After a wicked rain storm that blew in from the prairie and thinking that maybe just maybe I should pull off the road until I could see, I finally made it out to Ponca City yesterday morning. Once I turned off the turnpike, I ended up on a country road driving through bucolic farmland with the occasional oil derrick pumping lazily in the distance.
Along the way, just before heading into Ponca City I passed what I think is the coolest barn I have ever laid eyes on, but I digress, which when you come to Oklahoma you will see is easy to do.
Route 177 magically turned into Grand Avenue, taking me right into the heart of downtown Ponca City. Brett Carter and David Keathly are the field session managers and are local preservationists extraordinaire. David has the added distinction of being the Executive Director of the Marland Mansion. Ponca City pulls you in as you drive down Grand Avenue. As the name reveals there are some rather grand homes leading into town along Grand Avenue. Our first stop was City Hall, a Spanish Mission revival building which is still used as City Hall. The art deco high school sits adjacent to City Hall with the library across the street. Brett and David will share the stories about the clear public commitment to preserve public buildings in Ponca City. Grand Avenue serves as Ponca City’s Main Street and is dotted with businesses, restaurants and the Poncan Theater. A gem on the prairie, the Poncan Theater houses one of the largest collections of hand painted lobby art in the country, some of which is featured throughout the theater. The Poncan Theater operates as a cinema, theater and a local church.
Settled during the Land Run of 1889, Ponca City is definitely a pioneer city. The history and planning of the city are really fascinating and I will elaborate in a later blog about how this city came to be. There is a lot to take in along the way, how Ponca City was established, the neighborhoods Marland was instrumental in creating, the polo fields, lakes, golf course, and of course the stories, from the Native Americans to the oilmen. I will be back with the stories, the intrigue, and that famous mansion. You have heard of the Vanderbilts, the Hearsts, the Rockefellers, and the Kennedys, well prepare yourself for the Marlands. It is better than a "telenovela".