Built in 1903, the Henry Overholser Mansion showcases the legacy of the Overholser family and Oklahoma City history to this day.
ABOUT THE HENRY OVERHOLSER MANSION
Constructed by Henry Overholser, referred to as the "Father of Oklahoma City," and his wife Anna, the Overholser Mansion is considered the first mansion built in Oklahoma City. David Jay Perry, the son-in-law of the Overholsers, sold the mansion and all of its belongings to the Oklahoma Historical Society in April 1972. Preservation Oklahoma has been the caretaker of this Oklahoma City treasure since 2003.
Realizing that preservation is critical to the understanding of our past, POK has increased programming for the mansion so that the public can learn from structure. Guided tours are provided so that visitors can learn the stories of not only the Overholser family, but of its servants, and neighbors. In order to preserve the structure for future generations, POK has overseen an extensive restoration of the mansion’s exterior. Nearly $750,000 was raised through the generosity of local companies, foundations, and citizens. Since 2008, the original windows, roof and several chimneys have been repaired. Removal of paint and the repairing of the sandstone and balustrades, have also been completed POK’s mission continues to be “promoting historic preservation statewide” and that mission is achieved as closely as the work outside our front door.
HISTORY OF THE HENRY OVERHOLSER MANSION
When Henry Overholser, considered by many to be the “Father of Oklahoma City,” purchased three lots in the newly developed Classen’s Highland Park Addition in 1902, many people questioned why he and his wife Anna would build a home so far “out in the country.” After all, the heart of Oklahoma City’s business and social life was located over a mile to the south and the rail lines ran only to 13th street, two blocks south of where the land stood. The plots of land looked remarkably similar to the flat and treeless landscape that greeted Henry Overholser and Anna Murphy when they each arrived, separately, thirteen years prior shortly after the Run of 1889.
Built in 1903, the Overholser is considered Oklahoma City’s first mansion. The Queen Anne and Chateauesque architectural styles of the house were regarded as out of style and stood in stark contrast to the Mission, Craftsman, and Prairie styles of architecture that had become prominent of the time. However, when Henry and Anna opened the doors of their home to guests, their choice of style was not questioned. The following appeared in the February 28,1904 issue of The Daily Oklahoman, shortly after an opening event:
The house is a sermon on beauty. It is uplifting and ennobling as works of art are ever. The taste with which it has been decorated and is being furnished is flawless and shows a praiseworthy mastery of the subject, and the whole Overholser house is an incomparable example of the possibilities of beautiful homebuilding.
The home remained a center of social life for decades--hosting weddings, dinners, and literary events. It was also the place of the birth of their only daughter, Henry Ione, in 1905. Throughout this time, the home remained in the hands of the Overholser family—after Henry died in 1915, his widow Anna continued to live in the house until her death in 1940. The house then passed to Henry Ione and her husband, David Jay Perry. The Perrys had no children, and when Henry Ione died in 1959, David Jay Perry was left as the sole heir to the mansion.
Realizing the historic value of the Overholser Mansion, Perry sought to see it preserved as a living tribute to the 89’ers—the group of people who arrived during year following the Oklahoma Land Run.
On June 22, 1970, the Overholser was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Less than two years later, on April 14, 1972, David Jay Perry achieved his goal of preserving the mansion by selling the house, including all of its contents, to the Oklahoma Historical Society. At the ceremonial deed signing, Perry stated that it “was Mrs. Overholser’s wish that it go to the city or state. She would be pleased.”
Today, the mansion is owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society and managed by Preservation Oklahoma, Inc. Preservation Oklahoma (POK) is that state's only private, non-profit membership organization dedicated to promoting, supporting, and coordinating historic preservation activities across the state. Founded in 1992, POK is a Statewide Partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and works on joint projects with the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the Oklahoma Historical Society.
For more information on POK and its programs, please visit www.preservationok.org.