For a close-to-home weekend retreat, Guthrie is an artsy and inviting destination.
The town is well-known for its historical relevance in Oklahoma. Once the territorial capitol, then the state capitol, Guthrie is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The collection of late 19th and early 20th century Victorian buildings that comprise the city's downtown makes a visit to Guthrie like taking a carriage ride back in time.
An urban renewal or renaissance of sorts is under way downtown, as artsy industrialists are working hard to renovate and restore many of the town's historic buildings into art galleries, event spaces, restaurants and hotels. Artists, chefs and musicians are setting up shop and home where the living is a little slower and everything is in walking distance: there's a grocery store within a couple blocks, there are at least five old-timey drugstores (and a drugstore museum), a post office, newspaper, restaurants, theater, a little night life and bowling all within a stone's throw.
“As ‘starving artists,' we find that we can live here very economically,” said Tiffany Bohrer. She is a painter, married to Joe Bohrer, aka “Utopia Joe,” a furniture artist. The couple just moved into a loft at Oklahoma Ave. and Second, above Gallery Grazioso, where Bohrer is executive director.
Good comes to town
Though he's not a starving artist, Gary Good, owner of the Gallery Grazioso, is an entrepreneur who, during the past few years, has also been buying in to the town's allure.
For example, when he bought the building the gallery is housed in, it was mostly empty. But when first built in 1902, the building was the Pabst Milwaukee Brewing Company. Legend has it that Mr. Pabst had an office upstairs, presumably in what is now the Suite Bettie Jean, a rentable loft that Good named for his mother.
He thought he'd fix up the empty corner space, but couldn't find the fit he wanted from the businesses who were interested in leasing. Good imagined the space as an art gallery or a little theater or something that would add culture to the area. After letting artist Bert Seabourn show his work there during a Guthrie Art Walk, Good decided to transform the space into Gallery Grazioso.
Good is the son of Al Good, the noted Oklahoma bandleader. Al Good died in 2003. The Al Good Orchestra he founded still plays and carries on his name throughout the state. Gary Good likewise has kept alive his family's show biz legacy by operating Gary Good Entertainment and Speakers Bureau.
Inside Gallery Grazioso, visitors will find fine art by many local and national artists as well as a room full of signed, framed headshots of dozens of the famous musicians the Goods have worked with throughout the years. The art of painters David Canavesio, Joy Richardson and Cheri Wollenberg are staples in the gallery. And, you'll find some of Utopia Joe's furniture creations on exhibit in the space. For information about the gallery, go to www.gallerygrazioso.com.
Good has been busy rethinking several other Guthrie properties as hotels and special event venues. Tucked into the northwest corner of the downtown area are his Magnolia Moon and Magnolia Manor. Both Magnolias (named for his grandmother who loved the flowers) are in prime downtown territory, but even many longtime Guthrie residents have no idea what lies behind the industrial-looking exterior walls of the property.
Magnolia Manor is either the first or second poured concrete structure in the state — there is a friendly feud between the manor and the Colcord Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City for the designation, Good said. Construction of both buildings was started in 1910 but the question is over which structure was finished first.
The Manor sits off Cleveland Avenue, just east of the railroad tracks, and features three suites visitors can rent. Each is a mix of old and new — the industrial feel of the renovated suites is evident in the exposed cement floors and concrete walls, but softened by Good's eclectic taste in art and contemporary decor.