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Ponca City Information

Ponca City Attractions - Extra

History Brought to Life Through Murals

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Between October, 2008 and October, 2009, artists have brought Ponca City’s history to life with colorful murals reviving city founders and key events of the past. In October. 2008, artists working with Dr. Bob Palmer finished their work on two murals on Grand Avenue between the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway tracks and First Street.

Again looking out over the community are the images of E.W. and Lydie Marland, George Marland, Lew Wentz, Will Rogers and the Miller Brothers who owned the 101 Ranch and Wild West Shows. A few other familiar faces are scattered in the murals as well — standing with Lew Wentz in the east mural are Fred Boettcher and Polly Black Edwards as children. Wentz is shown slipping a coin or two to Boettcher so he can go to a movie.

These murals represent Ponca City’s history in the years from 1928 to 1930, said Jayne Detten, the treasurer of the mural committee. The importance of train service to Ponca City’s history is represented on the west mural with a Marland Oil tanker car, a passenger car Marland won in a card game, a car representing the 101 Ranch Wild West Show and a steam engine.

The centerpiece of the east mural is the image of the Arcade Hotel which stood at the corner of Grand Avenue and First Street. The hotel was the home of E.W. Marland and his first wife, Mary Virginia, who died in 1926, and Lew Wentz and also housed VIP guests. First known as the Rhodes House, the building received a new stucco facade and red tile roof in 1921 and was renamed the Arcade Hotel. The hotel was demolished in  1974.

Artist Lisa Quishenberry painted the portraits that appeared in the murals. She has worked with Palmer, a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma, for about three years on many murals across Oklahoma. She also painted the portraits in the Centennial murals in Oklahoma City and is a former artist for Six Flags.

Burton Brandt, who started the committee, said three of his grandchildren, ages 2, 5 and 7, came down while the walls were being primed so they could pick up a paint brush and feel like they were part of the process.

In June, 2009, Ponca City Main Street and the Downtown Mural Committee again invited Palmer and his students to Ponca City to refurbish two historic Coca-Cola signs located on south Second Street.

Both signs were originally painted between 1920 and 1940.

The most prominent sign on the corner of Second Street and Central was originally painted by the company of Thomas Cusack of Chicago in the 1920s.

Added to the right of this sign are the Chandler, Cleveland and Stuz Bearcat cars that were typically sold at Freeman Motors, which was housed in the building at 208 South Second Street, on which the cola sign is painted.

“These particular cars represent the types of cars that were sold in the building,” said Mark Freeman, a direct descendent of Freeman Motors now living in Pawhuska.

Standing with the cars is a 1920s automobile service man similar to one that would have helped with car repairs, gassing up and any other automobile needs.

Also added to the mural are two customers, a 1920s couple, considering the purchase of one of the three automobiles.

The second of the two signs, circa 1940s, was completed on the building in which Dick and Runts Bar-B-Q was housed at 217 South Second Street.

It boasts the “Sprite Boy” logo which was introduced by Coca-Cola as an advertising graphic for its drink in the early 1940s.

Contributions to pay for the sign repainting and mural work were given by Ponca City Main Street in the form of a façade grant equaling $2,000 and through a grant from Coca-Cola Products, also for $2,000.

The Historic Downtown Mural Committee is continuing to accept donations for the ongoing mural and sign restoration fund. Contributions are tax deductible thought Ponca City Main Street, a 501-(C)(3) entity.

In October, 2009, the 101 Ranch Mural Project kicked off with Palmer’s team returning to paint a mural honoring the 101 Miller Bros. Wild West Show and Ranch.

Sponsors said the historic mural was to depict scenes from the 101 Ranch and Wild West Show of the early 1900s. This mural was painted on the east facade 205 West Grand Avenue, the old Nonamaker Building.

The identifiable characters were to include Bill Pickett, the Miller Brothers and Chief White Eagle, Brandt said.

In July, 2014, New art in downtown Ponca City representing town history.

Of course most know, E.W. Marland struck oil here in Ponca City around 1911 which lead to the birth of the refinery. But did you know he had an office downtown, along with the first filling station? Maybe not, which is why the Main Street Association decided to add a historical mural to downtown. Jayne Detten, Main Street Executive Director said the Marland office was across the street from the post office, and the filling station was on the corner of where the post office is today. The new mural isn't far from there either. It's right above Happy Days Cafe at 5th and Grand Avenue, on the side of the Marland Mall building.

“We did some research on vintage advertisements for Marland Oil, and came across several post cards and decided to have one of those advertisements painted on a side of a building downtown,” Detten said. “We were able to budget it in and the building owners cooperated. We hired the artist who were the mural painters from the murals that were done several years ago. They're a group of artist with their professor, Bob Palmer from the University of Central Oklahoma, and they came up and painted the vintage oil sign.”

Detten said it's the Main street Association's job to pass on the history of Ponca City, especially if it pertains to the downtown district. Since that is the associations mission they felt there needed to be a piece of historic fabric representing the Marland Oil history downtown.

“It's not suppose to be like a landscape painting,” Detten said. “It's an advertisement, so it's a copy of an early day advertisement. So, part of the motives aren't real detailed, but again it was intended to advertise the Marland Oil Products. That's the reason it looks the way it does and the colors are 1920s, as is the style of art that you see in the mural.”

The mural is now complete. So, now as you drive down Grand Avenue you'll notice the bold green, blue and red of the mural and be reminded where it all began. The painting shows a simpler time with a car unlike the ones we drive today and the slogan, “for smooth traveling."