"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Friday, July 29, 2011

Marland Mansion

On Monday, I spent the day with my best friend touring the Marland Mansion, in Ponca City.  She lives closer and has been there a few times but this was my first visit.

I was very impressed.

E.W. Marland, born in 1874, was a lawyer and an oilman who made and lost a number of fortunes throughout his life.  At one point, he owned ten percent of all the known oil in the world and his personal wealth was estimated at $85,000,000.

Marland and his first wife didn't have children and, so the story goes, they convinced his wife's poverty stricken sister from back east to allow two of her children, a boy and a girl, to live with them.  After a few years, when the girl, Lydie, was sixteen, they adopted them, legally.  Lydie spent a few years in boarding schools, back east, before returning to Oklahoma. 
Here is a painting of her that isn't very good due to the low light:
Hmm.  Just based on the painting, she appears to be a little tart. :)

She was a superb rider and enjoyed fox hunts and the social life that came with being a Prairie Princess.  Her aunt was in ill health and Lydie played the roll of hostess for a number of years before her aunt passed away when Lydie was twenty-six years old.  Marland and Lydie promptly had the adoption annulled and married when she was twenty-eight.  Marland was fifty-four. 
It was quite the scandal.
The Marland Mansion cost $5.5 million dollars to build and furnish and has 55 rooms, including ten bedrooms, twelve bathrooms and three kitchens.  It had a boathouse and still has an underground tunnel connecting the artist studio (the mansion is filled with carvings and paintings and the artisans lived in the studio during construction).  Hidden inside a large fireplace was a door to where they played high stakes poker and stored the booze that had been outlawed by prohibition.  An Olympic sized swimming pool was adjacent to the house in a T shape so laps could be done in both directions.  
Here are some photos:
 The ceilings were amazing, throughout:
 Loved this red couch:
The gargoyles were adorable and the outside of the mansion was covered with little carvings here and there. 
 Originally, there were five ponds on the property.  The pond is gone but this is the remains of the boathouse:
 Another painted ceiling:
 Tiled ceiling:
 The main kitchen (the stove is a Vulcan):
 The grounds are lovely and used for weddings:
Love the chicken.  I am a chicken fiend: 

 This ceiling contained gold gild.  It cost $80,000.00 in a single room:
 Marland's office was built to look like the Oval Office.  Can't fault the man for being ambitious:
Marland allowed his employees to use the pool and, by all accounts, treated his workers quite well, providing health and dental insurance, recreational opportunities, "saving" salaries, etc.  Workers were allowed into certain parts of the house adjacent to the pool. During the time the mansion was being constructed, the nation was in the midst of the Roaring Twenties and, apparently, money flowed like water.
Construction on the mansion began in 1925.  Marland's first wife died in 1926 and it was completed in 1928 (the year Lydie and Marland wed).  Although the first wife was still alive (although quite ill) when the original plans were drawn, they already had Lydie's bedroom directly adjoining Marland's with a doorway between them. 

Lydie's room (note the door on the far right leading to her "dad's" room:
 Marland's room:
Marland's bathroom was a trip:
 Loved the shelf on the medicine chest:
His shower was quite modern - it had fourteen sprays.  He also had an early style sauna.  Wish I'd thought to get a photo.

I absolutely loved the windows:

Marland lost most of his fortune within months of the wedding.  First, he was voted out of his company (similar to a hostile takeover).  Although he lost much of his fortune when he lost his company, he held on to his stock.  Then came the crash of 1929.  At that point, he couldn't catch a break. 

The Marlands actually only lived there about 18 months before having to move due to the high maintenance and utility costs. For many years, they kept ownership of the mansion and opened it for special events but lived in one of the cottages on the property. 
Following the loss of his last fortune, Marland entered politics and lived in Washington, DC for a time.  He was elected governor of Oklahoma in 1934 and served one term.  It was during the Great Depression and Oklahoma, at the time, was drowning in debt.  Marland wanted to pass grand New Deal type laws to assist poor people through public funding and ran into a great deal of opposition because there wasn't money in the public till. 

He wasn't re-elected. 

The Marlands returned to Ponca City in 1939 and continued to live in the small cottage on the grounds.
In 1941, although they kept the small cottage, they sold the mansion, proper, to the Carmelite Fathers for $66,000.   No, this is not a typo. 

Mr. Marland died of a heart ailment six months later, at age 67.   Lydie was 41.

Lydie lived in the cottage until 1953.  During that time, she engaged in some unfortunate romantic entanglements (one with a meter reader who managed to cheat her out of about $5,000.00) and then, without warning, took off to parts unknown.  Historians have since tracked her whereabouts during her exile to DC, New York and Chicago.   Before leaving, she paid a local farmer to destroy a statute of herself made when she was in her twenties.  The farmer couldn't bring himself to completely destroy it and, instead, took the pieces and buried them on his farm.  For years, the fate of the missing statute was a mystery.   Lydie was fifty-three when she slipped out of Ponca City, taking her Studebaker and various art  works that she later sold to support herself.
In 1975, at age 75, Lydie returned, broke and disheveled.  She has been described as being a "bag lady" who had fallen on hard times, was besotted with cheap wine and had only one black tooth remaining in her head (bottom front).  She moved back into the cottage and lived in the living room.  Reportedly, she refused to enter the bedroom except to use the adjacent restroom.   Notwithstanding her bag lady lifestyle and appearance, letters written at the time show that she was fully capable of coherent thought and quite literate.  She died in 1987 when she was 87 years old.  Elderly locals still recall that she was often seen wandering around Ponca City in rags. 
She was not right.

The family of the farmer who had been paid to destroy her statute returned the hidden pieces to the museum after Lydie's death and it was reconstructed.  If you look closely at her statute, you can see the repairs but the museum has it displayed in an area with soft light so the flaws aren't noticeable.
The statute has Lydie wearing the same dress that she wore in the painting posted, earlier.

It was a fascinating place and these photos don't do it justice.  There were so many carvings and paintings, inside and out, that didn't show up well in photos so I only posted a few.  Taking the tour (included in the cost of admission) was a great idea. 
On the quilting front, the backing I intended to use on my younger daughter's wedding quilt was an inch too small so I ordered more from Back Sides Fabrics.  I think it will look nice and plan to start working on that in the next few days. 

I didn't expect it to arrive so soon so started on my other daughter's picket fence quilt.  Some years ago I'd ordered some Moda scrap bags from Hancocks of Paducah I'd been looking around to try to find suitable fabric for daughter's quilt and ran across where I'd had these stashed and was delighted to find a good use for them. 
 Hope she doesn't mind that it is "girly."
The scrap bags from Hancocks have the remnants of bolts where the fabrics have had strips cut from them.  Most of them are easily 2.5 inches wide - not all but most.  Some are wider.   If you don't mind trimming, they are pretty inexpensive way to get a wide variety of a particular fabric line:

 My nest fillers:

 I know it is kind of ridiculous, but I could look at wads of fabric for hours:
 This too:
I've thought about trying to sell of a line of greeting cards with the girls and quilts on them aimed at pet owners.  Just not sure how to get started.

Evelyn is a sweetie:
Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


Anonymous said...

That was fascinating.

My father grew up in Ponca City. He worked for a short time with an art dealer who had something to do with the Marland Mansion, and because of that association my dad had some Japanese prints and Chinese watercolor paintings. I guess his employment was brief because the art dealer was gay...I think the aunt who raised him disapproved.

Someday I'd love to tour the mansion.


Anonymous said...

Again, I am enchanted with the writing, and the photos. The mansion looks beautiful and the stories are so very interesting.

That fabric will make a beautiful quilt!


Florida Farm Girl said...

Sounds like an interesting place. So much opulence.

Those fabrics are to die for. Why can I never find those soft things when I'm looking? They're always last year's line and no longer available!! Gonna be beautiful.

Infinity Quilter/Knitter said...

Beautiful pictures! Hope you and the girls are doing well.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a line of greeting cards with Sams and quilts. When I'm looking for a card for someone, I always look for one with an animal, and there are plenty of dogs and cats, but hardly ever a Sam. There are lines of pet lover cards, they're sold in Petco/Petsmart, again, they do not feature Sams. Who knows why? Sams are so photogenic, we all know that. There are quilters' cards too, I've seen them at the Quilt Festival, and stationery too; finding a publisher/distributor or agent for your work is probably the first step if you really wanted to do it.