Saturday, August 26, 2006

From Mid-Continent To Oklahoma Heritage Association

Edited & Updated 6/19/2007: The Oklahoma Heritage Association's Website has been majorly revised. Some quotes here are from the former website which do not exist in its current website.

Also, see Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

From 1909 and ninety years thereafter, the Mid-Continent Life Insurance Company was one of Oklahoma's most venerable life insurance companies. This postcard shows an artist's rendering of the building completed in 1927 at 1400 Classen Drive:

Credit Edwards and Ottaway, Vanished Splendor II (Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co. 1983) - click for larger pic

At the time Vanished Spendor II was published, Mid-Continent was still doing business at the above location. The building was then described,
The total floor space is 42,000 square feet. Local and regional suppliers were used for nearly all the materials needed for construction. The main entrance and doors and electrical fixtures are bronze, as is the hardware used throughout, including the specially cast bronze door knobs bearing the company's insignia. The exposed woodwork in the building is mahogany imported from British Honduras.
The designer was Solomon Layton, who designed the State Capitol. It is constructed of Indiana limestone and carved Corinthian columns, and it's a beauty to behold.

But, apparently Mid-Continent's actuaries got something wrong because on April 14, 1997, an Oklahoma County District Judge simultaneously placed Mid-Continent in receivership and appointed the Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner as the Receiver. Eventually, another Oklahoma City company, American Fidelity Assurance Company, picked up the insurance policy pieces (see its website), but the building was abandoned.


The property was purchased on September 5, 2001, by the Oklahoma Heritage Association for $3,000,000. From the former OHA website, it was said:

On September 5, 2001, the Oklahoma Heritage Association purchased the former Mid-Continent Life Insurance building at a cost of $3,000,000. The purchase was made possible through a donation by Edward L. Gaylord of Oklahoma City. Holdenville native T. Boone Pickens matched the $3 million contribution to launch the renovation of the historic structure so it could become the new home of the Oklahoma Heritage Association. “Right now we are in the middle of a $15 million capital campaign, and that contribution gave us the foundation on which to build,” says Shannon Nance, President of OHA. “We want to ensure that the diverse and rich history of our state’s people will be preserved and told to future generations of Oklahomans.”
But, what IS the Oklahoma Heritage Association and where did it come from?

New revisions to OHA's website help a lot with that. See OHA's new history page.

One of OHA's functions is to determine inductees into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. According to OHA's Hall of Fame page,

Being inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame is the highest honor an Oklahoman can receive from the state. Since the Oklahoma Hall of Fame’s inception in 1927, 613 accomplished individuals have received this commendation. The names of the Hall of Fame members, as well as busts and portraits of these individuals, can be seen at the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage Center. In addition, the inductees are recognized on granite monuments in the Heritage Plaza at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds.
Awards "from the state?" No, not actually ... the awards are from a prestigious private organization that lives here, the Oklahoma Heritage Association. A "governmental" connection does not exist. That said, who wouldn't want to receive the organization's recognition and tap on the shoulder!

You can find a "list" of Hall of Fame inductees at OHA's website or in a related post in this blog. Also, see this blog post, Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

In the earlier (pre-MidContinent) OHA website, it was said,

The Oklahoma Hall of Fame Galleries exhibit the oil portraits, photographs, and bronzes of prominent Oklahomans honored by induction annually since 1928 into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame for their achievements. Albums of photographs and biographical sketches record each honorees' contributions to both the state and the nation.
Even though the recent move to the old MidContinent building is doubtless a huge step for the organization, some of us, on a personal level, have to be just a bit sad about the organization's vacation of its former premises at "the Hefner Mansion" at 201 Northwest 14th Street (my daughter's glorious wedding was in the gardens and facility there).

Other pages in the OHA website speak to the Association's website tells other things the association does:


Each year, the Oklahoma Heritage Association offers more than $400,000 in scholarships to high schoolers who have paid attention in their Oklahoma history classes. In the Oklahoma Heritage County Scholarship Competition, ninth through 12th graders take a test on Oklahoma history. Those with high scores in each county receive a $1,000 cash scholarship or tuition grant to an Oklahoma college or university. Most counties have at least three scholarships available.
Heritage Week.

Oklahoma Heritage Association hosts the Heritage Week competition each year to encourage fourth through twelfth graders throughout the state to embrace and honor their heritage. Fourth through sixth graders compete in the poster competition, seventh through ninth graders compete in the essay competition, and tenth through twelfth graders compete in the poster/essay competition.

The competition is held each year prior to statehood week in November, and the winners are honored with commendations from the governor’s office. State awards and regional awards are bestowed in each category. Winners also receive cash awards.
Annual Awards.

Each year, the Oklahoma Heritage Association honors individuals, teachers, organizations, and newspapers or other periodicals for their work in preserving state and local history.

Award categories are:

• Educators teaching grades four through twelve who have demonstrated excellence in teaching Oklahoma history. One award is given to an educator in former Indian Territory and one is given to an educator in former Oklahoma Territory. The winner will receive a cash prize.

• Educators from an Oklahoma college/university who are committed to preserving state and local history. The winner will receive a cash prize.

• Organizations that are committed to preserving state and local history. One award is given to an organization in former Indian Territory and one is given to an organization in former Oklahoma Territory. The winners receive cash prizes.

• Individuals who have volunteered to preserve state and local history. The winner will receive a special award.

• Periodicals that have shown a commitment to preserving state and local history through feature articles or a series of articles/editorials that promote state history. The winner will receive a special award.
Much, much more exists at the OHA website! Explore there and find out some other stuff!

Here are some pics that I took yesterday [September 2006] outside the facility. Click on pics for larger images.

On The South Side

Improvements On The North Side From the Association's Website
Creating An Undereground "Mechanical" Facility

A Couple I Took Yesterday of the North Side

Website Drawings Showing What Is To Be (larger pics not available)

If the finshed place lives up to its billing ...

Northern Light Productions, one of the country’s premier film and video production companies, is telling the story of Oklahoma’s people with cutting-edge hologram technology. The Boston-based company is a leader in developing innovative, immersive, and interactive visitor experiences for museums across the country. Some of Northern Light’s creations can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution, the International Spy Museum, and the National Archives. Founded in 1982 by independent documentary filmmaker Bestor Cram, his team of professionals is committed to the moving image as an art form. Holograms will literally tell the stories of Oklahomans, thrilling museum-goers. “Here in Oklahoma City, we are planning on introducing a unique blend of traditional and cutting edge motion picture exhibition techniques to be the core of a very spirited and meaningful presentation”, Cram said. “At the Oklahoma Heritage Association’s new home, visitors will truly become part of the exhibit. The museum will be constantly changing, never the same, always evolving. And that translates into a remarkable expression of what is taking place in Oklahoma.”
... this will be very cool! Let's go have a peek when it's done, maybe by the end of 2006, but, at least, by sometime during Oklahoma's Centennial in 2007.


Anonymous said...

To me that has always been one of the most impressive buildings in the city.

Doug Dawg said...

Yes, I agree, but it's so off of the beaten path for most that most Okcians probably don't even know that it exits.

Jason said...

I'll go to the grand opening with you!

Doug Dawg said...

You got it, Jason ... that's a done deal!