Travelers to any part of Oklahoma can learn more about the heritage, history and development of historic places, communities and regions by looking for properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
More than 1,200 entries from all regions of Oklahoma are listed on the National Register, said Melvena Heisch, deputy director of Oklahoma's State Historic Preservation Office, a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. National Register documentation of these entries can provide a valuable resource for travelers interested in Oklahoma's heritage and history.
Information is available for visitors to historic sites and areas such as the Sod House in northwestern Oklahoma, Guthrie's Carnegie Library in central Oklahoma, Fort Gibson in eastern Oklahoma and Fort Washita in southeastern Oklahoma, all operated by the historical society.
The register, established under the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966, is the catalog of the archaeological and historic properties that are significant in our nation's heritage, Heisch said.
“The Oklahoma Historical Society's mission is to collect, preserve and share the history of our remarkable state,” said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the agency.
The preservation office helps carry out this mission through federal historic preservation programs.
“The state office collects and evaluates information on buildings, structures, sites, districts, objects and landscapes. With this information, the state office nominates eligible properties to the National Register of Historic Places as a level of preservation,” Blackburn said.
From the nomination forms, researchers can learn about local history in general, Heisch said. They also can obtain specific details about why a property is significant. They can find the physical description of the property and view photographs taken at the time of the nomination. Both privately and publicly owned historic properties are included in the National Register.
“While the locations of a few of them, such as archaeological sites, are not public information, travelers can view the majority of these historic places from the public right of way,” Heisch said. “For example, visitors can drive through a historic neighborhood, such as Oklahoma City's Heritage Hills or Tulsa's Maple Ridge, and enjoy the exceptional architecture of these historic areas.
“In other cases, properties function as places to shop or enjoy entertainment and access as determined by the hours of operation. Visitors can shop for antiques, have dinner and attend the theater in downtown Guthrie, a National Register district, or view performances at the historic Poncan Theater in Ponca City or the Coleman Theater in Miami.”
Other properties on the National Register possess a special importance in Oklahoma history and are shared with the public through interpretive programs. The Oklahoma Historical Society owns and operates a number of sites with interpretive programs in various parts of the state.
The Sod House Museum, near Aline and Cleo Springs, was one of thousands of “soddies” that once dotted the prairie. It was built in 1894 by Marshal McCully, who made the two-room sod house with blocks of thick buffalo grass that blanketed the prairie.
Oklahoma's first Carnegie Library was started in Guthrie on Oct. 17, 1901, when the cornerstone was laid. The construction cost of $35,000 included $25,000 from the Carnegie Foundation.
Frank Frantz, the seventh and last governor of Oklahoma Territory, took his oath of office on the library's front steps. On Nov. 16, 1907, Charles N. Haskell was sworn into office as the first state governor of Oklahoma on the library steps.
Fort Gibson was established in 1824 as a starting point for military expeditions that explored the West and sought peace between American Indian tribes in the region. Visitors can see a reconstruction of the early log fort and original buildings from the 1840s through the 1870s. Exhibits are available at the Commissary Visitors Center on Garrison Hill, and events are scheduled throughout the year.
Fort Washita was established during 1842 in the Choctaw Nation of what was then Indian Territory as the southwestern-most military post of the United States. In 1962 the site was acquired by the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Today, the Fort Washita Rendezvous is held each spring and includes days for schoolchildren. There are numerous other Oklahoma sites on the National Register of Historic Places for visitors. The preservation office partners with Oklahoma State University's Department of Geography to make this register possible, Heisch said.
To access a National Register nomination, visit www.