Q&A - April 8, 2016

For many years, my wife and I have collected “Images of America” history books from different communities we visit. I was so pleased to see that “Okmulgee” is now the subject of one of the books in this series and even more pleased to learn it was authored by Beth Kieffer, OSUIT Library Archivist. Congratulations Beth, and thank you for helping preserve Okmulgee’s rich history.

Q: Are there ways the community can help with the restoration efforts of your downtown buildings?

Major work on the old Post Office complex (the half block of buildings occupying the north side of 5th Street, between Grand Avenue and Central Avenue) should begin in late summer or early fall. This facility will be converted into residential lofts and flats for college students. While we have engaged a very capable team of contractors, engineers, and architects to oversee the preconstruction and construction phases of this project, there will still be ample opportunities for local businesses and tradesmen to bid on numerous subcontracts related to this building restoration. I will address this further in a future column.

But there is another way local residents might be able to assist with this grand endeavor. As we are planning to bring new life back to this historic building, I would very much like to learn more about its past. I want to preserve some of its history and tell some of its stories within its public spaces and hallways. In my opinion, it would be quite fitting to chronicle the past by displaying early photographs of the building for future visitors and residents to enjoy. The only problem is that we don’t have any early photographs of the building.

While much is known about the history of our downtown buildings on the square, much less information has been retained about some of the other buildings in the outlying blocks surrounding the square. As most of you are aware, OSUIT has purchased two properties in downtown Okmulgee, one is on 6th Street and the other is on 5th Street. For the building we purchased on 6th Street, we have found many historic photographs of the building going all the way back to the early 1900’s with dirt streets and covered wagons, but for the building we purchased on 5th Street (the old Post Office complex, circa 1918 and 1919), we have yet to find a single period photograph taken during the building’s early years.

This is where you might be able to help. If you have a historic photograph or know of one, please get in contact with us. Besides housing the original Okmulgee Post Office, I know several black owned and other local businesses have occupied this building over the decades. It is obvious that storefronts once faced southward onto 5th Street and other businesses might have fronted onto the north alley, but I am interested in learning about any and all of these businesses and especially eager to find old photos.

If you have information about the old Okmulgee Post Office building or a lead that might be useful, please call Beth Kieffer at (918) 293-5078 or email us at osuit-president@okstate.edu.