GUTHRIE — A new nonprofit group wants to take the crumbling State Capital Publishing Co. Building off the state’s hands, and took the first step Monday by filing articles of incorporation for Guthrie Tomorrow Coalition Inc.
“We chose that name because we don’t want this to be the effort of any one person or one small organization,” said Lynn Bilodeau, an attorney leading the effort who lives next door to the historic, 50,000-square-foot office building and publishing plant in downtown Guthrie.
The coalition formed just more than a year after the failure of a plan to save the 115-year-old building, a museum for nearly 40 years, by converting it into 34 units of senior housing, preserving the historic facade, and reserving a small space for a micro-museum.
The Oklahoma Historical Society was working with the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which then oversaw all state-owned property transfers, and an out-of-state housing developer. The plan hinged on a change in zoning to allow high-density housing downtown, the Guthrie City Council wouldn’t change it, and the developer withdrew.
That settled the old newspaper and job printing building back on the property rolls of the Historical Society, a state agency, but with one big difference.
After the Historical Society started considering the housing project, lawmakers lifted the agency from overview by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and exempted it from guidelines for the disposition of surplus state property.
Before, the publishing building, as an underused state property, would have to be sold for no less than 90 percent of appraised value, or redeveloped with proceeds deposited in a statewide building maintenance fund.
Now, the Historical Society may sell historic properties at fair market value to “appropriate organizations or groups who agree to maintain the properties in the best interest of historic preservation.” It has sold at least three historic properties since the new law took effect in May 2016.
GUTHRIE — Grease the old presses and dust off the vintage type cases: The future of the history of publishing, Guthrie, and Oklahoma has a new edition.
The Oklahoma Historical Society, a state agency, signed over the deed to its long-troubled State Capital Publishing Co. building to nonprofit Guthrie Tomorrow Coalition Inc. on Wednesday.
A ceremony was held just off the front steps at 301 W Harrison Ave., where news of Oklahoma statehood was first announced on Nov. 16, 1907 — when Guthrie was the territory-turned-state capital — and reenacted at the state centennial in 2007.
The aim is to save, preserve and renovate the 116-year-old, 50,000-square-foot office building and publishing plant, and resume its use as a newspaper and printing museum and education and public event space.
The building, its three stories and basement crammed full of historic presses and other printing equipment, has been closed to the public since 2012 after nearly 40 years as a museum. Repair estimates have been as high as $4 million.
The building, constructed from a design by Belgian architect Joseph Foucart, is an anchor of Guthrie’s National Historic Landmark District.
Preservationists to the rescue
The all-volunteer Guthrie Tomorrow Coalition, led by CEO Lynn Bilodeau, took ownership of the property just less than a year after forming in the wake of a failed attempt by a developer to acquire it as surplus state property, gut it and convert it to apartments.
Proposals Being Accepted for the Redevelopment of Guthrie’s Historic State Capital Publishing Company Building
Proposals Being Accepted for the Redevelopment of Guthrie’s Historic State Capital Publishing Company Building
Oklahoma City, Okla. — The Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) and the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) announced this week that proposals are being accepted for the purchase or lease and redevelopment of the historic Oklahoma State Capital Publishing Company Building located at 301 West Harrison in Guthrie.
According to OHS Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn, “The OHS acquired the building in 1975 for $10 with plans to develop the property as a publishing museum. At that time the OHS was able to access federal preservation grant funds to assist with the repair and restoration of the building, but the federal and state funding available were never enough to completely restore and maintain the structure.”
“While we are sad at the closing of a museum, we are excited about the potential business development with the City of Guthrie,” announced Guthrie City Manager Sereniah Breland. “There are many exciting possibilities for the future of the building that can help build and maintain a vital downtown business district,” continued Breland.
The State Capital Publishing Museum opened to the public in 1980 with two staff members. For a few years staff and volunteers managed to keep the presses and linotypes in operation for programs, and several successful student programs were developed including Territorial Times. Under this program a group of high school students produced their own territorial newspaper. Students interviewed costumed interpreters they encountered on the streets of Guthrie to find their stories. They sold advertising, wrote stories, set type and printed their newspaper. Other programs included Book Arts with activities such as paper making and marbling. Unfortunately these museum programs fell victim to budget cuts in the 1990s when it became necessary to reduce the staff to one. Further budget cuts in 2009 led to the decision to contract the daily operation of the museum to the Logan County Historical Society (LCHS). The LCHS struggled to keep operations going until the boiler failed in October 2012. The replacement of the boiler was estimated at $120,000.
“With only $700,000 in state appropriated repair and maintenance funds for 31 museums and historic sites, the OHS board made the decision to declare the building surplus,” stated Blackburn. “This was a difficult decision,” Blackburn continued, “but the building was falling to a progressing state of decline.”
The boiler was the most immediate problem, but in reality the building needed an estimated $4 million in repairs. The staff and board of the OHS determined the best way to save the building from further decline was to return it to active use in the Guthrie business district and negotiations began with OMES to find the best way to ensure the building’s future. Blackburn said, “With the development of the historic Skirvin Hotel in Oklahoma City as an example, it was determined it would be better to send out a call for development proposals rather than simply offering the building for sale. Under this process the State of Oklahoma and the City of Guthrie have more control over the future of the building.”
The State Capital Publishing Company Building is an anchor for the National Historic Landmark District in Guthrie and is an iconic image for the state. Built in 1902, the building was designed by Belgian architect Joseph Foucart. The 50,000 square foot building was constructed in only six months by newspaper publisher Frank Greer after an Easter Sunday fire destroyed his previous building. In addition to the newspaper, the company did official printing for the territorial government, and sold a complete line of office, school and stationery supplies.
The Request for Proposals will remain open until November 2 when a review committee will begin evaluation of all proposals. The committee consists of representatives from the OHS, OMES, the preservation community, and the City of Guthrie. In part, proposals will be evaluated based upon the criteria of community benefits, qualifications and experience of the redevelopers, financial capacity and historic preservation objectives. The OHS will maintain a preservation easement on the façade of the building to ensure it remains historically accurate.
Two pre-submittal building tours will be held on Tuesday, April 7, from 9 a.m. to noon and Thursday, April 16, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the site. Prospective redevelopers are invited to inspect the property during the tours prior to developing and submitting a proposal. Proposal packets can be obtained at email@example.com.
The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains 31 museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.
by Bryan PainterPublished: Tue, November 27, 2012 12:00 AM
GUTHRIE — With winter approaching and a lack of funding to replace a broken boiler, the historic State Capital Publishing Museum building in Guthrie has closed indefinitely.
The building at 301 W Harrison is owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society and operated by the Logan County Historical Society in an affiliate program. Neither had $150,000 in their budgets for a new boiler, said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
The decision to close was made in late October, said Melissa Fesler, director of First Capital Trolley, which is also operated by the Logan County Historical Society.
“I know we still worked on alternative heat options, but because of the age of the building and its historical value, we really couldn’t come up with a way to heat the building’s 50,000 square feet,” Fesler said.
Blackburn said at first it was thought the boiler could be repaired for about $60,000.
“Since our initial estimate on repairing the boiler we found out it cannot be repaired, it has to be replaced and the approximate cost of replacing the boiler is $150,000,” Blackburn said.
The State Capital Publishing Co. building was constructed in 1902, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society. It was the fourth home of the State Capital Co., which was organized in 1889 just before the first land run. Located in downtown Guthrie, the structure was one of the first in Oklahoma to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Inside the museum is a collection of original furnishings and printing equipment. Museum exhibits include the history of the State Capital Co., printing technology and other aspects of life from the territorial and early statehood era.
Mary Coffin, president and CEO of the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce, hopes someone will step forward with funding.
“There’s so much potential in that building for so many things to happen there for our community,” Coffin said. “I just don’t want to give up on it and I think everybody else is the same way. We’ve got a little snag, let’s see what we can do to get past this and get it back open again.”
Coffin said it has been a popular stop during Christmas celebrations throughout December and is a starting point for the trolley tours.
In the affiliate program, the Oklahoma Historical Society provided the insurance and gave the county historical society a stipend for utilities and some administrative costs, said Chris Hirzel, president of the Logan County Historical Society.
The museum has faced tough times in the past and a few years ago, the Logan County Historical Society became involved under the affiliate program so the museum could be reopened. Hirzel said that in addition to being a stop for visitors to Guthrie, the museum has provided activities for schools and other groups.
Hirzel said tourism is important to the state and to Guthrie, and the State Capital Publishing Museum is “one of the jewels.”
“Tourism in Guthrie is everything,” he said. “First and foremost we would love for it to be a publishing museum like it is.”
Blackburn said he too would like that. He thinks for it to be really effective, it would need to be to run as a living history museum, where people are printing, binding and so on as visitors come through. However, he said “the equipment is extremely expensive to rehabilitate.” The cost would be more than $3 million in development and a staff of eight to 10 people would be needed, he said.
Blackburn said the largest staff right now at one of their biggest historical sites is four people at the Pawnee Bill Ranch. He said the Oklahoma Historical Society budget has been cut 28 percent over the last four years and “we cut everything proportionately” — the museum sites, the Oklahoma History Center and others.
“And that’s when we got more aggressive with generating our own stream of revenue,” he said. “And we haven’t been able to do that with the State Capital Publishing Museum, whereas at probably 15 of our other museum sites we’ve been generating well over 20 percent of their budgets with either fundraising or by generating revenue.”
The State Capital Publishing Museum had been open on Wednesdays through Saturdays, Fesler said. However, in the summer, the museum closed any time the temperature in the building reached 90 degrees, Fesler said.
“We would like to open it back if we could get those issues fixed,” she said.
Blackburn said during the winter they will look at all options, such as cutting back to seasonal hours in the spring and fall when the heat and air would not likely be needed or finding a partner to do the living history aspect. He said a decision would need to be made by July 1, the start of the next fiscal year.