Friday, August 19, 2011

Marland Estate Mansion

This is non-paddling, but I think you’ll find it interesting. The day after the storm went through that I described below, we took the grand-daughters for a trip to Ponca City to visit a few museums. We were headed for the Standing Bear Museum, the Pioneer Woman Museum, and the Marland Estate Mansion. We were surprised by the amount of storm damage we were about to encounter.

We arrived at the Standing Bear Museum to find all the wires down and the broken electric poles in the parking lot. Sure enough, the museum was closed due to lack of electrical power.

From there we moved on to the Pioneer Woman Museum, and it was also closed and locked.

It was lunchtime and the girls were hungry, but none of the restaurants in the area had power. Then we learned that power was being restored a block or two at a time, and the work had started from the north end of town, so we moved north until we found a Pizza Hut with its doors open. They were short of staff, and were flooded with people, so there was no ordering from the menu. They were working to keep the buffet table stocked, and it was buffet or nothing. We had traveled 292 miles round-trip to take the girls on an outing, but thanks to the storm, our efforts were not going to plan. We had one more shot, so we headed for the Marland Mansion.

We parked and were walking leisurely about when a man came out and asked if we were interested in a tour of the mansion. The electrical power had just come back on about ten minutes earlier, and he was going to be doing the one and only tour of the day. I said, “Count us in,” and we were off.

The mansion is one of the most popular tourist sites in Oklahoma, and if you visit the area, I’d highly recommend it. The mansion can be toured with a guide, or on your own with a self-guided tour pamphlet. I’d recommend the guided tour, which provides much greater detail, and then you are free to wander through the mansion to inspect areas of interest in greater detail.

The mansion is Italian Renaissance, but has rooms with touches of French, English, Chinese, Arabian, American Indian, and American Southwest. It was constructed between 1925 and 1928 to be the home of Ernest W. Marland and his wife, Lydie. Marland was the founder of Marland Oils, which eventually became Conoco-Phillips Petroleum. It contains 55 rooms, including 10 bedrooms, 10 baths, 7 fireplaces, and three kitchens, all totaling 43,561 square feet. I don’t know if the roughly 300 feet of underground tunnels, solid concrete panic room, concealed wine and whiskey room (since it was used during prohibition) and concealed poker room were included in that total or not. Here’s the choker. Marland spent $5.5 million on the house. Inflating the dollar to today, building it now would run well over $67,346,000. Actually, it would probably be substantially more than that, as many of the skills needed for such construction either don’t exist, or would be extremely costly to replicate. Brass work, wrought iron, milling, stone cutting and stone carving, glass blowing, ceiling painting, wood carving, etc., were mostly done on site.

The heavy wood entrance doors were built in New York. Just inside, in the lobby, are white French limestone statues of both Mr. and Mrs. Marland.

The formal dining room is made of hand-cut wood panels of rare English Pollard Oak. Marland received special permission from King George V to cut the trees from Sherwood Forest. The cast vaulted ceiling was built at bench level and then hoisted in place and attached to steel beams. The specially cast wall sconces are of Sheffield silver and copper.

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