Guests exploring Heritage Hills during its annual Historic Home and Garden Tour this weekend may not realize it, but they are getting an education.
“People get to see what a historic home looks like and learn about the objects in the home,” said Suzette Hatfield, president of the Heritage Hills Associate Board. It also gives people a chance to learn more about Heritage Hills and the preservation there, she said.
The event is the centerpiece of the board's education efforts, which also include three general meetings a year bringing in experts to share their knowledge.
The 46th annual tour wraps up Sunday.
Rich history told
The neighborhood traces its history back to the early 1900s when city and state leaders built their stately homes amid what had been remote farmland. Most of the area was fully developed by 1925, and it was home to the city's elite for decades. But Heritage Hills felt the effects as nearby downtown fell into neglect, and encroaching businesses began to nibble at its edges.
But when Mayor George Shirk came into office in 1964, he made preservation a priority, creating the state's Historic Preservation Commission and instituting on-the-ground efforts to save the city's oldest structures.
Heritage Hills became the state's first Historic Preservation District in 1969 when three downtown neighborhoods joined forces. Residents formed Historic Preservation, Inc. to direct preservation efforts in Heritage Hills. HPI works with historic neighborhoods as well, especially neighboring East Heritage Hills and Mesta Park, Hatfield said.
“We work on them on a continual basis to try to prevent encroachment,” she said. “That's the biggest threat to a historic neighborhood, eroded boundaries — the houses go next.”
The associate board is a permanent committee of HPI tasked with education and social duties.
Funds raised through tour ticket sales are funneled back into preservation efforts, including workshops to educate residents on the nuts and bolts of living in a historic home. Some pay for beautification such as the recently installed lamp posts studding neighborhood streets. Funds also benefit Wilson Elementary, the neighborhood school, in forms ranging from new equipment to outright cash donations. A big chunk goes into maintaining Heritage Hills' public spaces as well.
“We maintain all the parks and medians that are actually the property of the city of Oklahoma City but are within our borders,” Hatfield said, an effort she estimated costs about $50,000 annually.
And the money also goes toward the associate board's social duties, which are completely separate from its education duties, Hatfield said. “But it does serve the purpose of getting neighbors together for parties, getting to know each other and things like that, and it makes this like the smallest town in the world.”
If you go
The 46th annual Heritage Hills Historic Home & Garden Tour continues from noon to 5 p.m.
Stops this year include St. Luke United Methodist Church, 222 NW 15, as well as the nearby Hefner Mansion, 201 NW 14. The Overholser Mansion, 405 NW 15, will serve as tour central, and guests are urged to start out at the mansion.
Food, provided by Ingrid's Kitchen, will be available from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Overholser Mansion carriage house.
Tour tickets are $15. Go online at www.heritage