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Donna Flood
This Castle on the Prairie


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 alive again.

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 their observations.

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.


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