Winged lions revisited
The winged lions that were originally destined for the state Capitol have been sitting right up the street from The Oklahomanbuilding all these years. Their location is in front of Cunningham Interiors at 2701 W Britton Road.
I want to thank the readers who called and e-mailed to let me know where the lions were and to tell me their memories of the lions. I especially want to thank Sheldon Tarver and Lyle Cunningham of Cunningham Interiors for their calls. They both gave me additional information that led to me finding the following:
A story from The Oklahoman, Sept 24, 1968, that did not come up in my original search, answers the question of when the lions were moved and tells of the fuss that followed.
“After sitting docilely on the corner of NW14 and Classen Dr. for over 50 years, two lions decided Monday it was high time to kick up their heels and cause a little confusion.
The seven foot, 2,500 pound marble mammoths, which had twice been promised to the Oklahoma City Zoo, were recently sold to Cunningham Interiors, 2640 NW Britton Rd. by M. S. Kaufman, of 823 NW 47, who owns the property on which the lions stood.
The hassle began when movers hired by the company carted the statues off Monday morning only minutes before the zoo movers arrived on the scene.
“The statues belong to the zoo,” Mrs. Martha J. Sturm, zoo official, said. “We’ve been delayed in picking them up, but we definitely want them to place at the zoo’s entrance.”
“I offered the lions to the zoo about 10 years ago,” Kaufman said. “They never came and picked them up. I got an opportunity to sell them, so I did.”
Meanwhile, about five years ago, zoo officials were again offered the lions by another man, L. A. Wilcox, 1848 Dorchester Dr., who said he was their rightful owner.
Mrs. Sturm said zoo officials had accepted Wilcox’s offer and had planned since that time to have them removed to the zoo as soon as they could decide on an appropriate spot for them.
“The drawings were submitted and plans drawn up the first of the year,” Mrs. Sturm said. “Mr. Wilcox has worked with us and was eager for the zoo to have them.”
“We contacted the moving people and they were to pick the statues up Monday morning,” she said. “When we arrived the lions were gone.”
Wilcox said that about 5 years ago, his son, Burr Wilcox, who owned a wrecking company, was contracted by Kaufman to demolish the buildings that occupied the property.
“When a man accepts such a job,” Wilcox explained, “the buildings he tears down automatically belong to him.”
He said his son asked Kaufman if he might salvage the two statues and donate them to a worthy cause, and Kaufman agreed.
However, shortly before the job was finished, Burr Wilcox died. His father then decided that the lions should be donated to the zoo as a memorial to his son.”
With two estates involved and the zoo claiming ownership, the last story I was able to find was from the next day and said, “attorneys for three individuals and the zoo met but were unable to work out an agreement.”
Since Cunningham Interiors had purchased, paid for and moved the lions, the assumption is that legally they were his, and so they have been for the last 42 years.
I drove past last week, and the lions looked well cared for and quite content.
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