Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oklahoma Land Run Monument

(click the above image for a larger view)

Although I've used various images of this great facility in other posts on an ad hoc basis, I've not done a complete article on the Oklahoma Land Run Monument, until now. Contained here are images which were taken on September 7, 2007, and July 29, 2008, both photo-shoots being on cloudy mornings ... not the best conditions (no "blue" sky) but good enough and possibly even better for dramatic effect ... I'm not an artist, so I can't say for sure.

The Oklahoma Land Run Memorial is a project of the Oklahoma Centennial Commission and was Commissioned by the State of Oklahoma, Federal Government, and the city of Oklahoma City, each unit contributing $1.7 M for a total cost of $5,100,000, notwithstanding slightly different reports in the Journal Record on March 7, 2002 and May 21, 2004. Although initially planned to be complete by Oklahoma's Centennial, the artist's estimated completion date is now 2014. The project is located immediately south of the Bass Pro Shop and Marriott Residence Inn in "Lower Bricktown," shown by the map below:

Located at the southern end of the Bricktown Canal, the original plan was for 46 1/2 sculptures depicting the April 22, 1889 Land Run to be located on both sides of the canal, as shown in the illustration at the top of this article. What the "1/2" represents, I don't know, but that's what the sculptor's website seems to indicate. Nineteen are presently done. This City of Oklahoma City news item states the number of sculptures to be 45. The complete assembly was to include 38 people, 34 horses, 3 wagons, 1 buggy, 1 sulky, 1 dog, 1 rabbit and 1 cannon. The monument physical area is 365 feet long by 36 feet wide and is over 15 feet high. When done, it is said that the monument will be one of if not the largest collection of bronze sculptures in the world.

Development and Background. Although I don't have access to the full article, a snippet from an April 28, 1990 Journal Record article seems to indicate that the kernel for the monument concept may have come from Stanley Draper Jr. The snippet reads,
One Big Donor Needed For Land Run Monument
Tim Hartley of the Journal Record

Stanley Draper Jr. envisions larger-than-life monuments such as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis when he ponders a group of "heroic-sized" statues depicting the Land Run of 1889 in Oklahoma City.

His original dream was to have the display of hardy pioneers, their wagons, buggies and thundering horses in place last year for the Centennial celebration and U.S. Olympic Festival '89. Those projects proved to be enough to tackle, but now that the city has caught its collective breath, Draper said it could be ready for its next major undertaking.

"One big donor could kick it off," Draper said. "For $250,000, we could make the first figure to look just like the donor. For $1 million, we ...
. . . and that's where the snippet leaves off. As it developed, the project became embraced by the Oklahoma Centennial Commission and has been funded by Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and the federal governments. Its location was proposed to be either (a) near the State Capitol, or (b) in Lower Bricktown, by and over the Bricktown Canal. The January 19, 2000 Oklahoman described the potential project.

An August 17, 2000 Oklahoman editorial lobbied for the Bricktown location. In part, it said,
A Norman artist, Paul Moore, is already working on the designs. The southern end of the Bricktown Canal, which presently offers nothing but open spaces, would be dominated by the sculptures.
In a June 14, 2002 Oklahoman article, Steve Lackmeyer wrote that the project was being billed as, "Oklahoma City's answer to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis." But, as it is, St. Louis' Gateway Arch is strikingly visible while Oklahoma City's Land Run Monument is strikingly not.

If one has no clue about the existence and/or location of the Land Run Monument, it is essentially invisible. It cannot be seen from Reno, the nearest roadway -- certainly not through the parking lots of Bass Pro or the Marriott Residents Inn, and not from current-day I-40 unless one knows exactly where to look. Its profile does not rise high into the sky — its profile is low and near the ground, and, as far as Doug Dawg can tell, it receives strikingly little publicity for a project as grand as it was touted to be, and is, and is becoming.

That may change with the relocation of the I-40 Crosstown realignment project. The realignment takes I-40 through the south side of Lower Bricktown, just south of the Land Run Monument, as shown in this April 6, 2003 Oklahoman drawing, color enhanced by me for focus.
In real life, this greater "visibility" can begin to be seen. The photograph below, taken July 29, 2008, from the south side of the in-progress construction on the Crosstown relocation, gives a glimpse of what drivers will see when the new highway becomes reality.

Paul Moore, Sculptor, and the Monument's Description. ALL pieces in this massive project are the creation of Paul Moore of Norman. In addition to having his own studio in Norman, Moore is as Artist in Residence and Professor of Figurative Sculpture at the University of Oklahoma and several of his artistic works adorn the university and other locations throughout the state -- click here for a good look at several others.

All sculptures are very oversized (about 150% larger than real), and all are created by renowned sculptor Paul Moore, above. Moore was born in Oklahoma City in 1957 and is a member of the Creek (Muscogee) Nation, Sweet Potato Clan, even though his white great-grandfather participated in the Land Run. For much much more about the artist, click here.

Below, a photo from the April 6, 2003 Oklahoman shows a placement of one of the first sculptures a bit more than 5 years ago ...

Doug Dawg is no art expert but he knows what he likes when he sees it! Paul Moore's sculptures that are in place as this article is written strike me as some of the most grandiose and gorgeous sculptures that this Okie's eyes have ever seen. You say, "Why should I believe you?" Fair enough! Have a look for yourself, below (or, better, in person) and then render your own opinion.

The first sculptures were placed in the Land Run Monument area in April 2003, including a pair of horses, each weighing 2,800-pounds, rearing back. The horses' hooves are each about a foot wide, if that helps visualize the size of these gorgeous beasts. The horses pull a 8,500 pound wagon and driver. According to an April 22, 2003, Journal Record article, Moore also sculpted the statue of Johnny Bench in front of the SBC Bricktown Ballpark and other pieces featured around the state, such as the 35-foot Chisholm Trail sculpture in Duncan and the "Seed Sower" at the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman. The latest, a horse and rider, was put in place just a few days ago. Will the plan of 45-47 sculptures be attained? Who can say, but if that goal is not reached, the monument's 19 sculptures already in place are drop-dead-gorgeous, without more!

September 7, 2007. Quite coincidentally, while eating breakfast in Bricktown's IHOP with a friend on September 7, 2007 (from a distance and not closely as is shown in the photo below), we saw the item below drive by on Reno ... click on the pics below for larger images ...

We hopped in our cars and proceeded to the monument area. These photos were taken during the installation of the sculptures on that morning. Above, a beautiful horse is still on the flat-bed truck, awaiting dismount. Below, the dismount begins and ends ...

That's sculptor Paul Moore wearing the back support

July 29, 2008. Now, have a look at my photo-shoot of the Oklahoma Land Run Monument on July 29, 2008, 10 months later than the above. To see a larger image of each which appear below, click the image and a larger image (1024 x 768 px in most cases) will open in a separate window (IE Explorer) or tab (Firefox).

Having parked in the parking area and
walking up the grassy knoll to the west of the area,
several markers tell the history of the 1889 event and
give credit to the private donors and public officials
who caused this monument to happen

Looking south, I-40 Crosstown relocation construction is in the background

Many other plaques and markers are present than I've shown.

Now, let's get down to business ... From a distance,
looking northwesterly with downtown in the background...

Getting Closer ...

And Closer ...

And Closer Still ...

And Really Really Closer Still ...

Stepping back to have a look at the driver of this team

On closer look, yes, you can see that he is an Okie through and through

Across the stream, a pair of horse riders
appear to know the land they are planning to claim

They appear to be resolved to stake their claims
... are they Sooners?

With our own 21st Century expectation in the background,
they ride on knowing that their 19th century claim
would become their own

Meanwhile, those in the rear ride furiously
hard to grab their place in the 1889 sun ...

While the husband tries to maintain control,
his wife hangs on

A boy and his dog are in the rear of that wagon

A bit further behind is a wagon in the rear

Man Loses His Hat & Dog Hurries To Keep Up

Another horseman takes better care of his hat

As he puffs on the stub of his small cigar ...

How this canon figures in, I don't know --
maybe its blast signaled the start of the run.
These pieces are somewhat separated and north of the others.

From the above, walking down to the canal

On the canal, walking south

South of the monument, looking north

South of the monument, looking south at the canal's end

I-40 Crosstown relocation proceeds south of the area

I drove to the south side of the the Crosstown construction
for a view south of the new highway, but looking north.
Look closely and you'll see the monument in the background.

Will It All Get Done? The overall project was budgeted for $5,100,000. $1.7 M came from a federal grant, the state contributed $1.7 M, and Oklahoma City's $1.7 M share was budgeted to be paid in installments through 2012. But, higher foundry costs than expected meant that the budgeted amount would fall short of the cost of the original 45-47 structures and an April 14, 2008, Oklahoman article indicated that the number of sculptures had been pared back to 38, at least for the time being:

The mayor expressed hope that funding to complete the full project would be found when the time comes to do so. Mayor Cornett noted, "Even with the smaller number of pieces, it is still the largest series of bronze anywhere in the world." He added, "I think that eventually we will see every piece done."

Doug Dawg surely hopes that Mayor Mick is right.

This magnificent work of art, honoring the genesis of our city's history, should not remain obscure. It should be splashed upon every passers-by and local face! It shows what Oklahoma City dreams were made of on April 22, 1889.

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Anonymous said...

Just awesome, Doug.

K said...

Excellent! Anyone who has not taken time to wander amongst the various parts of this monument is missing out.

Anonymous said...

1889 Doug.....

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, anon.

imagiNATIVEamerica.com said...

Hey Doug,

Thanks for the great post. I have linked to it as part of my '10 Must Haves for OKC's New Downtown Park'. Imo, the Land Run Statue is the #1 thing we need as part of the new 32 acre 'central park' that is being planned as for Core to Shore.

What do you think?


Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Blair. I surely do believe that the Land Run Monument needs lots more publicity (as well as visibility) than it gets. The visibility part will change some when the I40 relocation is done, but some grand entrance to this facility is surely needed. I'll check out your article on the central park and reply again.

Doug Dawg said...

Blair, I've now read your thoughtful article and I must say that I have mixed feelings about your suggestion that the monument be eventually be moved to what we hope will become downtown's new "central park."

First, of course, it is important to note that even the existence of "central park" is still speculative as to whether, when, and how it might come to be. So, no "present" reality exists by which to measure your suggestion in the Okc world that exists today. Your suggestion deals with hypothetical constructs and not things that exist or certainly will exist down the line.

Contrasted with that is your approach is to consider what would be most desirable for planning purposes in the best of all possible worlds, if I correctly summarize the kernel of your proposition. That's where my "mixed feelings" come in.

Bricktown's Stability. When Lower Bricktown was selected as the location, from newspaper articles it appears that the choices were only two: near the Capitol, or in Lower Bricktown which prevailed in that choice. And, now, it's there. While the monument is quite a "secreted" area in Lower Bricktown, it is there, and at least some people know that's so. If there is a word which captures the quality of what I intend to say here, it is "stability." Stability has value ... not necessarily overriding value when put side by side other considerations, but value nonetheless. Generally, I'd say that the "burden of proof" which comes into play when one wants to upset stability is upon the proponent, and that would be you, in this instance.

Stability is a big deal to me, and that's where the monument presently lies.

Bricktown Sustenance. I place great value of preserving, maintaining, and encouraging the general Bricktown area where the monument is presently located. Through the late Neal Horton's efforts and other since his death, Bricktown Evaluating THIS item is really a toughie!

Since the ingress/egress points for the monument would and probably do pass unknown to the typical citizen, car driver, whatever, it's hard to argue that the monument is actually perceived to be an integral part of the existing Bricktown vicinity. You know it. I know it. Others who are are familiar with this project know it. Whether that "awareness" is typical is a different matter. A poster from Chickasha replied to a thread in OkMet a few days ago about this blog article that she'd (I think) not heard of this monument and thanked me for calling it to her attention!

If that comment is typical, it would be difficult to argue that the monument is presently identified with the Bricktown area. I don't know if such a perception is commonly held or if it was not representative of perceptions about this monument. But, if it is typical, the "loss" to the Bricktown area would certainly be less of a factor in what I'm saying.

In this context, it is also worthwhile considering whether the monument, presently obscure, invisible and with no prominent entry area (but for curving by a hotel and/or an outdoor sport commercial venture) should be expected to remain "true" with what is presently going on. Both access and visibility to the monument in the Lower Bricktown area are horrifically inadequate, in my opinion. But that could easily change in the short term, long before any "central" park becomes a reality. Of lesser note is that the monument will become visible from drivers on the relocated I-40 crosstown. Of greater importance is that, hopefully, the parkway/boulevard which is intended to replace the current I-40 crosstown, may provide the "grand entrance" to the monument which is presently lacking from Reno. About this, I have no clue. But (1) the I-40 crosstown relocation will hopefully be completed long before (2) the proposed Core To Shore "central park" possibility may come into being. Probably, we'll know the outcome of (1) years before we know the answer to (2). If the parkway/boulevard which replaces the existing I-40 crosstown does its job properly, it is quite possible that the Land Run Monument area could have a grand visibility and access point which does not presently exist.

Were Bricktown Factors Not Present. From the above, you can see that I place great value on stability, and if the factors relating to visibility and entrance work themselves out with the I-40 Crosstown relocation coupled with the replacement parkway/boulevard for the existing I-40 crosstown area which passes through Bricktown, then I'd probably be inclined to leave the Land Run Monument where it is and just make its visibility and entrance more grand than it presently is. However, if the planned parkway/boulevard continues to ignore the monument, then I'd be al for moving it to where it will be seen by the most people and with the greatest of ease.

So, were past history, stability, etc., no factors at all, and if (yes, if) the proposed Core to Shore central park notion to become a reality, and IF the Land Run Monument not already have an existing, even if obscure, home in Lower Bricktown, then I'd be all for your plan. The "stability" and "Bricktown" factors would be non-existent.

But, that's not reality "as is" and it's hard to know what "reality" will be (1)after the I-40 Crosstown is done and (2) the proposed parkway to replace the existing I-40 Crosstown is done. Both of those items will likely be known before the "reality" of a "central park" comes to be.

This comment may contain some incoherent statements, but I don't want to fiddle with it any longer since it is time for tonight's episode of Saving Grace.

Blair said...

Doug - Thank you for the thoughtful response and your well reasoned position. You obviously have some good reasons for wanting to keep the statue on the south canal. The stability of the location and of Bricktown are understandable, since I have the burden of proving why it should be moved, I will give it a go.

I approach the problem by asking not what is best for the south canal, or what is best for Bricktown, but what is best for the city as a whole. The new “central park” is planned to be the heart of the city. I think it is safe to say that were the statue to be built after the construction of the park was complete - the park would be the obvious place to put it. However, as you pointed out, the park is still a dream for the future and the statue has already been placed on the south canal, so I must convince you that the placement in the park is of such importance that it warrants moving the statue and shaking the “stability” of the immediate past - and I think it is.

For one, we need to be focused in what the true destinations of this city are. Bricktown is definitely a key destination, and yet many people that visit Bricktown never visit the statue. In truth, the south canal is no more a part of Bricktown then say the Myriad Gardens. I mean this to say, that someone who visits Bricktown is at least as likely to visit the Myriad Gardens as they are the south canal. The new park should also be a key destination in the city and the statue would reinforce its position as such. I don’t think moving the statue detracts in any meaningful way from Bricktown, and yet it could add so much to the significance of the new park.

Wherever the statue is placed it should be clearly visible, easy to locate, and be seen by as many people as possible. You are correct that the gateway to the statue could be enhanced with the construction of the new boulevard and people could be made more aware of the statue. Even still, why should so much effort be put into enhancing this isolated corner of downtown. Do we really want the south canal to become its own destination? Because, like I said, the south canal is not integral to what Bricktown is today nor what it will be in the future. Lower Bricktown has already turned its back on I-40 and the realignment is not going to change this in any significant way. So to argue that the south canal should be the continued location of the statue is to argue that the south canal should be a unique destination in and of itself - and I simply don’t find this to be the case.

In then end, the stability of Bricktown will be best served by being connected to a vital and active downtown. The statue could be featured more prominently in the new “central park” (similarly positioned crossing over a section of a primary body of water) and in the long run many more people will see it at this location. Further, the statue will be only one (though a very important one) of the many attractions found within the new “central park” destination - so while a visitor may not go out of their way to navigate to the statue alone, someone who comes to Oklahoma City will not miss an opportunity to spend time in the “central park” with the statue, fountain, carousel, people, and fun (and frisbees). The new park will help create a more vital downtown and the statue can help greatly in making this happen.

The only thing better than “stability” is progress - and that is what we want in Oklahoma City.

Either way, really glad to have people sharing in the discussion and visioning what they want the future of this city to be. Keep the ideas flowing. There is clearly not a right answer on this one for now, but I think that as time passes and we understand more of the intricacies of what downtown will be in the future, we will be in a better position to make the right decision when given the chance.

Just glad we both care about what is happening. Love your blog Doug!


Walt said...

You're thinking too small. Leave the Land Run monument where it is, and extend the park east to embrace it. Extend the canal west from the southern turnaround to C2S. Build the new convention center on the southeast corner of the new boulevard site and the BNSF tracks/transit center, giving convention-goers a grand view of the park, the canal and the Land Run monument as well as the Boathouse Row and the river.
Keep up the good work!

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Walt. Great ideas.

Gigi said...

Thanks Doug for this incredible post. I hope you don't mind, but I have created a link to your blog from mine. I love the oklahoma city history that you include from time to time. Gerry Robideaux

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Gigi. I'm honored.

Doug Dawg said...

Following up on the above, here is a workable link to Gigi's blog: http://oklahomaearps.blogspot.com. I've only just now had a quick look but from the little that I've already seen it is well worth your visits and attention.

Thanks again, Gigi.

Anonymous said...

If they eventually let Bass Pro Shops build a nice restaurant on the current south side of I-40 that would bring more people to that specific place. People would have the "didn't know it was there" reaction. But Bricktown leaders specifically wrote a clause into the Bass Pro contract that forbids a restaurant. Talk about narrow minded people down there.