, Muskogee, OK

November 20, 2013

Two landmarks up for National Register

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Historic preservation commissioners forwarded their recommendations to have two Muskogee landmarks considered for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

The two buildings that will be considered are the Masonic Temple and the First Methodist Episcopal Church, which is known now as Trinity United Methodist Church. The Beth Israel Jewish Temple will be considered for a determination of eligibility, but the building’s owner objected to consideration of its inclusion on the national registry.

Lynda Schwan Ozan, an architectural historian and National Register program coordinator for the Oklahoma Historical Society, said all three structures were selected for the historical significance of the buildings’ architectural styles. Two are being considered for other factors as well.

The Masonic Temple also will be considered for its place in Muskogee’s social history. The ethnic heritage of Beth Israel, which now is the home of the Sovereign Grace Baptist Church congregation, was a factor in its selection for eligibility determination.

Assistant City Planner Tish Callahan said the addition of local structures on the National Register of Historic Places is meaningful for a couple reasons: It serves as an aid in the documentation of the city’s history, and it attracts tourists.

“There are a lot of people whose vacations are planned around the location of buildings that are listed on the registry,” Callahan said. “They will visit a town, stop at the visitor’s center, get a map, find the historic sites, and that’s where they go.”

Callahan said commissioners’ recommendations, which were approved Tuesday, will be forwarded to the State Historic Preservation Office for review. A panel there will decide whether to forward the recommendations to the National Park Service for final consideration.

Commissioners also approved a request to designate a northwest Muskogee neighborhood as a local historic district. The area, which will be known as the “Y Historic District,” once was a bustling economic center dominated by businesses owned by members of the black community.

Margaret McIntosh-Taylor requested the designation. The accomplished artist and former nursing home administrator dreams of reviving the district, which was anchored at one time by the McIntosh Nursing Home, which was owned and operated by her parents.

McIntosh-Taylor said her dream is to revive what once was the second-largest black business district in Muskogee. She plans to do that by establishing the area as an arts and cultural district that celebrates Muskogee’s history.

“This was a booming area back in the 1950s and ‘60s — very exciting times,” McIntosh-said Taylor, who serves as a board member of the Muskogee Area Arts Council. “It’s going to take some time (to see this transformation take shape), but this designation opens the door for grant opportunities or other funding for future projects.”

The proposed historical district, which must be approved by city councilors, is bounded by an abandoned railroad right of way on the north and properties abutting Martin Luther King Street on the south. It is bounded on the east by North 20th Street and on the west by North 24th Street. The area encompasses the area where Martin Luther King and Emporia streets intersect with Military Boulevard.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or