by Richard Mize

Published: Tue, May 22, 2018 5:00 AM

GUTHRIE — Just less than a year after it formed, a Guthrie nonprofit group has an agreement in principle to acquire the State Capital Publishing Co. building from the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Guthrie Tomorrow Coalition Inc., led by CEO Lynn Bilodeau, plans to take possession of the 50,000-square-foot office building and publishing plant in downtown Guthrie, to save it and put it back to use for the community.

Bilodeau said details remain to be worked out, but that a ceremony is planned for 9:30 a.m. June 27 on the steps of the building at 301 W Harrison Ave.

“I am working on the paperwork right now. Details will be revealed, as we all want the transaction to be transparent,” said Bilodeau, an estate planning attorney who lives next to the building and has an office in Edmond.

It will be an in-kind purchase based on a property appraisal. When a certain level of improvements is made to the building, title will be transferred to the nonprofit, said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the historical society.

Blackburn said the state agency is not washing its hands of the troubled property.

“We’ll still be involved with promoting it and the history of the city of Guthrie,” he said, adding perhaps they would work with school programs and other history education events.

That would be a return to the kinds of public events held at the museum before it fell into disrepair too expensive for the historical society to fix.

The aim for the 116-year-old building is to resume using it, as least partly, as a newspaper and printing museum, but also open for other public use.

The building, its three stories and basement, has been closed to the public since 2012. Repair estimates have been as high as $4 million.

Blackburn noted that the nonprofit will have to develop revenue from the property, to pay for repairing and operating it, maybe by leasing parts of it to comparable organizations or businesses.

“I think this group can do it,” Blackburn said.

He said state Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, “knowing not everyone would be happy with any one solution,” still gladly worked with him and the coalition to find a way to save the building.

The building, constructed in 1902 from a design by Belgian architect Joseph Foucart, is an anchor of Guthrie’s National Historic Landmark District. Blackburn said he hopes to maintain a preservation easement on the facade of the building to keep it historically accurate.

In any case, keeping it from further deteriorating is in line with the mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society — save, preserve, and share — even though it won’t hold title.

“We’ve accomplished our mission by saving it,” he said, and if the nonprofit succeeds, the historic building will again be shared with the public.