Henry Overholser and the Oklahoma State Fair

State Fair Tkt 1954.jpg

Did you know?

When one thinks of the State Fair of Oklahoma, the sounds of carnival rides, carnival games and the aromas of kettle corn and corn dogs come to mind. What most people don’t realize is the State Fair of Oklahoma was first held in 1907, making it 112 years old this year. As the State Fair of Oklahoma returns this week (September 12-22, 2019), let us not forget the man who is credited for suggesting to form the organization of the State Fair Association of Oklahoma and who served as its General Manager – Henry Overholser. He would serve on the Board for many years with good friends C.G. Jones and Charles Colcord.

Henry Overholser believed in entertaining the masses as he had built the Overholser Opera House in 1903 near what is now Sheridan and Robinson Avenue in downtown Oklahoma City. In 1906 he helped the Chamber of Commerce (formerly the Board of Trade of which he was former President) purchase grounds at 10th and Eastern for a permanent home for the State Fair of Oklahoma. The first fair was held on October 5, 1907, with Governor George Haskell giving the opening address. One of its features of the fairgrounds was a half-mile horse racing track with a grandstand to seat 5,000 people. Aviatrix Amelia Earhart was the star of an air show for the State Fair in 1933.

As the Fair expanded it soon ran out of room, and a new location was found where it stands today in the area of Reno Avenue, NW 10th with I-44 on the West and May Avenue to the East. The State Fair was held at the new site in 1954. Douglas High School was built on site of the old fairgrounds. 

Henry Overholser who is also known as “Father of Oklahoma City,” died in 1915 at the age of 69. He was affectionately known as “Uncle Henry” to many of the older residents of the city during his lifetime. Today he would be pleased to see the State Fair is still going strong in a city that expands more than 600 square miles. The fairgrounds area is known today as State Fair Park and is one of the largest and busiest in the country boasting 435 acres and attracting close to one million people. Uncle Henry would be most pleased to see how both Oklahoma City and the State Fair have evolved today.

Written by: Lisa Escalon, Museum Coordinator

My Story Lives Here: Brockway Center Rally



Join Preservation Oklahoma as we #RallyForBrockway on at the Brockway Community Center located at 1440 N Everest Ave in Oklahoma City.

Everyone has places that are important to them. Places that live in a special part of their heart. Places where your story lives. The "My Story Lives Here" campaign is a statewide campaign encouraging Oklahomans to share the historic places where their story lives.

We encourage everyone to show their support by attending the rally, taking photos with our event signage and using our hashtag #RallyForBrockway and #MyStoryLivesHere to help spread the word. Through My Story Lives Here, we hope to encourage and inspire an ongoing dialogue about the importance of place and preservation in all of our lives.

This property is known historically as the Brockway Community Center and was the home of the Oklahoma Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs (OFCWC) for nearly fifty years. It is the only extant property associated with the organization. OFCWC operated under the slogan “Lifting as We Climb.” Despite experiencing political disenfranchisement and facing threats of intimidation and violence, club members protested lynching, endorsed women’s suffrage, founded chapters of the YWCA, Red Cross and the NAACP and marched on behalf of civil rights. Until the OFCWC sold the property in 2011, the Brockway Center provided space for community events and offered services to protect young women and children, improve community life and promote equality and racial harmony.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has deemed the Brockway Center eligible for the National Register of Historic Places under Criterion A for significance in Social History, Community Planning and Development and Black Heritage. The property is also eligible under Criterion C for architectural significance as a good example of the Colonial Revival Style.

The next chances to show your support for the Brockway Center are May 9 and May 22 in the Will Rogers Building on the second floor.

2019 Most Endangered Places List


List to include statewide historical structures at risk of demolition or deterioration

 OKLAHOMA CITY (March 4, 2019) Preservation Oklahoma, Inc. (POK) has announced the 2019 list of Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Places at a public unveiling event on Monday, March 4 at the newly-renovated Carriage House at the Overholser Mansion.

POK aims to promote the places where Oklahoma history lives by bringing awareness to historic landmarks across the state. Although inclusion on this list does not guarantee protection or funding, recognition for these structures may increase restoration efforts and possibly ensure their longevity.

“The past year has proved to be a difficult time for Oklahoma’s historical structures with the loss of Founder’s Bank, the fire and partial loss of Brookshire Motel in Tulsa and the uncertain future of the First Christian Church,” POK Executive Director Cayla Lewis said. “The list of Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Places was created to bring awareness to the importance of protecting our state’s historical resources such as these. Our hope is to bring the issue to light so more Oklahomans are educated on what they can do to help advocate for these landmarks.”  

Each year, POK solicits nominations from the public which are voted on by a group of preservation professionals. An exhibit of the 2019 list, presented by Oklahoma Humanities and generously funded by the Kirkpatrick Foundation and the Cherokee Nation, will travel throughout the state to continue the discussion of preserving historical buildings.  

The 2019 List of Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Places include:

Brookshire Motel, Tulsa

The Brookshire Motel is a shining example of the roadside motels popular along Route 66, built in the 1940’s, during the Mother Road’s early heyday. Route 66 Motels were listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Places list in 2007, and Preservation Oklahoma’s list in 2008 as fewer and fewer historic lodging options remain on Route 66. Many have suffered abandonment and lack of maintenance. Brookshire Motel recently caught fire in February 2019, burning the main building, but leaving the cottages and neon sign. It is currently under threat of being demolished if repairs are not made. 

Mid-Century Modern Architecture, statewide

●      First Christian Church, Oklahoma City: The First Christian Church Historic District is an architecturally significant district in Oklahoma City with its organic form, sculpted shape and the extensive use of concrete and masonry. It is an excellent example of the Modern movement including specifically the Neo-Expressionist design of the main building. Designed by R. Duane Conner, Fred Pojezny and William Fearnow of Oklahoma City, the buildings are a representation of form and functionality. The entire property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, not just for its architectural styles, but also for the role it played in the large Oklahoma City community at the time of the Murrah Bombing. The property itself is a landmark on the Oklahoma City landscape; people orient themselves in Oklahoma City by this iconic building. Adjacent to a major highway, buffered on either side by historic districts and along a major thoroughfare through the neighborhood, it is easily imaginable that this property could be demolished for housing development. First Christian Church was also listed on the 2017 Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Places list.

●      VFW #2270, Enid: The VFW #2270 lodge in Enid was designed by local architect, Tom Rogers, who was a student of Bruce Goff's at OU then returned to his hometown and ultimately designed some of Enid's most distinctive mid-century modern architecture. Located on the outskirts of downtown, the VFW building features a thin-shell concrete dome with a band of windows between the base and the domed portion of the building. It was constructed for $140,000 and opened to great fanfare in 1956, but today the windows have been painted, the building sits vacant and its future is uncertain.

●      J Paul Getty Bunker, Tulsa: This home, known as the Getty Bunker, was built in 1942 and used by infamous J. Paul Getty when he took over Spartan aircraft company during WWII. Built in an art deco style, it is known as the Bunker because it was built with 12-inch thick reinforced concrete to ease Getty's paranoia. The Bunker is deteriorating due to neglect. It sits on land previously owned by the Crane Carrier Company and was reportedly used for storage. It now stands at risk of demolition due to liability and lack of use, as a new company has purchased the property. If this building is not saved it will be gone forever. The ‘Getty Bunker’ was also listed on 2014’s Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Places list.

●      Fire Station #10, Oklahoma City: Fire Station #10 was designed by Harold Hite and opened in 1974, replacing an earlier bungalow-style station. The restricted lot size couldn't accommodate a conventional station, so Hite had to create a design that was compact but also met the growing requirements of the fire department. The result was an unusual prairie modern style building that featured interesting angles and a tower that could be used to hang and dry out wet hoses. In 2017, voters passed a bond issue that included either relocating or replacing the aging station in the near future.

●      Watch List: Central National Motor Bank Annex, Oklahoma City

Small Town Movie Theatres, statewide
Throughout small-town Oklahoma from the silent era through the boom days after World War II and beyond, movie theaters were often the main social gathering places of entire communities. The theaters themselves were often the grandest buildings in town, featuring elaborate murals, comfortable seating and even air conditioning long before it was common in homes. However, as younger townsfolk left their hometowns for larger cities, the old theaters slowly began to die and there are just a handful of operating movie houses in most Oklahoma small towns today.

●      Oklahoma Theatre, McAlester: Support has been led by the community to raise funds for the theater’s renovation. Most recently in 2014, McAlester Theatre was awarded $200,000 from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality for asbestos abatement.

●      Esquire Theatre, Hobart: The Esquire Theatre in Hobart, formerly Kiowa Theater, has been closed for several years and is in disrepair. The community hopes for renovation.

 Archaeological sites under threat by unregulated development, statewide

Archaeological sites consist of the material remnants of past activities left behind by people who have occupied the area we now call Oklahoma for more than 12,000 years. These sites are often hidden from view below ground, yet they contain evidence that informs our understanding of the daily lives of the people who created them and represent the cultural heritage of their descendants. More than 25,000 sites have been documented in all 77 counties across the state, representing a wide diversity of precontact and historic-period cultural groups of the distant and more recent past. Some of these sites are available for public visits and appreciation, like Spiro in Le Flore County, but most sites are located on private property and are generally not protected by historic preservation laws.

In the face of regulated development that is subject to compliance with historic preservation laws, significant archaeological sites may be preserved in place or thoroughly documented before they are destroyed so that at least their information is retained. But in circumstances where such laws do not apply, archaeological resources may be destroyed without anyone even knowing they were there or documenting what they contained. It is for this reason that we highlight the threats posed by unregulated development to the preservation of non-renewable archaeological resources in Oklahoma.

Luster Mansion, Oklahoma City

The modified Italianate Luster Mansion was built in 1926 by S.D. Lyons and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. The estate was built by at one time of the city's most prominent businessman and has been kept in the family ever since. Also known as the Melvin Luster House, the estate serves as a reminder of the wealthy black upper-class in the heart of Deep Deuce in Oklahoma City. Much of the interior is still intact but has been vacant for the last several years and is currently available for purchase.                                                                                                                  

RJ Edwards House, Oklahoma City

The Oklahoma Commissioners of Land Office has developed a multi-use plan for a parcel of land in Oklahoma City, near the State Capitol, causing threat to the property where the RJ Edwards House is located. The RJ Edwards House was built in n a Spanish-colonial style more than 4000 square feet in size in the 1930’s. It was also home to the Red Ridge Museum of Art in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It has been neglected and vandalized throughout the years but still appears structurally sound with many of the original features and wonderful use of wood on the ceiling, walls and staircase intact.

Tay-Lo-Rest House, Langston

Tay-Lo-Rest House was the home of James Taylor, the second American Black extension agent in Oklahoma. The home of the first agent has been destroyed. It was built by the labor of students with quarried stones from Langston, Oklahoma’s only historical black university. It was also the only off-campus lodging for girls of Langston University. The facility was the first home in Langston built worth more than $500. The house was purchased by Reverend Cecelia Brooks to keep from being destroyed.

Griffin-Goodner Grocery Warehouse, Tulsa

The historic Griffin-Goodner Grocery Warehouse was constructed in 1925 on the historic KATY Railroad, whose tracks ran next to the building. It survives today as an example of a temple-front commercial style warehouse. This large, two-story warehouse occupies the southwest corner of the intersection of North Detroit Avenue and East Cameron Street in Tulsa’s Historic Brady District and is listed as a contributing resource in the National Register of Historic Places. It is also notable for being home to the first new commercial business in the district in many years when Spaghetti Warehouse opened in this building in 1992. The building is significant due to its role in the development of a lively arts and entertainment district. It contributes to the historic fabric of the Brady Historic District and today’s vibrant downtown Tulsa Arts District. Adaptive reuse is preferred and demolition should be discouraged.

Tonkawa Bathhouse, Tonkawa

2019 marks the 84th anniversary of the Works Progress Administration legislation and today, many of the structures constructed during this time have fallen into disrepair. The Tonkawa Bathhouse was built in the late 1930’s as a WPA project and consists of the main bathhouse and swimming pool. The swimming pool is no longer operable, but the bathhouse remains in good condition, however vacant for several years. The City of Tonkawa is hopeful for its use again, but demolition is always a possibility with vacant buildings.

Edwards Store, Red Oak

The Edwards Store, established in 1850, is one of the few remaining original structures that were stage stops on the Butterfield Overland mail and stage line from St. Louis to San Francisco from 1858 to 1861. Stage passengers were served meals at this location. Thomas Edwards established the trading post on the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot Road and it later became the original post office and site of the town of Red Oak. The structure is of "dog trot" design typical of the 19th Century and built from hewn logs. Edwards's Store is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Edwards Store was on the Most Endangered Places list in 2013 and 2018.

To learn more about Preservation Oklahoma, the Most Endangered Places list or to sign a letter of support for the structures listed, visit https://www.preservationok.org/advocate.


The program is funded in part by Oklahoma Humanities (OH) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed do not necessarily represent those of OH or NEH.




About Preservation Oklahoma

Preservation Oklahoma, Inc. is the state's only private, nonprofit membership organization that is dedicated to promoting, supporting and coordinating historic preservation activities throughout the state. Founded in 1992, Preservation Oklahoma is a Statewide Partner with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and works on joint projects with the Oklahoma Historical Society, State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The mission of Preservation Oklahoma is to preserve the places where Oklahoma history lives.