A slice of Italy in Oklahoma
Earlier in our series Oklahoma Revealed:
A trip to the Museum of Osteology.
All summer, we’re taking trips across the state, discovering the places that might go unnoticed. Some are small, some large. File today’s in the latter category. In fact, it may be the largest home in Oklahoma. The Marland Mansion in Ponca City has truly earned the title of mansion. 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, and more, all taking up more than 43-thousand square feet….
You’re 20 miles from the Kansas border, but you could be in the middle of Italy. Just listen to the Mansion’s Executive Director David Keathly.
“The ceiling here is modeled after one of the palace of Versailles, and it is a very highly detailed, very intricate, molded plaster coffered ceiling. It has a number of levels of subtle paint, but as you can see, it’s not real subtle because it had 88 thousand dollars worth of 24 karat gold leaf applied to it.”
Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do but stare in awe. This is one of those times. There’s even gold on the wrought iron air conditioning grates. Few people would really care enough to add some gold to a grate. But this is the Marland Mansion, built by the former Oklahoma Governor and oil man. EW Marland devoted himself to the task of building the mansion, even enlisting the help of family members…
“You can probably tell right now, his favorite color was green which happened to be the color of money. He used green predominantly through his suite and the carpets, the walls, and the tiles.”
All of that money pays for beautifully refined limestone throughout the lower floors, Italian stucco walls upstairs, and a lot of gold. One room, far and away the nicest in the mansion, is stuffed full of gold, but that’s only after you get past the two stars in the middle.
“The first thing you notice are the Waterford crystal chandeliers, they are beautiful sparkling crystal. They were 15-thousand dollars each when he purchased them in 1928.”
The last thing you notice is the basement.
Down here, there’s a kitchen tucked just off the stairs. Then, a hidden door. And finally, a modest table. But that table likely got a lot of use.
“And this is the poker room. So long before Oklahoma had casinos on every other corner, if you wanted to play poker and gamble, you needed to do it behind the scenes.”
A room isn’t enough for a guy who spent $5.5 million on a mansion. That’s $5.5 million in the 1920’s. So adjusting for inflation that would be 5 carry the 1, add that to this, ahh let’s just say it’s a lot. In fact, the Mansion is said to be the most expensive house in Oklahoma history. Going along with poker chips are cocktails. And because of Prohibition, Marland built a long passageway.
“It leads out to the artist’s studio. And here you can hear the echo. We are walking underground, under the north terrace, under the north gardens, eventually under Lydie Marland’s statue through a couple of stairways and then down to the boathouse.”
When you finally arrive outside, the grounds continue the Italian theme. They may not be in as pristine shape as they were in the 1920’s, when dinner parties meant formalwear, but they still inspire questions like, is this Oklahoma?
“A narrow sidewalk, and you see the concrete border there? Actually what that was was the border of the double sized Olympic swimming pool. It was 180 feet by 160 feet. So it was Olympic length both directions.”
Who says everything is bigger in Texas? Here at the Marland Mansion, they have quite the evidence that’s not always the case.
This is just another edition in our series Oklahoma Revealed. This story came thanks to a tip of a listener. If you have any ideas, let me know through email: firstname.lastname@example.org, on our facebook page: facebook.com/KOSURadio, or right here in the comments.