I recently had the privilege of visiting Ponca City for a weekend. I went into the trip expecting another sleepy Oklahoma town, where just about all I would find would be a Mazzio’s, a Braum’s, and a Mexican restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised to find a city rich with history and culture, just an hour and a half drive away from Tulsa.
1. The Pioneer Woman
Most people who grew up in Oklahoma know at least one thing about Ponca City: it’s where the Pioneer Woman statue is. It may surprise some of you to know that the original Pioneer Woman was not blogger/TV star Ree Drummond, but rather a statue of this woman and her son.
The statue and its accompanying museum are located at 701 Monument Road in Ponca City. The bronze cast part of the statue is 17-feet high and weighs 12,000 pounds. It was erected in 1930 at a cost of $300,000. The museum, located next to the statue, features craft demonstrations, special exhibits, an interactive timeline and the Pioneer Woman Walk of Fame. The museum is dedicated to the enduring spirit of women – past, present, and future – who see no boundaries.
2. Marland Mansion
The Marland Mansion is the part of Ponca City that undoubtedly took my breath away the most. I had no idea that this little city in Oklahoma had been home to a former millionaire who had a very intriguing history. The dream of oil baron and former governor of Oklahoma E.W. Marland was to live in a palace. This magnificent mansion reflects the elegance of the affluent days of the oilman, who lived lavishly and entertained in the same style.
You want to feel like you’re on the set of Downton Abbey? I’m pretty sure this is the closest it gets in Oklahoma. Just look at those magnificent place settings! I can almost hear the Dowager Countess tinkling a little bell in the distance…
This National Historic Landmark took three years to construct, 1925 to 1928. The mansion is 78 feet wide and 184 feet long, and contains 43,561 square feet distributed over four levels. There are 55 rooms, including 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, seven fireplaces, and three kitchens.
When you visit the mansion, I highly recommend you go on a guided tour, which takes about two hours. This will allow you to hear the history of Mr. Marland and his family. In his day, Marland caused many a fiasco, including marrying his adopted daughter after his first wife died (only after un-adopting her, of course!).
A couple of my favorite parts of the tour were:
-In Marland’s bathroom, he had the first sauna west of the Mississippi River installed.
-Marland’s office bookcases are fashioned after the bookcases in the Oval Office.
-The pool on the property is huge, and Marland used to allow the public to swim in it once a week.
A visit to the Marland Mansion alone would make a trip to Ponca City worthwhile, in my opinion. Visit the Marland Estate’s website for more details.
3. Go to church
Not just any church….an historic church! Grace Episcopal Church is absolutely lovely, and its history is intriguing. The original building, which was at 7th st and Central Avenue, was a church home to many prominent Ponca Citians, including Governor Marland, since the 1920’s.
In the 1950’s, it was decided that the church should be moved to its current location at 13th and Grand Ave., and parts of the church were literally cut apart, picked up, and moved! Architect J. Duncan Forsyth was engaged to design the new church. The church contains many beautiful pieces of stained glass and statues, and is definitely worth touring!
OK, what did I forget? What are your recommendations of things to do in Ponca City?