden sidewalks and false front stores (ala the movies) but solid wooden and stone buildings were rapidly laid out along wide streets with cement walk ways.  If wood came on the first trains to the new town...crystal lights, fine drapes and polished woods came next.  An early history of the community remarked OKC was "born grown".  In truth it was born as a rough teen who had to have some wild oats sown and get some splintered edges worn smooth.
History is remembering everything...not just the parts that make us look or feel good. That is what makes it so very fascinating.
[I am exploring, with some partners, the possibility of doing some historic tours of downtown OKC in the coming year.  Haunted By History Tours will hope to offer stories of those rowdy days and later even some haunted tours.]
Where 'Hell's Half Acre' stood the current Cox Business Center now sits (Corner of Sheridan and Gaylord)


Updated "Tales of Hell's Half Acre" Coming Soon!

This work will be reissued soon with more stories and more maps for use with guided tours or individual walking tours.  The buildings may be gone, the streets are hidden under other names....but the stories remain.  Look for this soon!

Gothic Sanctuary Tours - Wesley UMC, OKC

During the Ruth Haddon Fine Arts Festival (Nov.2-3) there will be tours at:

Sat. Nov. 2 at 11 a.m., 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 3 at 12:20 and 1:30 and 2:00 p.m.

Guests can tour the booths for paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and other fine art gift ideas and then take one of the tours scheduled.
Then, a few weeks later, right before the OKC Tellabration event at Wesley UMC there will be another opportunity.
"I will be doing tours from 5:00 to 5:45 p.m. and then right after that will be the storytelling concert at 6 p.m." Notes local author and storyteller, Marilyn A. Hudson.  "Tickets for the great evening of storytelling are only $10 per person and will be available at the door."  The proceeds from that evening go to support the historic preservation of the lovely 1928 English Gothic Sanctuary.

Cameras are welcome. It is free to attend and donations will be accepted for historic preservation.

Questions?  Contact marilynahudson@yahoo.com


The Arlington in Oklahoma City

In 1903 an ad ran in the local Oklahoma City newspaper for 'The Arlington'.  It boasted a telephone exchange (131) and 'modern conveniences'  and 'furnished rooms' where 'transients were welcome'.  The establishment was managed by Mrs. M. McDonald and was located at 507 W. 2nd. (Oklahoman, Feb.16, 1903, pg.6)
Just a few years later, in 1908 it was identified clearly as belonging to notorious local madam, Big Anne.  Arrested when it was shut down in February of that year were: Big Anne Baily, her husband James Bailey, Mary McDonald, Agnes Taylor, Etta Carl (who may have been known by the name Etta Woods), Rose Jones, Marie Hayes, Beulah Penny, Pearl Stone and Jimmie Stone. (Oklahoman, Feb. 6, 1908, pg. 9).
Today this site is covered by a parking lot at the corner of Robert S. Kerr and Hudson Ave. (Progressive Parking) in Oklahoma City.  It is just north of the new Oklahoma City Museum of Art.


Human Occupation Older Than We Thought

Recently a newsfeed article proclaimed that evidence had been found that pushed back human occupation beyond the standard 10,000-12,000 years noted in most textbooks.  I wanted to comment, old news, but
decided to be nice.

South America, which you  might assume, using the Beran Strait model would have been settled last, has some occupation sites going back past 40,000 (one even thought to date to 80,000).

North American sites, in Alaska, Pacific NW and California shore, have regularly produced 10,000-11,000 dates, with a few being redated via new testing to as much as 16,000.  But if they came over the strait and then trickled down into central and south America....shouldn't these sites be older?

What some have theorized for decades is finally being accepted my mainstream science and that is that there was no single migration that populated the Americas.  Instead, there were waves of migration that brought people to the Americas.

There was not one route via the Strait, but many stopping off places as migrating people using very efficient craft followed the coast lines southward.  Instead evidence of this has been found in South America with a pottery made precisely the way a pottery was made in ancient northern Japan.

Other evidence showing there was a more common south to north migration is found in the early mound building cultures of the American southeast (from Oklahoma to Georgia and Illnois to Alabama).  The art, artifacts, and construction of these community centers show clear links to Meso-America.



This fun little book shares the history of some ways Halloween was celebrated in Oklahoma between 1900 and 1989.  It looks at some of the influences that made the season sinister, safe, and sometimes silly.

Authored by Marilyn A. Hudson it will be of interest to any who enjoy their holidays with a dash of local history.

Now availale in Kindle format as well.  (ISBN: 0615711111 / 9780615711119)


The Vanishing Hitchhiker Tradition

The  young man picks up a young lady walking along a lonely stretch of road and offers to take her home. The strangely silent young lady in a pale dress joins the young man in the vehicle and as they journey down the darkening road....the girl suddenly and silently disappears.
This is a version of this familar 'vanishing hitchhiker' tale made popular in the 1920's in Chicago.  Yet, this truncated version was one collected in the south shortly after the Civil War. Washington Irvings'  1824 The Lady with the Velvet Collar is considered another early literary source of the tale type. Some also see the NT story of Philip disappearing after baptising the Ethiopian as a prototype of the same story form. The more familiar form of the story came to national attention with an academic survey and a version of the story on national radio and entertainment outlets in the early 1940's.

In the 1960's and 70's, as everyone was seeking enlightenment through chemical or spiritual means, a new version of the legend cropped up around the US (and elsewhere).  The silent rider was replaced by one who spoke of dire future events, the need for immediate spiritual life changes, or who predicted some local situation.  Few, if any of these prophecies ever panned out, with perhaps the exception of one who seemed to warn about the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's....but the signs, as they say, were everywhere on that one.

Going back far enough and surveying enough cultures and their tales reveals the motif is present into ancient days. They are often buried under layers of cultural elements, political paint, and religious wrappings but they are there.

(See http://www.snopes.com/horrors/ghosts/vanish.asphttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanishing_hitchhiker;http://www.prairieghosts.com/hwy365.html )


Dust, Depression, and Dispair: 1930's

Shack Home, May Ave Camp, OKC, 1939
"Hoovervilles", Sandtowns, Shantytowns...were all names for mini communities of the homeless, jobless, and sometimes hopeless in the 1930's.  In OKC, there was the May Ave Camp, south of the Canadian River. It is generally located as between Pennsylvanis and Byers and May Ave and SW 15th.  In 1935, most reports stated 2,000 men, women, and children were living atop the old city dump eeking out an existence.

There were other camps along the North Canadian River in Oklahoma City, but the one at May and Pennsylvania, was a larger camp . OKC had been unique in organizing formal mini-towns to deal with the depressions displaced workers. Images captured the heartache and suffering of people of all ages and walks of life.

 Elm Grove was such a community established to address the needs of the homeless in a organized manner, including a school but by end of the decade, the attitude had changed.  Some feared the camps might attracted transients with no desire or intent to work and simply support them to the detrament of the city.  The camps were a haunting reminder of hard times well into the early 1950's.

As the early 1930's progressed, the economic depression due to the stock market crash of 1929 was compounded by years of deadly drought that unbalanced the agriculture in ways the stock market could not.

Until as late as the 1980's, some of that area still went by the monikers designating these Community Camps. Especially the area known as Sandtown, Mulligan's Flats, or more oftrn as simply 'the Flats'.  Later, there was one camp near the current Farmer's Market and one further south near the meat packing/stockyards region.

A dump area was along the river on both banks stretching from Villa/Agne all the way past Portland. A lot of this area was simply wide open empty land. After the camps emptied, some were cleared in the 1970's and street expansion took place.  In other areas a more formal dump was in place in the mid century. A large section of the extension of SW 15th went right over the old camp and dump site.  Workers claim everytime there is blade or dirt work done in the are old metal and broken glass come to the surface (near 1-40 and 1-44 near the river.

Much about the life in these camps was captured by photographer Russell Lee in stark and vivid images of life for people whose only choice was the camp.

Periodically, even OKC was touched by the dust storms as well....

Great images and information can be found here ----

LOC at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/pnp/fsa/8b22000/8b22400/8b22463r.jpg


The Woman in White Motif

It is only a matter of weeks until it is Halloween. Here is a discussion to begin to set the mood for that fun autumn holiday.  It is a time for horror marathons, trick or treat events, and dress up.  It is also a time for storyelling (folk, historic, or urban tales).

Some tales are merely that - tales.  They have no true paranormal aspect to them, other than the ability to live forever as each new generation comes of age and the tale is retold.  One of the most prevalent themes in all of paranormal research and literature is the 'lady in white', 'the woman in white', and other similar descriptors.

Wilkie Collins in 1859 published what is considered to the the first mystery novel, The Woman in White.  It ranks as an  important book for that reason, along with the 1764 The Castle of Otranto, considered by many as the first Gothic horror novel.  Both are quick reads and full of the language and values of their respective time periods. They set the stage for decades of  high literary and popular strangeness.  

He no doubt drew inspiration from tales through out the British Isles of such women dating from medieval times.  The Irish Banshee may be a version that dates further back and reflect an older tradition still.  Other tales and legend of sightings of ghosts can easily fall into the category of this classic woman in white tale and include often a women wronged or harmed who restlessly wanders around in perpetual grief or remorse

Hispanic cultures may reflect the motif in their weeping mother or similar tales associated with the violation of innocence.  The La Llorna story pool with its versions of the woman who kills her children to join  a younger lover (harlot motif) and the mother whose children are robbed from her (the saint) may reflect the dichotomy of woman in a patriarchal society.  Although she is sometimes seen and reported as more sound than body, some legends suggest a pale waxen creature mourning and searching.

The famed "resurrection Mary' version from Chicago, and its many locale variants, may be inspired by ancient tales, Collins ,or be a manifestation of some ofter process at work in society.  The resurrection Mary story emerged at a time when young ladies were first gaining freedom to go out without chaperons and in wild automobiles to dance to hot music and drink cold liqueur.  There may be a tinge of a morality tale created to keep them 'down on the farm'.  She is often reported in a white dress, although some versions in Chicago and elsewhere will have the girl in a blue or red dress.  These, however, appear as mere attempts to separate their particular and regional version from the older Chicago story.

One local version of this woman in white motif in Oklahoma is set near Conners College, near Warner, Oklahoma.    There is supposedly (I have not verified any of this in the tradition of sharing a good story....) a College road that runs past the institution and passes a cemetery.  There, a 'white woman' has been seen by generations of people....

The informant told me the story "has been told for many years."

Marilyn A. Hudson, Historian and Storyteller....


Roosevelt School OKC

"No man is happy if he does not work. Of all miserable creatures the idler, in whatever rank of society, is in the long run the most miserable." -- Theodore Roosevelt, 1903 speech to the YMCA in Topeka, Kansas.  

The carved engraved stones on this school built as a memorial to the Rough Rider President, retains a silent message about the ethics and values that helped shape American society in Oklahoma City.  These ideals were chiseled into the lives of students and community as deeply as into the stone of these markers.  The question is what replaced them and were they of study stuff or easily eroded materials that lost their stamina?

Gymnasium entrance
"We have in our scheme of government no room for the man who does not wish to pay his way through life by what he does for himself and for the community. If
he has leisure which makes it unnecessary for him to devote his time to earning his daily bread, then all the more he is bound to work just as hard in some way that will make the community the better off for his existence. If he fails in that, he fails to justify his existence. Work, the capacity for work, is absolutely necessary; and no man s life is full, no man can be said to live in the true sense of the word, if he does not work. This is necessary, and yet it is not enough. 

If a man is utterly selfish, if utterly disregardful of the rights of others, if he has no ideals, if he works simply for the sake of ministering to his own base passions, if he works simply to gratify himself, small is his good in the community. I think even then he is probably better off than if he is an idler, but he is of no real use unless together with the quality which enables him to work he has the quality which enables him to love his fellows, to work with them and for them for the common good of all."
NW corner


Jefferson School OKC - NW 23 and Western

This site was closed by 1956 and housed some district offices and then sold.

Interesting links so far -


Mystery Locale: Can You Identify? -UPDATED

I have been contacted to help identify a location. All the person has is a photo from about  1950 the building reads "Libbey Hall" and "Children's Home".   The children are brother and sister and your help would be appreciated.  Leave a comment if you have information.

 "My brothers and I were in a children's home in Oklahoma between 1949-1952.  Can you confirm if we were at St. Joseph's.  Wesley John Stevens; Sharon Lynn Stevens, Edward Price Stevens.  The two older children would have been there in 1949; the youngest would have joined us in Jan 1952.  Attached is a picture of the two older children on the steps of what I've always believed to be the home.  I have checked with the Baptist's Childrens home and they have no record of us."

We have a message from the woman who had the photos saving she had identified the location. It is the  "Methodist Children's Home" est. in 1927 in Newton, KS.  It associated with two new works which grow out of that early facility. One is Ember Hope and another reader informed us that the Children's Home , in 1960, become Methodist Youthville.

Youthville is a large service helping children and families. Libby Hall (pictured above) was constructed in 1929.


Back To School - Roosevelt School

"Each man must work for himself and unless he so works no outside help can avail him." Theodore Roosevelt.

In 1904, Roughrider Teddy Roosevelt whirled into Oklahoma City stirring people with memories of the rough and ready 'old days'. His stirring and dramatic visit stamped an impression on local leaders who appauded his ideals of vigorous manhood.  His no nonsense attitude, can do spirit and stirring thoughts about the decided politics also had an appeal. Many sided with this former NYC Police Chief, leader of the Rough Riders and soon to be President of the United States.  All in all he was man particularly able to connect with the people who were creating the place called "Oklahoma." His character reflected what many saw as their own recent heritage and what they saw was needed to continue to move forward in positive ways as a new state.

When he died in 1919 there was great mourning and the state rallied to contribute to a great memorial.   Like many places they decided to name a school for the man. So, in 1925 the school opened.

The photo shows one of the engraved inspirational and motivational quotes on the current OKC Schools Administration Building. The building, the old Roosevelt, is located on Klein Street. It was thought by many people queried to date from 1920 but newspaper articles indicate the cornerstone was placed with solemn Masonic ritual (and time out from classes for all city students) in 1924.   It became the administration building in 1955 according to one source and ,by 1956, there was even talk of creating a school museum on one of the floors. Authorities hoped to adopt a "workshop museum" and art center for the district. Superintendent Swanson envisioned a facility patterned after the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  The plan was dependent on the sale of Jefferson School at NW 23 and Western.  Some district offices were housed there and would be transferred to the Administration building and money, space and conflicting programs might hamper the idea.  There already existed an Inverness-Boyd Musuem and Institute of Art (at old Central High School) operated by the schools at 822 N. Harvey.  Big plans but lack of follow through may have been a problem for the district. News article noted a planetarium bought by the school board the year before was still in storage due to there not being a suitable place to place it and it could be located whereever the museum settled.

Only a few of the historic old schools still survive in OKC to record the academic journeys of early citizens. Some are indexed here.    See an earlier article on Eugene Field here. For more on early day schools see this entry.

"Roosevelt will be honored by School.: Oklahoman (Oct. 25, 1926)2.
"School Corners Laid." Oklahoman (June 24, 1924)3.
"School Museum Considered." Oklahoman (June 7, 1956)32.
"School Library will Start Move Today." Oklahoman (Feb.7, 1957)37.
Wood, Don A. "Central Campus Encompasses Seven Buildings by 1950s." Sooner Spirit (vo.24 #2; Summer 2006 )pg. 6.


Overholser Mansion Mystery

In 2011 after a special program of haunted stories at the Overholser Mansion in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with storyteller Marilyn A. Hudson, some guests lingered visiting.  At the bottom of this staircase a visitor snapped a photo to catch the stained glass window and sweep of the stairs.  To her surprise the pillar of light and the faint swish of pale movement was caught. She snapped another photo right after and it was not there.  

She shared the image with me and I have been unable to explain it. I was there, I saw it happen and do not think the woman attempted to hoax in any manner whatsoever (she shared the image with me even!).   This is a staircase and a house with many experiences that suggest the family that had so loved this house may have lingered on.

JS2011/Mystorical 2013


Historic Reports Solve Many Mysteries

In researching early Oklahoma City questions arise and some reports help to clarify many questions.

What and where is "Military Park"?

What are the "Gatewood" and University" Additions?

What is "Mesta Park?"

Some maps are included in this report.

What is the design and plan for the "Asian district"?


MILK BOTTLE BUILDING: Booze, Hats, and Chicken

The "Milk Bottle Building" of Oklahoma City sits along old Route 66 on Classen, just north of NW 23rd. It is another feature along the forgotten loop of the "Mother Road" through Oklahoma City. It is a unique treasure as evidenced by the application for the national registry.

Oklahoman reporter Kent Ruth wrote that the triangular building was built  as a grocery store about 1925.  His source was A.E. Warren and was built by John J. Gordon. His source further claimed it had been a bootleg liquer store in the rowdy 1930's (Ruth, Kent. "Historical crooks, crannies." Oklahoman, Feb. 10, 1974, pg. 160). Ruth later heard from a long time resident who shared the building had been built in 1920-21 for Steffen ice cream. (Ruth, Kent. "Classen history inspires memories", Oklahoman, Aug.10, 1980, pg. 177).

The uniquely shaped structure of the bottle was designed by Arthur D. Nichols in 1932. The Oklahoma A & M engineering alum wass then working for the Boardman Company.  The sketch was transformed by metal worker Rudolph  Stavanuagh and another worker who built the metal frame and applied the sheet metal. Joe Flynm was the one to actually place the bottle in its location. ("Hatter Had Shop Under Milk Bottle," Oklahoman, April 7, 1997, pg. 71).

The Bottle as Business
Mary Ann French said her father ran a hat shop there from 1930 to 1935. Frank Gallatin cleaned and built men's headwear before moving downtown to operate the Empire Hat Co. ("Hatter Had Shop Under Milk Bottle," Oklahoman, April 7, 1997, pg. 71).

Oklahoman columnist Robert E. Lee reported one of his reader had information about it from a decade later. Gayle Pierce said it was a "Flying Chicken" resturant that used the unique concept of delivering fried chicken by motorcycle during 1945-1947.( Lee, Robert E. "Milk Bottle Building Once Houses 'Flying Chicken', Oklahoman, Sept. 15, 1997, pg.70).

In 1951 the unique structure caused a bit of head scratching as authorities comtemplated widening the Classen street but found the building in the path.  Reluctant to destroy the feature a plan to swap the land for other park land and even moving the structure was considered.  The slight jog on Classen is the result. ("Milk Bottle Raises Classen Problem", Oklahoman, Aug. 29, 1951, pg. 6).

For years the log on the bottle promoted a now discontinued company, The Townley Milk Company, and was replaced by Oklahoman based Braums Dairy. 

In 1993 the historic building and its iconic symbol barely missed destruction from fire.  Now housing a deli Hop Ky, operated by Sang Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant.  The area, now in a growing Asian district, was reflected in this new multi-cultural element. The article noted the building had been a grocery, a record store, the Beer Box, a florist, and a take out resturant (Owen, Peggy. "Landmark Milk Bottle Building Survives Fire, Repairs to Start", Oklahoman, April 25, 1993, pg. 11)

(A previous entry looked at some of the other interesting sights along this loop of OKC's Route 66 at http://mystorical.blogspot.com/2013/06/historic-route-66-in-oklahoma-city.html )

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