Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Atkinson Heritage Center Photo Album

Accompaniment to the 4-minute video below is provided by the
Voices of Music ensemble to Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D Major and was taken from its You Tube video. The video presents many of the grounds & 1st floor images of the Atkinson Center, but it does not present them all. Others, and 2nd floor and garage photos, are in the graphics files below the video.

If you've not noticed it already, in Steve Lackmeyer & Jack Moneys' website, Steve has begun a series of fascinating articles about W.P. "Bill" Atkinson, the builder of Midwest City, 2-time gubernatorial candidate, and founder of the Oklahoma Journal, "The Newspaper That Tells Both Sides." Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here, but there is more to come since the series isn't done yet. Also, see this RootsWeb article, this very nice piece by C.G. Hill at the famed Dustbury, and this more general article about Midwest City at OHS's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture.

Eventually and doubtless, will also include in its website the marvelous 1991 interview by Ronnie Kaye for KOKH-TV's Sunday PM show of Bill Atkinson which you can see here in three parts. I say, "doubtless," since is already claiming branding rights to those videos, as you will see when you watch them. This interview may well be the only such public interview Atkinson ever gave, and it's a good one.

I'm tempted to post those videos here (as well as combine the 3 videos and clip out the commercials), but I'd be stealing Steve & Jack's thunder, so I won't -- at least, not yet. "Not yet, I won't. Not yet ... like hell I won't ..."

So said John Wayne in McLintock before he clobbered the self-righteous and indignant macho homesteader guy and sent him down the mineral sleuth into the muddy pit far below, and I confess to being a much lesser guy than John Wayne ... so here is the combined video, 27 minutes in length, no commercials, and complete with's branding but all included in one file ... sorry, Steve & Jack, I hope that you don't mind ... "OUCH, JW ... why did you go and do that" ...

The devil made me do it. Other than might be gleaned from the above video, this article doesn't tell history — Steve is already doing that quite well — but it shows it, at least the part of it that Bill Atkinson called home after 1955. The photos below were taken on September 23, 2009, in my tour of the Atkinson Heritage Center, Midwest City, thanks to the graciousness of my tour guide, Carolyn Cuskey, curator of the museum (which is effectively what it is), history professor at Rose State College.

For the written history part, see Steve's articles. For the photos, read on.

To skip directly to the photos, click here

The Atkinson Heritage Center is located at 1001 N. Midwest Boulevard, that being at the southwest corner of NE 10th Street & Midwest Boulevard. The following aerials show the property, generally.

Spring 2010 Google Map Aerial (north at top)

Winter 2005 Microsoft Bing Aerial (west at top)

In the above, notice that three main buildings are present, the Main House, the 2nd House, and the Pony Barn.

Atkinson and his first wife, Rubye, lived in the "main house." After her death, Atkinson later remarried, and, if I understand it correctly, his sense was that his second wife, Dorothy, would prefer a different home, hence, the 2nd home came to be.

The Heritage Center maintains a modest web page here, as part of the Rose State College web pages. The 8,000 square-foot main house was built in 1955 although a cabin, the "Red Ranch," which is integrated into the main house existed much earlier around the birth of Tinker Field. Later, Atkinson contemplated that he would become governor of the state and that the main house would be a showplace for visiting dignitaries during his tenure as well as a historic site as a former governor's home. However, his attempts to become governor in 1958 and 1962 did not succeed, and upon his death in 1999 he left the property in trust with the Rose State College Foundation which now owns the property. The campus is leased back to Rose State College for operation and maintenance.

Carolyn wanted me to mention and give credit to others whose support and assistance has been exemplary for the center, most notably the Atkinson Heritage Center Oversight Committee which consists of about 18 local residents who provide feedback and advice on the present and future use and administration of the property, as well as individuals who volunteer their services when need arises — such as when the exterior of the main building was badly in need of attention and Midwest City's Breeden Painting stepped up and repaired and painted the entire building free of charge.

In addition to its other purposes, the estate is the location of the Eastern Oklahoma County Regional History Collection (EOCRHC) which was established several years ago at Rose State College. In addition to her duties with this center and at Oscar Rose, Carolyn is also a founding member of Retro Metro OKC which went public a couple of weeks ago. Carolyn maintains an excellent collection of historic photos of Midwest City in her flickr account here.

The photos that I took of this campus on September 23, 2009, follow. You can move to a group with the following links:

Entering Campus    On Entry    Looking Around Red Ranch
An unsual bathroom    Atkinson's Office    Informal Dining, etc.
Formal Dining    Formal Living Room    Casual Recreation Room
Rooms Off Back Hall    Main Entrance    2nd Floor Landing
Master Bedroom    2nd Bedroom    3rd Bedroom
The Garage    North Grounds & Pony Barn

Click on any image for a much larger view.

Entering The Campus From Midwest Boulevard
At Driveway Along South End Going To Back Yard
Returning To The Northeast Side To Enter The Heritage Center
Entering The Center From The Visitor Entrance
This large room hosted meetings and conferences and presents a visual history of Midwest City, Tinker Air Force Base, and Oklahoma City, all around.

Looking North -- The Red Ranch
Looking Around Red Ranch -- click right thumbnail for a brief history
(click for a readable view)
"Colonel Turnbull made it very plain to me that there would be no whiskey drinking as long as he was associated with the red ranch. *** I assured him that there would be no use of whiskey, unless our Governor insists on having a toddy. In that case we would put a divan in front of the fireplace where he could sleep most of the day."
Indoor Oven & Bar-B-Que

Looking Around The Room
Looking South

Proceeding South, Something Unusual Is Encountered In A Bathroom
Carolyn said Atkinson enjoyed surprising visitors.

On seeing the above, I was startled, not just surprised.
Approaching Atkinson's office, cubbyhole rooms held files ...
Carolyn Cuskey Shows Off Atkinson's Office

Entering The Informal Dining, Den & Kitchen Areas

A Hall Leads To The Formal Dining Room

Thresholds Lead To Other Rooms
The Formal Living Area

A Casual Lounge and Recreation Room

Rubye Atkinson's Hobby Was Collecting & Making Fabergé Eggs
A Hall Along the Back (West) Side Leads Go A Bath & Food Service Rooms
The Hall Leads To The Main Entrance
Three Bedrooms Are Accessed From the 2nd Floor Landing
The Master Bedroom
Second Bedroom
Third Bedroom

The Garage

At the time of my September 2009 visit, Carolyn said that all of the stuff you see in these pictures contained files and documents related to the Oklahoma Journal and that they would be transferred to the Oklahoma Historical Society. By the time this article is written, that may already have occurred. Temperature and humidity controls were present in the garage to care for the documents being stored there. An interior entrance to the garage is made from the back (west) hall previously shown.
An Example From A File
Actress/model Suzy Parker

Look At All These Files --
A history lover's delight!

The North Grounds & Pony Barn

Walking east from the center's visitor entry point toward the pony barn and looking north, the home that Atkinson constructed after his second marriage, to Dorothy, is shown below. This property is not presently available for touring. Proceeding easterly, the pony barn's exterior is observed.
Originally used to house Atkinson's Shetland ponies and horses, today the barn has been converted into meeting areas for civic and historical groups as well as being available for private rental for parties and such.
A bridge group was using the north room

Below, Relics Of Days Gone By

To rent pony barn premises, or to arrange for a Atkinson Heritage Center tour of your own (free, but by appointment only), call Carolyn Cuskey at 405-732-5832, or send her an e-mail at

And, once again, I say to you, Carolyn Cuskey ...

... thanks for a fantastic tour and afternoon on September 23, 2009!

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