PONCA CITY -- E.W. Marland died half a century ago, but his
legacy remains alive here.
Marland's life ran to legendary proportions. The Pennsylvania
native won and lost an oil fortune in West Virginia, a much
larger one in Oklahoma, was a high-stakes gambler, lived
lavishly, spent great amounts on his community and his workers,
was a businessman with a strong social conscience, an enthusiastic
conservationist and gardener.
He had boom-and-bust times in politics as well as oil. After
losing his independent Marland Oil Co. to financial sharks
led by the younger J.P. Morgan, Marland a Democratic convert
and ardent New Dealer won a term in Congress and one as
Oklahoma's governor. Two bids for the U.S. Senate were unsuccessful.
After his first wife died in 1926, he created controversy
by having the legal status of their adopted daughter, Lydie,
changed so he could marry her.
He drilled for and found oil from the Appalachians to California,
over much of the West and into Mexico. He pioneered in drilling
the rich Three Sands and Burbank fields of Oklahoma this
by a man trained as a lawyer, an early-day coal prospector
self-taught in geology.
He was someone not easily forgotten.
As if to make certain of that, two former Marland mansions
in Ponca City now are fascinating museums.
One, Marland's older and (relatively) smaller home, is a
more traditional museum. It has a fine, extensive collection
of American Indian artifacts plus early-day photos, sculpture,
a room devoted to the area's fabled 101 Ranch and another
honoring the Daughters of the American Revolution.
The other home is a monument to ego, elegance, exhibitionism
Combined, the museums are an excellent excuse for the modest
drive from Tulsa. While visiting them, also see the 17-foot-tall
bronze `Pioneer Woman" statue Marland's gift to Oklahoma
in 1930 and adjacent museum.
The older Marland mansion, now the Ponca City Cultural Center
and Museums once was surrounded by 400 acres of gardens
and golf course. Even on today's much more modest lot, its
Mediterranean style is regal.
Its four stories include a 15-by-70-foot swimming pool in
the basement, and a large living room, sun room and library
on the first floor. The library has a mural of a fox-hunting
party. That blood sport and polo were two of Marland's favorites.
A former garage has been turned into a collection of Bryant
Baker's works. The renowned sculptor did the `Pioneer Woman"
statue. On his death, many of his busts of famous persons
were purchased for display here.
The museum's crowning attraction, how-ever, is room upon
room of Indian artifacts war bonnets, spears, beadwork,
saddles, blankets, baskets, pottery, axes, arrowheads, moccasins,
dresses, cradle boards, pipes, kachina dolls, paintings.
Quality and display are excellent.
On the outside, the building needs considerable patching.
LaWanda French, city director of cultural affairs, plans
major repairs, but said the city lacks funds for all the
work needed. Don't let peeling deter you, though; the mansion's
interior is striking.
Marland moved from his first mansion to his second in 1928.
It is gargantuan in scale 43,561 square feet of floor space
that cost $5.5 million more than six decades ago.
Marland's surrounding property once was 2,500 acres, including
a golf course, game preserve, polo fields and five lakes.
John Sutton,executive director of the Marland estate, said
the lands now total 31 acres.
The mansion could seem overbearing except for the superb
artwork, craftsmanship and use of furnishings.
The inner lounge in the basement has a colorful ceiling
that depicts Oklahoma's history from the pre-Columbian period
to the discovery of oil.
The dining room has a barrel-vault ceiling, English oak
paneling from a royal forest and gleaming silver sconces
(wall brackets for lights).
What appear to be gold mosaics on arches are cleverly crafted
The huge, airy salon is a favorite, with striking floor
pattern, bamboo furniture and art.
Paneling in Marland's bedroom includes carved heads of two
favorite ponies bracketing crossed polo mallets.
Lydie Marland's bedroom is a soft combination of lime-wood
walls with delicate carvings and a pink marble fireplace.
The house had seven safes, including one for silverware
(the kitchen could handle dinners for 350 people). Walk-in
closets are larger than most folks' bedrooms. A call system
enabled people in any room to signal to the kitchen that
they needed refreshments.
Period furniture ranging from massive to dainty is spread
throughout the huge home. Much of it was owned by Marland.
The squeeze of the Great Depression and an unfriendly takeover
of Marland Oil by Continental Oil Co. (Conoco) forced Marland
out of the oil business and soon out of his new home, which
became too expensive for daily upkeep.
He and Lydie moved to the adjacent artists' studio, using
the mansion only for special occasions. Shortly before he
died in 1941, Marland sold the mansion and remaining grounds
to the Carmelite Friars for a reported $66,000.
Both museums have rooms devoted to the 101 Ranch, that great
spread of the Miller brothers near Ponca City that once covered 110,000
acres in four counties. Marland and the equally interesting
Millers were friends.
The 101 may have been the greatest diversified farm in America,with
thousands of cattle and hogs, hundreds of horses, vast acreage
in wheat, cotton and other crops, fruit and pecan trees
and much more.
Because oil was discovered on the ranch, it had its own
refinery. It also had a packing house, tannery, power plant,
cannery, dairy and other enterprises.
For years, the 101's Wild West show toured the United States
and Europe, and movies were made on the ranch's broad lands.
Future actors Tom Mix and Hoot Gibson got their starts there;
a photo shows Mix as a member of a ranch baseball team.
Bill Pickett, the black cowboy who invented bulldogging,
was a featured performer for decades.
Numerous photos of frontier towns, Indians, oil-boom times
and the ranch await visitors at each museum.
In one outbuilding of the second mansion, two rooms hold
a petroleum exhibit and Marland memorabilia.
The museums provide insight on Marland's fascinating character
-on a man who loved an opulent lifestyle, yet championed
good wages and working conditions for his employees and
welfare programs for those in need.
They also depict the frontiersmen and Indians who helped
to shape that character.
It was a time and land where fox hunters could end up chasing a coyote.
Marland Mansion and Estate
WHERE Monument Road, Ponca City 74604. Located about two
blocks north of Pioneer Woman statue; take U.S. 77 up east
side of Ponca City, then curve between statue and museum
on east side of 77 to reach Monument.
HOURS Open daily noon to 4 p.m. September through May; 10
a.m. to 5 p.m. during summer. Closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas
and New Year's Day.
TOURS Guided tours 1:30 p.m., Monday-Friday; 1:30 and 2
p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Pamphlet available for self-guided tours.
COST Adults $4, senior citizens $3, students (6-17) $1.50,
under 6 free.
INFORMATION Call 1-800-532-7559 and ask for mansion, or
Ponca City Cultural Center and Museums
WHERE 1000 E. Grand, Ponca City 74601, east of downtown
on Business U.S. 60.
HOURS Monday, Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday
1 to 5 p.m; closed Tuesday. Also closed Thanksgiving, Christmas
Eve and Christmas, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
COST $1 for non-Ponca City residents.