1936 - Nickels Mansion Becomes Elks Lodge
Some of you northwestern Oklahoman's might remember the George Nickel Mansion, in Alva, on the Southwest corner of Locust & 13th Street. BUT ... Did you know that in 1936 the former, elegant mansion of Mr. and Mrs. George Nickel that took up the whole block on Locust Street, between 13th and 14th Street, south side of Locust Street, had been purchased by the Alva Elks lodge in 1936?
We found this 1936 news article in the Publication, The Oklahoman, dated May 10, 1936, page 62, with headlines reading: "Fine Old Mansion Becomes Big Problem to Alva Elks."
Here is the 1936 news article -- Alva, May 9 (1936) (Special) -- "They look a trifle self-conscious, sheepish, even, the row of masculine brown oak arm chairs with scarred legs and torn black leather seats.
"They seem to feel their insufficiency, their plebian origin, now that they are torn from their original setting in a small town club room and transported by several strong armed huskies with a truck into a lady's drawing room whose walls were hand tinted by an eastern artist into a shadow pattern of two toned pale rose vines and blossoms, this pattern merging gently into a bas relief ceiling of cream cornucopias and garlands of rosebuds dropping from the hands of fat and blond cherubs.
"The chairs stand huddled against the wall, upon a formerly polished floor now guiltless of the ministrations of a dust mop -- and concede by their very hangdog look that they are incongruous there and can in no way fit into the former glory of spindle legged gilt chairs and tables upon oriental rugs. For the old George Nickel mansion has passed under the hammer, been sold for a song, and sold again, this time to the Alva Elks lodge, which is moving in.
"Sam Clark, exalted ruler, concedes the incongruity of the Elks furniture in such regal surroundings. Soon it will be whisked into the basement, he announces, where a cement floor, two great red brick fireplaces and sunny windows will make a masculine room after their own hearts.
"But what to do with the beautifully decorated rooms upon the first floor, drawing room, library, long dining room, reception halls, is a problem, as are the great bedrooms upon the second floor, each master bedroom with its hand painted walls and huge bathroom; each with fireplace and cedar lined closet. The third floor is no problem. The ball room and two small adjoining rooms will be used for the Elks danes. And -- the second floor may be used by bachelor members if they can furnish it appropriately! But that first floor!
"The house in question is a three-story, yellow brick house built 30 years ago (1906) by Mrs. George Nickel, daughter of deceased banker who boasted of a string of eight banks, and wife of another banker. The material throughout was the finest obtainable. The doors on the first floor are solid mahogany, inlaid. The tops of the newel posts, the hand rails and treads are solid mahogany. The woodwork is bone-white enamel, the capitals of the Ionic columns supporting the tall ceilings are picked out in gold leaf.
"The Fireplaces are tiled. The walls were all hand painted by New York artists imported for the work. As you ascend the stairway a great mirror faces you. Bathroom doors are full length mirrors. Closets large enough to hold a bed, greet you every turn. it is all very beautiful -- fitted for gracious living -- and all rather appalling to the practical Elks who do not possess the small fortune it would take to fit seemly furniture into the vacant places left by the sale of the teakwood, carved ebony and mahogany furniture belonging to Mrs. Nickel.
"Besides the great recreation room, there are in the basement six other rooms, all finished, and a space large enough for six more, which has brick walls but only earthen floor.
"Some plan whereby the beautiful building may be used for a civic center for the women of the town is a nebulous plan of the Elks, once they have established their own lares and penates in the basement."
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Comments: Known nowadays as the McClure Mansion, I heard today that it's to come up on the auction block soon and that it is in quite sad condition, windows broken out and lots of birds and bats in residence.
If it were in OKC or Tulsa, it would have already been bought and turned into a showcase museum. Surely the folks of Alva will not allow this grand old home just fall in on itself!
But again, maybe they will... ~Rod Murrow 2009-02-17 23:11:36
This is most interesting reading! I've always known the mansion as the Ensor Mansion. When did Dr. Ensor own it? Does anyone know the whereabouts of any of the original furnishings? Could it be restored to its original 'glory' and become a museum matching the Phillips home in Bartlesville? What will become of it?
It seems like an updated history of the mansion would be a great project (with photos, of course). ~Rod Murrow 2009-02-15 18:09:22
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