Hey friend! Welcome back to another post! Today, we’re talking about the beautiful city hall building in Ponca City, Oklahoma. While visiting some other historic sites and museums in the area, I drove past this building and had to turn around. I got out of my car, walked around the outside, and took some photos. Let’s go explore the history of the building!
History of Ponca City
Ponca City was founded in the mid-1890s during the Oklahoma Land Run for the Cherokee Strip on September 16, 1893. The founder and first Mayor of Ponca City – B.S. Barnes – was a smart man. He chose the area before the Land Run because of the available water supply, its access to the railroad, and there was a river crossing. Barnes created the “Ponca Townsite Company” in hopes of bringing people to the area. He “sold $2 chances on lots of the settlers gathered to make the land run.” (Informational Plaque about B.S. Barnes outside City Hall)
Barnes was a determined man. He discovered that the US Government had plotted town Northwest of Ponca City for the railroad to stop – this town was called Cross. But, Barnes did not like this at all and he took a few friends and under the cover of darkness they “moved the Cross depot to Ponca City.” (Informational Plaque about B.S. Barnes outside City Hall) Needless to say, the train stopped at Ponca City.
B.S. Barnes was a strong leader who led Ponca City to many of its early successes. “The citizens always had confidence in his ability and integrity and , five days after the run, they elected him as their first mayor.” (Informational Plaque about B.S. Barnes outside City Hall)
RESEARCH TIPS: For more Land Run history, see my posts about the Oklahoma Territorial Museum, the Edmond Historical Society Museum, and the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum.
Now that we’ve talked a little bit about the founding of Ponca City, let’s talk more about the history of the City Hall Building itself! It’s pretty cool!
City Hall Building History
Mayor W.H. McFadden proposed a bond election in February 1916 of $20,000 to build a new convention hall in Ponca City. This bond passed and an additional $25,000 bond was passed in December 1916. The building was designed by architect, Solomon Andrew Layton in 1916 in the Spanish Colonial Style. It was built by Layton and Smith – who also happened to design to the State Capitol Building. Ponca City local – O.F. Keck – was hired as the contractor. “The contract was let for $38,000.” (Ponca City Website – FAQs “When was the current City Hall building first constructed?”) The new auditorium opened on November 14, 1917 with a showing of “Experience,” a Broadway musical play.
Mayor P.B. Lowrance and the architecture firm of Layton, Smith, and Forsythe helped plan the addition of East and West wings to the facility. A bond issue worth $75,000 was passed in November 1922 for the project. Based in Oklahoma City, the Holmboc Company was awarded the contract for $135,000. Two years later, the Board of Commissioners held their first meeting in the new facility on March 20, 1924. The new East and West wings housed city offices, the police station, and fire station. The expanded center was renamed to the “Civic Center.” These three buildings were separate pieces and wouldn’t be connected for nearly eight decades!
The Civic Auditorium was closed in 1992 because it was deemed a fire hazard by the Ponca City Fire Marshall. The city offices were located in the East and the West wing housed Fire Station No. 1. These areas were deemed safe and were allowed to remain open. A few years later in 1997, the citizens of Ponca City passed a 2-year sales tax that allowed for much needed renovations to be made on Fire Station No. 1 in the West Wing.
After the fire station was renovated, the citizens of Ponca City passed a 3-years sales tax to renovate the rest of the city hall complex. The new complex was designed and renovated by Lewis Associates Architects of Ponca City. They completed the project in 2003 and the building looks stunning!
TRAVEL TIP: Here is a link to a self-guided tour of the inside and outside of the building.
The Centennial Plaza is located in front of City Hall! There are several sculptures, memorials, and plaques that honor various aspects of Ponca City’s rich history. I have included few photos below and hope you enjoy them, but make sure to stop by and see them yourself!
The Centennial Monument was created by artist Jo Saylors to commemorate the Land Run. The Land Run took place on September 16, 1893. A century later in 1993, the citizens of Ponca City were given an opportunity to purchase a brick with their name on it to “stake their claim” as a portion of Ponca City’s history. Thousands of people purchased a brick to “stake their claim” – 6,527 people to be exact.
The plaque on the bottom of the Centennial Monument reads: “These 100 donors present this centennial bronze by Jo Saylors in commemoration of the Cherokee Strip Land Run September 16, 1893. Dedicated September 16, 1993.”
Lew Wentz Statue
Jo Saylors also created a sculpture of Lewis Hanes (Lew) Wentz that is on display at City Hall. Lew Wentz (1872-1949) was a wealthy oilman and philanthropist who “always gave.” (Wentz Statue Plaque) This sculpture was a gift from a group of citizens of Ponca City who wanted to honor the memory of Wentz.
The plaque on the bottom gives a lot of valuable information about Wentz’s projects in Ponca City. He was a donor for the Wentz Camp, Wentz Pool, and Wentz Municipal Golf Course. Wentz was a founder for The Society for Crippled Children, the University of Oklahoma Student Loan Fund, and the Oklahoma State University Student Loan Fund.
E.W. Marland Statue
Jo Davidson was commissioned by E.W. Marland (1874-1941) to create the statue of himself. The statue originally sat on the grounds of the Marland estate. Marland loved the arts, especially sculpture. Marland’s widow, Lydie Marland donated the statue to Ponca City in 1951 and it now sits on the southwest corner of City Hall’s lawn.
The bottom of the E.W. Marland statue lists his major accomplishments as the following:
- Pioneer Oil Developer
- Philanthropist and Humanitarian
- Leader in developing the economy, culture, and beauty of Ponca City
- Donor of Pioneer Woman Statue
- Governor of Oklahoma
- United States Congressman
For more information about E.W. Marland, oil history, and the Marland estates check out the following two posts: The Marland’s Grand Home and The Marland Mansion.
Ponca City Memorial Fountain
The Ponca City Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) built the Memorial Fountain to honor those who fought in World War I. The fountain was restored in 1981 by DAR and H.A. “Jack” Mertz. In 1993, the fountain underwent another renovation thanks to the Ponca City and Pioneer Rotary Clubs.
The most recent restoration took place in 2003. Forrest Mertz led the project in honor of his parents H.A. “Jack” and Hattie Mertz, the Ponca City DAR Chapter, and all Veterans. (Ponca City Self Guided Tour)
I thought this building was very pretty and I am very glad that I stopped to take a few photos. I loved doing the research behind the building and the statues honoring people out front. If you’re ever in Ponca City – make sure to drive by – you won’t be disappointed!
Happy Traveling! I’ll talk to ya soon! 🙂
516 E. Grand Ave.
Ponca City, OK 74604
TRAVEL TIP: City Hall is close to the Ponca City Library. Make sure to stop by the library to check out the Matzene Art Collection. This art collection is definitely a hidden gem and I definitely recommend stopping by! Here’s a post I wrote about the Matzene Art Collection!
TRAVEL TIP: While you’re in downtown Ponca City, make sure to also stop by the L.A. Cann Gardens and Estate! Take a pair of walking shoes to stroll through this beautiful garden and trails. The local garden clubs do an excellent job of maintaining this space. Here’s a post I wrote about the L.A. Cann Gardens and Estate!
City Hall – Ponca City Website
Ponca City Website – FAQs “When was the current City Hall building first constructed?”
City Hall Self Guided Tour – Ponca City Website
Informational Plaque about B.S. Barnes – Pictured Below
E.W. Marland Statue Plaque – Pictured Below
Lew Wentz Statue Plaque – Pictured Below
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