On the west side of Ponca City, about a mile north of downtown, there’s a red-brick building nearly 60 feet tall with three massive front windows, each two-stories high, and brick columns supporting a Doric entablature that stretches across the front and wraps around two sides.

It looks grand enough to be a courthouse or city hall or an oil tycoon’s corporate headquarters from the Boom Era. But the smoke stacks and high-voltage power lines give it away. This is the old Municipal Light and Power Plant.

Built in 1927, it became one of five Ponca City buildings added last week to the National Register of Historic Places. Five listings at once would be remarkable for a major metropolitan area. For a town with a population under 30,000, it’s a triumph that should leave Ponca bursting with civic pride. Especially because the listings include an industrial site like the Power Plant.

Its historic significance for Ponca City seems obvious. It literally powered the town through the Great Depression and World War II. But the rest of us can appreciate the building as a reminder of how much a previous generation valued beauty.

To supplement the diesel-powered generators in the old Power Plant, Ponca City built a more modern steam-powered plant in 1964. It stands next door to the older plant, but looks nothing like it, with walls of corrugated aluminum painted gray.

Somewhere between 1927 and 1964, people decided that a power plant just needed to be functional, not pretty.

Other new listings in Ponca City include an Italian Renaissance Revival house built for oilman E.W. Marland’s sister between 1914 and 1916, a decade before the much larger and more famous Marland Mansion was built in the same style.

Kansas City architects John Shaver and Charles Shaver worked with local architect W.R. Brown in the early 1950s to design Ponca City’s landmark First Presbyterian Church with a unique blend of Modern and Goth Revival elements.

Built in 1922, the Ponca City Milling Company’s six-story grain elevator still dominates the skyline and is one the largest and best-preserved examples of a flour-milling and grain-storage operation in the area. And Temple Emanuel, built in 1964 and designed by local architect G. Harold Kanady, is one of the town’s most striking Mid-Century Modern buildings.

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Michael Overall



Twitter: @MichaelOverall2

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