One of the oldest buildings in Tahlequah, the Bacone House was built in 1867, shortly after the end of the American Civil War. It is noteworthy both from a historic as well as architectural standpoint.
The building house the Indian University at Tahlequah, which moved to Muskogee in 1885 and has evolved into Bacone College. Currently, the building is a part of Northeastern State University and it houses the Center for Tribal Studies.
The Bacone house is of the Federal style, which dominated much of American architecture in the early 19th Century. It has severe lines and parapet end walls typical of that style.
Northeastern State University, originally founded by the Cherokee Nation as the Tahlequah Female Seminary, in 1891, is the oldest institution of higher learning in Oklahoma and one of the oldest west of the Mississippi River. It offers degrees in 69 areas of study, and boasts the highest Native American enrollment of any university in America.
Being a university town means that Tahlequah has an abundance of cultural and athletic events and continuing education opportunities. The university also gives access to genealogical research collections specific to Native American and regional history.
The main campus of Northeastern is in Tahlequah, with branch campuses in Broken Arrow and Muskogee.
The Ivy-Duncan-Dannenburg Home, also known as the Jim Duncan Home, sits on Brookside, just across the street from the city park. It was built, Circa. 1888, by Augustus Ivey, a prominent Tahlequah businessman, and was sold to the James Duncan family. Mr. Duncan was a land surveyor, a teacher, and a farmer. In the front lawn of the home is a springhouse which was a source of drinking water for early residents, as well as a cool place for storing milk and butter.
In 1965 the City of Tahlequah purchased the home and converted it into a multi-use community center.
This beautiful park stretches for several blocks along Town Creek in Tahlequah. It roughly parallels Muskogee Street, the main street of town, and runs about three blocks to the east of it.
The park has picnic areas and playgrounds, and is a great place to just relax on a park bench or take a stroll. There is also a small but pretty waterfall. Sitting just to the east of the Park is the historic Ivy-Duncan-Dannenburg Home, which is the subject of my next tip.
The Cherokee Nation has always placed a preminum on education. In 1846 the Cherokee National Council aurhorized the establishment of two institutions of higher learning, the Cherokee National Male Seminary and the Cherokee National Female Seminary. Both schools were opened in 1851. Over the years these two schools have grown and evolved to become Northeastern State University (NSU).
Seminary Hall (pictured) was built to replace the original female seminary at Park Hill burned to the ground on Easter Sunday, 1887. The new structure was completed in 1889 and is still the signature building on the campus of NSU.
This home was built by William Alston in 1906. It was later owned by D. R. Bedwell, a biology professor at the local Northeastern State University.
The two story frame house is of the Free Classic subset of the Queen subset of the Queen Anne school, also called the Carpenter Gothic style, popular from 1870-1910. This style of house lacks the ornamentation often used in the Victorian era. The only ornamentation are details along the frieze, saw-tooth moulding below the window sills and sunburst in the gables.
The quaint Powell-Antoine Home was built in 1905 on land once owned by Cherokee Chief Downing. The street in front of the house is named for him.
This is another historic house on the walking tour that is built in the Victorian Style, evidenced by the wrap around porches and spindle work. Other interesting characteristics of this house are the wooden shingles covering the tower and the small stained glass panes above clear panes of glass, also typically Victorian.
The Powell-Antoine House is a private residence.
In 1805, two years before Oklahoma was admitted to the Union as the 47th state, this library was built, financed in part by a grant of $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie. It is still an active library today, although a modern new addition has been added.
Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist and philanthropist, gave millions of dollars from his vast wealth to build libraries in thousands of communities. Carnegie built 2,811 free libraries in all. Of these, 1,946 were located in the United States – at least one in every state except Rhode Island. He also built 660 libraries in Great Britain and Ireland and 156 in Canada. A handful of libraries were also scattered in places like New Zealand, the West Indies and Fiji. His generosity even extended into the Indian Territory called Oklahoma.
The Johnson Thompson House, built in 1880, was the residence of the wealthy Tahlequah merchant who also built the two earlier homes on the tour, for his son and daughter. It is in yet another style than the previous two houses, the Italianate Style, which was popular from the 1840s to the mid-1880s. The style featured a low-pitched roof with overhanging eaves, often having decorative brackets underneath. Windows were tall and narrow and arched above.
Such fine homes as these help to illustrate the fact that here in what was Indian Territory, many of the people, far from being nomadic savages, lived lifestyles that were more advanced than those of the white settlers who had driven them from their original homelands. Many were also of mixed ancestry, having both European and Native American blood as well as both Indian and Anglo-Saxon names.
This ornate old house, built in 1889, was the home of the daughter of Johnson Thompson, whose home is next on the tour. It's design was influenced by several different styles.
The brick and symmetry were borrowed from the Federal Style(1780-1820). Decorative quoining on the outside corners of the house was added from the Renaissance period. The home also displays characteristcs of the Carpenter Gothic style (1870-1910). The house is currently used as office space.
The Thompson House was built in 1882 by Johnson Thompson, a wealthy Tahlequah merchant, for his son Dr. Joseph M. Thompson, health officer for the Cherokees and a private practicing pyhysician.
The house is of the Queen Anne style, which was the dominant style of residential buildings built during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Queen Anne homes are characterized by steep pitched roofs with a hipped roff forming the center and cross gables to the front and sides. The gable ends are adorned with patterned wood shingles, decorative verge boards and spindle work. Other features indicative to the style include wrap around porches with turned posts and more spindles.
The home, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is fully furnished with beautiful antiques. Tours by costumed docents are available periodically and by appointment. The home also provides an popular setting for group meetings, receptions, showers and weddings.
Just to the north, and across the street from the Old Cherokee Capitol is the Tahlequah Chamber of Commerce and a Tourist Information Center. This is an ideal place to get brochures and maps about Tahlequah and Cherokee county. Although the place was open on my visit, I saw no one there.
From the free literature rack I picked up a Tahlequah Visitor's Guide, which contained a "Driving or Walking Tour of Historic Tahlequah." It was very helpful in finding my way to various points of interest.
Built in 1874, this sandstone structure originally had three stories, and a gallows on the west side. When Oklahoma became a state, it became the Cherokee County Jail, and continued in use for a century. In the late 1970s, a more modern jail was built and now the old one stands vacant. It can be seen on the Walking Tour of Historic Tahlequah.
Even before the Cherokee Capitol Building was constructed, this brick structure was erected in 1844, as home of the Cherokee National Supreme Court. It is the oldest public building still standing in Oklahoma. Both the Cherokee Supreme Court and District Courts convened here. The building is currently in process of being restored.
The Cherokee Supreme Court, patterned after that of the United States, had been active in their first Capitol in New Echota, Georgia, before the Indian removal to Oklahoma. The Cherokees continue to have their own court system, although they also fall under the jurisdiction of the United States.
The Cherokee Advocate was printed in this building after the original Advocate building burned.
After the Cherokees arrived and settled in this area the Cherokee Council first met under a large shed in 1839, then later in log buildings. This Capitol building was constructed shortly after the Civil War, in which the Cherokee Nation had been a strong ally to the Confederate States of America. The Building was finished between 1867 and 1869.
When Oklahoma became the 47th state, in 1907, the building served as the Cherokee County Courthouse. A newer courthouse was built in the late 1970s, and the Old Capitol was returned to the Cherokee Tribal Council. Although the Old Cherokee Capitol building is very historic, it is not a museum, but is still a very active, functioning facility, housing judicial offices and courts, and the election board.