Somehow the monumental
building, rich decor, splendid grounds, and heavy massive architecture has
a wistful air of sadness about it. Without knowing the owners of the
Castle on the Prairie we begin to wonder; How can this be?
A new visitor enters the very
large wooden plank doors which are tied together with the metal common to
doors on an antique castle. As they swing open, the person feels a strong
spirit about the place. There is no one there to speak to them. They are
left quite to themselves because one is not immediately greeted. All about
the entry way there is the decor giving one a quiet introduction to the
strong personality of the person or persons living there. To the left a
soft carved figure of a girl is lit with what one would believe to be
perpetual light. White roses set in a semicircle around the feet of the
statue of Lydie, mistress of the castle. The softy carved, work lends
itself to the imagining of the person observing the work. The woman girl
is dressed in a costume of another time. The year around 1920, shows her
wearing a soft dress, gently draped and hanging long and close to her
delicate shoes. In her youth the woman's personality is caught and held.
The woman holds an expression, a brief interest or placid observance of
something about her. She seems remote, and removed from the wealth
surrounding her. For someone who knew her, the personality speaks, even
through the stone.
Behind the statue are pictures
showing how it had been located, after being buried and broken to pieces
by Lydie, herself. The broken stone body is lifted from the earth around
it by the workers in the pictures. The text on the pictures, tell of how
the mistress of the home had the statue destroyed when her husband died.
It was buried and hidden, only to be located years later. The artisan to
rebuild it was a worker of marble and, as it stands here in the entry, one
cannot believe the perfection of the restoration.
The next door to be entered,
is located beside the statue, and directs the guest to the very large
dining room, complete with banquet size table and chairs. To the left
hangs a portrait of the owner of the home, E. W. Marland. The portrait is
of the man when he was closer to his youth. He was a handsome man, who was
obviously enjoying his life style.
The brochures in hand tell of
wood paneling on the wall to have come from the Royal forests in England.
There are light fixtures of silver, a ceiling high mantel of an elaborate
carved fireplace, and small intricate carved door knobs in the room. One
has to be quick and observant to see all the artwork available.
Architects, artisans, artists,
craftsmen, stone masons, skilled tile workers, those who could shape
wrought iron, plumbers, electricians, laborers, cement workers, came from
Europe and from all over. The money poured into the massive building
project, a castle on the prairie, brought jobs to the small town of Ponca
City, Oklahoma. The workings of democracy were being played out during a
time in history when there were no guarantees of a stable economy. Sure
enough, when the Bankers called E.W.'s notes for payment, the man was
broke. Other men committed suicide. He moved into the gatehouse.
After his death, Lydie, his
adopted daughter, set aside, and then legally married, was his heir. She
left the area amidst all sorts of tales about where she went and what she
had been doing. When she returned to the town there was a renewed interest
in the estates of E.W. Marland, up until this point in time when they have
been completely restored and are open to the public.
Actually, the restoration
would not have been possible without the dedication of the many volunteers
who donated many hours to the work. The returning of many pieces of
furniture, artwork, and other artifacts brought the great piece of artwork
The discussion goes on among
the folks who are still living, though aged, who knew E.W. Marland.
According to their station in life there will be a different opinion as to
One might say, "It was a
disgrace, the wealth and building, the vulgar spending of money."
Another might say, "I knew E.W. and then go about telling some,
something or other happening." Someone else might tell of some other
event, lending yet another facet to the on going gossip of a little town.
For myself, a by stander,
removed from any true knowledge of the man, other than an understanding of
the family culture, I can only stand in awe of the accomplishments left as
a footprint on the rough and hard soil of early day Oklahoma. I feel good
to understand the reasoning behind his work. To see the imprint on a
future generation as to leaving a record of history and art, to me, covers
over any other imperfections in his character, if there were any.