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Notes on the Geography of Oklahoma: Guthrie

For 20 years, Guthrie was the capital of Oklahoma. Shortly after Oklahoma became a state in 1907, however, the capital was moved to Oklahoma City, and Guthrie began a 70-year slide, partially arrested after 1980, when a historic district was created and many downtown brick buildings restored.

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The town is on a bluff south of the Cimarron River, and the Santa Fe railway came along the edge of that bluff, perhaps three blocks behind this monument. Some fifteen trains came to Guthrie on the day of the land run.

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By the next year, Guthrie's first native-stone building was up: the Bonfils Building, with a residence upstairs and a very slippery real-estate operation down. Bonfils found it prudent to leave town, but he ultimately died rich in Denver, where he helped establish the Denver Post. Great country.

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The town's architectural style was soon set by Joseph Foucart, an architect with an abundance of European pattern books. Here, his De Steigner Building, originally a bank. The massive I-beam below the oriel is original--and characteristic of construction of this era, when memories of the Chicago fire led many cities to require fireproof downtown buildings.

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Guthrie today has about a four-by-four square block area of such massive buildings, all put up before the capital moved in 1910.

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Few buildings exceeded three stories, plus basement.

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Some indulged in exotic flourishes, like this touch of the Moorish.

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The Gray Brothers building, once a grocery and bank, had a capped oriel.

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At the edge of town and overlooking the slope to the river, the State Capital Company building housed a bank, newspaper, and printshop; now, it houses a museum.

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West of town, and across the river, several massive homes were built. This one was the home of Frank Dale, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma Territory from 1892 to 1898. Still privately owned, the owner a hundred years later was struggling to restore the columns, several of which he ordered new from back East, as perhaps the original ones had been.

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A more modest home, but iconic in its simplicity--and within easy walking of downtown. Now it's a tiny B&B.

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More brick: this time for the city's waterworks building, south of town.

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The Carnegie library. That man's money went everywhere.

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Down by the railroad station. The old brick pavers lead uphill, behind the camera, toward the town.

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No point in beating about the bush.

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Old Route 66 comes through Guthrie, too.  This motel was one of its by-products.


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