Tuesday, September 12, 2006

C.F. Colcord and His Fine Hotel

In this article, click on any image for a larger pic.

This article tells the tale of how Charles Francis Colcord finally winds up getting a hotel named after him – which is all he intended to have in the first place.

This 1909 postcard shows what was originally intended. Instead of a hotel, an office building opened and the west wing never happened. The building opened at 15 N. Robinson in 1910.


Of the bios I've read of C.F. Colcord, I like the one written by Colcord's great grandson, Ray Colcord, the best, at Ray Colcord's website. Some of the images which follow are in Ray's website, but some are from other sources.
Charles Francis Colcord, my great-grandfather, was a pioneer of the old west, and an old-fashioned American hero.

He was born in Kentucky in 1859, and for much of his young childhood his father was away fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. After contracting malaria near New Orleans his father moved him to the ranch of a friend near Corpus Christi, Texas so that he could recover. When he was 12, his family planned to return him to New Orleans, so he ran away. Taking his six-guns and his horse, he could ride, rope and shoot well enough to get a job as a cow puncher on the Abilene trail, moving thousands of head of cattle from Texas through the Indian Territories to Abilene, Kansas, the nearest railhead, where they would be shipped back to the East Coast. He built up his own herds and his brand, the Jug brand, became famous throughout Kansas and Oklahoma. He then worked as a range detective, and gained a reputation as a lawman.

In 1889 the cattle market collapsed, and the Oklahoma land run was announced. On April 22, 1889 Charley made the run, arriving in Oklahoma City that day and trading his team, wagon and gear for a shack and lot that became Lot Number 1, Block Number 1, Oklahoma City.

As Oklahoma boomed he served as chief of police, then Oklahoma City's first sheriff (essentially the army left what was a territory, declared it a state, and gave Charley the stockade and a gun.) [Ed.Note: Colcord is seated,lower center.]

He later became a US Marshall (appointed by President Grover Cleveland), serving with Bill Tilghman. [Ed. Note: in the pic, Colcord is at right.] He worked hard to control a lawless, wild area, fighting with the Bill Doolin Gang, Tulsa Jack, the Dalton Gang, Little Dick West, and others. He personally rounded up five members of the Dalton Gang and supervised their hanging.
* * *
He assisted in the discovery of the Glen oil pool, and with his profits built the Colcord building in 1912, then the tallest building in Oklahoma City. [Ed. note: it was built in 1910, not 1912.]
About the Glenn Oil Pool, Wikipedia says this:

On November 22, 1905, wildcatters, Robert Galbreath and Frank Chesley (along with, by some accounts, Charles Colcord), drilling for oil on farmland owned by Creek Indian Ida E. Glenn, created the first oil gusher in what would soon be known as the "Glenn Pool". The discovery set off a boom of growth for the area, bringing in hordes of people: lease buyers, producers, millionaires, laborers, tool suppliers and newspeople. Daily production soon exceeded 120,000 barrels.

The oil field was the richest the world had yet known, making more money than the California Gold Rush and Colorado Silver Rush combined and making Oklahoma known around the world for oil production.
The great grandson's article continues, describing the building:
It was the first steel-reinforced concrete building built in Oklahoma, because Charley had seen the devastation to less-strong buildings in San Francisco. The only buildings standing after the fire and earthquake there were the steel-reinforced concrete buildings, so that's what he built. The Colcord building still stands, and is occupied and in daily use. He also built the Commerce Exchange Building and the Biltmore Hotel.
* * *
Charley was one of the most famous Oklahomans, even to the point of being lionized in pulp magazines like Golden West as "Chuck Colcord, Scourge of the Cattle Rustlers." We'll never know if he was more embarrassed by being called “Chuck” or by the overheated prose, like... “Your rep sheet sez you're a hell on wheels with shootin’ irons as well as rustler bustin’.” How the “reporter” got verbatim conversation down from 1881 isn't clear.
For a 1908 biography, see A History of Oklahoma 1908, Vol II by Luther Hill.

Colcord must have accumulated other resources than from Glenn Pool, though, because in 1903 (according to his great grandson's website), he built this home at 421 N.W. 13th. About this home, Vanished Spendor, Jim Edwards and Hal Ottaway (Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co. 1982), gives the following description:

Built and designed by William A. Wells, this mansion was almost an exact replica of Mr. Colcord's father's home in Kentucky. It had twenty-five rooms, besides halls, nooks, closets, and baths. It was torn down in 1965.
Colcord also owned the area in Oklahoma City which became Wheeler Park, including among other thing our city's 1st zoo, and Delmar Garden. See this previous blog article for more about that.

It is quite evident that CF Colcord cared greatly about Oklahoma history. At the time of his death, he was the chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Charles H. Colcord died at his ranch in Delaware County, Oklahoma, on December 10, 1934. From the Chronicles of Oklahoma:

His body was brought to his home in Oklahoma City Tuesday, December 11. The casket was placed in the rotunda of the Historical Building where his remains lay in state from 10:00 A. M. to 1:00 P. M. December 12, and were viewed by hundreds of sorrowing friends.

The funeral services were held in the First Christian Church at 2:30 P. M., conducted by Reverend J. H. O. Smith. Interment was in the Fairlawn Cemetery.

"His life was gentle, and the elements
So mix'd in him, that Nature might stand up —
And say to all the world, 'This was a man'."

It will be the duty and privilege of the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Historical Society at its meeting in January to offer its tribute of praise to the memory of our beloved President, Charles F. Colcord, the man who has been justly called, "Oklahoma's First Citizen."

The Colcord Building, finished in 1910, was planned by Mr. Colcord to be a hotel. From A History of Oklahoma 1908, Vol II by Luther Hill:
There is hardly a citizen of Oklahoma City who does not know of him either personally or because of his varied interests in the city. The contemplated modern ten story hotel on Grand avenue at Robinson street, one of the best of the buildings that will mark Oklahoma City's metropolitan greatness, will be built by Mr. Colcord.
For whatever reasons, probably economic (and in this regard, it is noted that the original Skirvin Hotel was being constructed during this same time), while the Colcord was built in 1909-1910, it wouldn't become a hotel until 2006. Here are some 1910 pics taken during construction and what it became:


Charles Francis will have to be looking down on Oklahoma City to see his initial plan to come fruition – a grand hotel in downtown Oklahoma City – which is exactly what will happen in one to two months in October or November 2006.

In 2005, Paul Coury and associates acquired the Colcord with the singular intention of re-creating the Colcord into what CF Colcord originally intended it to be – a hotel. See this link but for complete information about this development, see this link showing floorplans, etc..

As this article is written, the project is almost done. Following are some pics I took in late May 2006 showing progress – largely the pics focus on some of the original ornate detail which will greet guests in this boutique hotel in a month or two:

So, in a month or two, take an 1880's vintage Western magazine with you, go downtown, get yourself a cool room in the Colcord Hotel and think about the old west, then walk a block south to the Ford Center and take in a Hornets game and/or go to Bricktown, and have a grand weekend, right here in downtown Oklahoma City! Get your reservations at www.colcordhotel.com.


Allen said...

Wow!!!! what a rare photos.

Donald said...

While people may have different views still good things should always be appreciated. Yours is a nice blog. Liked it!!!

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Donald.

Doug Dawg said...

This replaces Peter's 6/29/2010 comment which contained an advertisement link. Otherwise, Peter said ...

I agree that good things are appreciated always. If you provide better services at affordable prices. then you can get a peak in any occupation like Hank Freid in the business of hotels. However it is nice post, having nice information.

Jim Wiedl said...

Thanks for all the information. I am doing work on Colcord family history and this site adds some helps add to some stuff I heard of a long time ago.