5 Ways to Bring History to Life in Guthrie - MetroFamily Magazine
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5 Ways to Bring History to Life in Guthrie

by Jennifer Geary

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

It only takes a short drive to go back in time more than one hundred years when you visit Guthrie. Founded in 1887 (and originally called Deer Creek), Guthrie was Oklahoma’s last territorial capital and first state capital. Though the capital moved to Oklahoma City in 1910, Guthrie is still home to beautifully-restored buildings and has many museums and events that help bring the past alive for visitors every day.  

Many of the venues you’ll want to be sure to visit are in the Guthrie Historic District, which contains over 2,000 buildings and covers 1,400 acres. Several of the sites are on the National Register of Historic Places and the area itself is considered a National Historic Landmark. Downtown Guthrie is also home to a thriving commercial area including many gift and antique shops.

Must-See Museums

If you visit Guthrie, the Oklahoma Territorial Museum and The Carnegie Library (402 E. Oklahoma Avenue, www.okterritorialmuseum.org) is a perfect first stop in Guthrie. The museum covers the history of the area from the first Indian removals in the 1830s to the land runs and early statehood to the changing of the capital from Guthrie to Oklahoma City. The exhibits give visitors a clear picture of what daily life would have been like for homesteaders in Oklahoma Territory in the late nineteenth century through displays of household goods, toys and even an original ‘89er cabin. Take some time to page through the catalogs the homesteaders would have shopping from and you’ll be amazed at some of the things they could purchase! Upstairs, be sure to visit Camp Guthrie, the dress up area for kids 10 and under, where your children can see what they would have worn each day as they performed the chores required of children on a farm.

The second Carnegie Library to be built in Oklahoma and the oldest one still standing in the state today, Guthrie’s Carnegie Library is now part of the Guthrie Museum Complex and is attached to the Oklahoma Territorial Museum. The library has been a part of some of the most important events in the history of the area, including the inaugurations of the last governor of the territory and the first governor of the state. The library currently houses exhibits on Oklahoma music and on the strange tale of Elmer McCurdy, the outlaw whose mummified body was discovered during the filming of a TV show more than 60 years after his death.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Just down the street a few blocks is the Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum (214 W. Oklahoma Avenue, www.drugmuseum.org). The museum is just what the name describes: an amazing and extensive collection of pharmacy and drugstore memorabilia, from medications to makeup and everything in between. Take some time to peruse the shelves and you’ll find some amusing and surprising remedies for many common ailments.

The museum is also surprisingly kid-friendly. The staff encouraged my children to explore behind the counters and even gave them demonstrations of how to serve sodas and sundaes at the ice cream counter.

Next door to the museum is the Apothecary Garden, which is home to many medicinal herbs and plants. With benches, a fountain and fish pond, this is a lovely place to sit back and relax while enjoying the sights and scents of the garden.

For the Sports Fan

Just down the street is the Territorial Capital Sports Museum (315 W. Oklahoma Avenue, www.territorialcapitalsportsmuseum.org), is a necessary stop for the sports fans in your family. The museum fills 13,000 square feet and has displays covering football, basketball, baseball, golf, rodeo and the Olympics. Your children will recognize current athletes and teams and will also be able to learn about Oklahoma sports heroes from the past.

First-Class Sightseeing

If you want to hear the scoop on many of Guthrie’s famous residents and where they lived and worked, the First Capital Trolley Tour (www.firstcapitaltrolley.com) should be at the top of your list. Catch the trolley at the corner of 2nd and Harrison for a 45-minute ride that will take you back in time and all around town. The recorded narration shares interesting stories behind many of the historic buildings, such as the Blue Bell Saloon where the famous cowboy actor Tom Mix was a bartender and bouncer and the opera house where a young Lon Chaney worked as a stagehand. Riders also get to see many different architectural styles in the homes of prominent Guthrie residents of the past. While some of the information might be more in-depth than children really want to know, both of my children enjoyed the ride and seeing all the buildings in town. It’s very different from the strip centers we’re used to seeing today!

Celebrating the Land Run

April is a terrific time for your trip to Guthrie because you can enjoy the annual ‘89er Celebration (www.89erdays.com). Guthrie is the only community in the state that has been officially recognized by Governor Proclamation as the celebration site for the Land Run of 1889, and they celebrate in a big way! This year’s festivities will take place from April 14-19 and include events for everyone in the family. There will be music, food, baseball games, a car and motorcycle show, a carnival and more during the week. On Saturday, there will be a parade (the largest in the state) as well as a 5K run, a rodeo and a dance.

Guthrie is only an easy half-hour drive from Oklahoma City, so there’s no need to worry about planning a huge trip. Just head north on I-35 until you see Exit 153 on your left. Traveling north on US-77 will lead you right into town. Enjoy your trip to the past!

[Editor’s Note: Find more ideas for fun weekend getaways and day trips in Oklahoma at www.metrofamilymagazine.com/Exploring-Oklahoma.]

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