Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trip to Missouri and Kansas: A Day in Oklahoma

Marilyn, Lois, Andy and Bob (our guide) in front of Scottish Rite Temple, Guthrie OK
When we were visiting Andy and Lois in 2016, they had planned a trip to Guthrie OK to see this Scottish Rite Temple but the severe weather, i.e. tornadoes, necessitated a change in plans.  This year we decided to come in July which meant little chance of a tornado but possibly hot weather.  That turned out to be the case since the skies were clear but the heat index was above 100 most of the day.

Bob looks like he is asleep
beneath a portrait of a 33
degree mason but he's not.
Our two hour drive due south on I-35 for a 10:00 tour meant that we had to get up early and get on the road by 7:30.  We didn't miss that by much bug we were also delayed by road construction.  We called to say we would be a few minutes late and were told that they would delay the tour until we arrived.  Turned out that we were the only people on the tour so Bob, our guide, greeted us when we arrived.  After paying our $5 admission/tour fee, we spent the next nearly three hours walking through this huge structure with his detailed and mostly accurate descriptions.  More about that later.

The history of this temple begins with the history of Guthrie OK.  During April 22, 1889, the first day of the Land Run of 1889, Guthrie went from almost no population to a tent city of 10,000.  While outsiders typically refer to these as "land rushes," Oklahomans tend to call them "land runs."  Among those 10,000 was Harper Samuel Cunningham, 33°.
He came to practice law in the newly opened Territory.  And he came to establish the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in what would soon become Oklahoma."

The Masons built their first temple in 1899 and used it until 1923 when they opened the current structure.  Their growth in membership required a larger facility but an unual opportunity presented itself.   As Oklahoma was about to change from a territory to a state in 1907, the leaders of Guthrie, the territorial capital, were preparing to become the state capital.  They set aside a 10 acre parcel as a capital park and constructed a State Assembly Hall for the legislature.  However, in 1910, according to the apocryphal
story told by our guide, Bob, a group of bandits from Oklahoma City stole the state seal and displayed it in Oklahoma City and declared that it was now the capital because the State Seal was located there and the constitution specified that the capital was wherever the state seal was.  In fact, in 1910 there was a statewide vote to select the capital city and Oklahoma City out polled Guthrie three to one.  Those "bandits" were the representative of the Secretary of State acting under the direction of the Governor.

The city father now had an unused 10 acre campus with a large central building that was also vacant.  However the Methodist Church was busy establishing colleges in the new state and in 1911 set up Oklahoma Methodist University using the campus and the assembly building.  Adding insult to injury, the trustees moved the university from Guthrie to that home of seal bandits, Oklahoma City.  By 1923, it was renamed Oklahoma City University and continues today as a major educational institution in the state.

Current interior of the Assembly Hall now used as a
However, the city fathers still had this problem of an empty campus and a substantial building.  The early Masons had outgrown the first Scottish Rite Temple.  Need and opportunity came together and the city sold the whole campus to the Masons for $1.  In 1919 construction began on the new temple which was attached to and incorporated the assembly building creating a space of 400,000 square feet.  Construction and interior decoration were completed in 1923 and the Temple began its operations which continue today.

The building was designed and construction by the architecture firm of Parr & Hawk in the Classical Revival Style.  It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 with this notation:  "The Scottish Rite Temple of Guthrie is architecturally and historically significant because it is one of the best examples of large scale, Neo-Classical Revival style in Oklahoma; it is the largest, most elaborately designed and constructed Masonic Temple in the state; and because of its importance historically to the Masonic fraternal organization in Oklahoma."  Of course, Bob the guide had a somewhat different story.  He told us that the entire building was designed by a young female architect named Kathryn Davidson who was in her early twenties.  She had won a competitive bid of $25,000 to do the entire job including "all the mathematical calculations," a fact that Bob found remarkable even for a woman today.  At that point I had to carefully remove Marilyn's fingernails from the inch deep wounds they had made into my arm.

Kathryn Davidson
Once again, Bob had a kernel of the true story and had spun it into a largely inaccurate narrative.   The Parr & Hawk design team was led by Marion Davidson.  "The Masons' building committee stipulated the general spatial needs and historic period each room should emulate. Marion then incorporated these ideas into a cohesive floor plan and gave shape to the unadorned spaces. In 1921, the cornerstone was laid, and construction commenced."  (Quotes from "Into the Mystic:  The Scottish Rite Temple," Oklahoma Today, January-February 1991))  "The responsibility for the interiors was given to a young woman named Kathryn (maiden name unknown), a talented rug designer who had worked for Marshall Field and Co. in Chicago.  Astonishingly, this was her first work of any size or consequence."  Marion and Kathryn married by the end of the construction and went to New York to work on the decoration of Rockefeller Center.  The final words in the article about Kathryn are simple.  "Then they divorced."  While Kathryn clearly was not the architect of this massive structure, she was responsible for the interior design and decoration.  She left her mark on a set of chair arms and two mantle pieces that bear her image.

She actually was paid $2280 for a set of watercolor drawings that specified the decoration of each room.  Once the interior spaces were complete, she would set up her easel in one corner and produce water color renderings of every detail.  The room was essentially an empty canvas that she filled in.  The massive structure is certainly impressive but the most interesting and engaging thing about the Temple is the careful designs of Kathryn whose name has been lost to history.  Click here to download a copy of the article.
Click here to view more photos of our visit.  If you view the album, you will note that the first photos are of the men's washroom.  Photographically it was a very interesting image that I could not resist.  Take a look.

Here I am with the Student Union in the background
After lunch we drove to Stillwater, the home of Oklahoma State University.  Lois and Andy's daughter, Lynn, attended OSU and they all feel very close to it.  It had been some time since Andy and Lois had been there and they were impressed with the amount of new were we.  It was hot, of course, but enjoyed strolling in the central plaza outside the student union where we took breaks to cool down.

The enrollment has doubled in the roughly twenty years since Lynn graduated and it has done a great job of accommodating that growth while maintaining the same campus feel.

We ended our trip to campus by finding the statue of Spirit and take a photo of our two favorite cowboys.

Click here to see more photos.

We returned to Maize for some pizza and cheesecake and to get a good night's sleep for our final day in Kansas.

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