The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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November 17, 2012

Enid’s ‘grand old lady’

ENID, Okla. — Enid’s historic Convention Hall has seen the greats of its day, fallen into disrepair and faced the prospect of demolition, before being given a rebirth through Enid Renaissance Project.

In 1918, America was enmeshed in World War I, and residents of Enid and Garfield County sought a way to honor those who gave their lives for their country. Mayor M.C. Garber and two city commissioners, G.W. Pancoast and James W. Butts, proposed a bond issue to erect a building as a memorial. The following year, bonds were issued to construct a convention hall.

The city subsequently constructed a four-story structure that cost about $465,000, according to a story in the Enid News & Eagle by the late Bill Edson. It took two bond issues to build it, but near the end of Garber’s administration, the convention center was built. It had a seating capacity of 5,000, locally said to be the largest in Oklahoma.

The building featured spacious meeting rooms on all floors, but the main attraction was the main auditorium, with a seating capacity of 2,800. The cornerstone was laid by the Enid Masonic Lodge and bore the inscription “Dedicated to the memory of those who offered their services in the defense of our country.”

Edmund Frantz spoke at the dedication, saying in 1921: “We are at last to have a Convention Hall, a great auditorium, a place of assembly, a memorial building, if you please, reared on the foundation and dedicated to the memory of all the soldiers dead, and to the uses of all the soldiers and living of all the wars in which our nation has been engaged, since its stormy and glorious beginning.”

In 1924, the Frisco Employees Magazine wrote that after Convention Hall was constructed, other buildings followed in Enid, including a new Masonic Hall costing nearly $1 million, a fortune in those days.

“In fact, since the decision to build the hall, building took on an unprecedented impetus. Fine residences and business buildings are constantly going up in keeping with the business growth,” the magazine said.

Copies of the Frisco Employees Magazine story and Edson’s “Window on the Past” were provided by Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center in Enid.

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