Be transported to Victorian times in a well-preserved prairie town
Guthrie sprang out of the prairie dust when Congress opened the Oklahoma Territory to settlers in the 1889 Land Run. Prosperous, and nicknamed ‘Queen of the Prairie’, Guthrie soon became the territorial capital. But when Oklahoma City snatched away the title of state capital in 1910, the city slipped into a deep sleep, inadvertently preserving its Victorian architectural legacy. It is now the largest contiguous district on the National Register of Historic Places, extending 400 blocks and containing 2,169 buildings.
Chief among them are the brick buildings downtown, many housing treasures still intact, including the Blue Belle Saloon, Oklahoma’s oldest saloon and the smoky spot where the great cowboy silent film star, Tom Mix, tended bar from 1902 to 1904. Conveniently located upstairs is Miss Lizzie’s Bordello, where “the girls all purty and they was clean”, according to some of Guthrie’s old-timers. The bordello is now a souvenir and gift shop.
Guthrie was once home to the Banjo Hall of Fame (which has since moved to Oklahoma City), but the instrument remains a popular pastime here. There’s picking aplenty to be had at October’s Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, organised by three-time national fiddle champ Byron Berline, who still performs at his Double-Stop Fiddle Shop and Music Hall.
Take a guided tour of the city’s architectural apogee, the outlandishly grand Guthrie Scottish Rite Masonic Temple—one of the world’s largest. Built at an eyebrow-raising cost of $2.6 million (£1.65 million) during the oil boom of the 1920s, a time when almost every man in town was a Mason, the neoclassical building is a massive complex covering six acres of floor space.
Stay in one of the town’s many B&Bs, including the Pollard Inn, a converted bank next to the Pollard Theatre. This year-round professional theatre is most famous for A Territorial Christmas Carol, a frontier version of the Dickens classic, a long-time, much-loved tradition in these parts.
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Trip idea text ©Patricia Schultz. For contact information about the places mentioned and many more USA trip ideas, see Patricia Schultz's blockbuster book.