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Guthrie, Oklahoma

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Guthrie, the county seat of Logan County, Oklahoma, was the territorial and later the first state capital for Oklahoma. Guthrie is nationally significant because of its outstanding collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century commercial architecture. The Guthrie Historic District was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1999.

Victorian architecture provides a unique backdrop for Wild West and territorial-style entertainment, carriage tours, replica trolley cars, specialty shops, and art galleries.

Guthrie originated in 1887 as a railroad station called Deer Creek on the Southern Kansas Railway (later acquired by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) from the Kansas-Oklahoma border to Purcell. The name was later changed to Guthrie, named for jurist John Guthrie of Topeka, Kansas. A post office was established on April 4, 1889.

At noon on April 22, 1889, cannons resounded at a 2-million acre section of Indian Territory, launching President Benjamin Harrison's "Hoss Race" or Land Run of 1889. During the next six hours, about 10,000 people settled in what became the capital of the new Territory of Oklahoma. Within months, Guthrie became a modern brick and stone "Queen of the Prairie" with municipal water, electricity, a mass transit system, and underground parking garages for horses and carriages.

Hobart Johnstone Whitley, also known as HJ and the Father of Hollywood, was the first president of the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce. Whitley built the first brick block building in the territory for his National Loan and Trust Company. He was asked by the local people to be the first Governor of Oklahoma. Whitley traveled to Washington, D.C. where he persuaded the U.S. Congress to allow Guthrie to be the new capital of the state of Oklahoma. This was specified in the 1906 Oklahoma Enabling Act that established certain requirements for the new state constitution. By 1907, when Guthrie became the capital, it looked like a well-established Eastern city.

Guthrie prospered briefly as the administrative center of the territory, but was eclipsed in economic influence by Oklahoma City early in the 20th century. Oklahoma City had managed to become a major junction for several railroads and had attracted a major industry in the form of meat packing. Oklahoma City business leaders began campaigning soon after statehood to make Oklahoma City the new state capital, and in 1910 a special election was held to determine the location of the state capital. Governor Charles N. Haskell, who was in Tulsa on the day of the election, ordered his secretary W.B. Anthony to have Oklahoma Secretary of State Bill Cross obtain the state seal and transport it to Oklahoma City despite having been served a restraining order by Logan County Sheriff John Mahoney blocking the transfer. Anthony obtained written authorization from Cross, retrieved the seal from the Logan County courthouse, and delivered it to Oklahoma City.

After the move of the capital, Guthrie began to dwindle in size and soon lost its status as Oklahoma's second largest city, initially to Muskogee, then later to Tulsa. The move was upheld by the Oklahoma Supreme Court on February 9, 1911, and by the United States Supreme Court in 1911.

As a result of Guthrie's early loss of prominence, it remains as a well-preserved Victorian enclave. Whereas growth and inattentive urban planning caused other Oklahoma towns such as Oklahoma City to destroy much of their early downtown architecture, much of the entire central business and residential district of Guthrie is intact.

Historical tourism has become a significant industry for the town. Guthrie is the largest urban Historic district in the United States, containing 2,169 buildings, 1,400 acres and 400 city blocks. Guthrie is a "Certified City" and has received a Community Development Block Grant to inventory infrastructure features for Capital Improvement Planning (CIP).

Guthrie is home to several museums, including the Oklahoma Territorial Museum, the Oklahoma Sports Museum, the Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum and the Guthrie Scottish Rite Masonic Temple. Guthrie also claims to be the "Bed and Breakfast capital of Oklahoma". The city hosts the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, which draws 15,000 visitors annually.

Guthrie is also the home to Oklahoma's oldest year-round professional theatre company, the Pollard Theatre Company. With an emphasis on creative story-telling to illuminate the shared human experience, the Pollard produces six or more plays and musicals annually, enlisting artists across the United States. Productions include A Territorial Christmas Carol, the annual holiday favorite.