The Hales Collection

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These photographs of the WT Hales Collection pull us into an older, distant world where most of our current landmarks disappear into a surprisingly elegant architecture which is mostly lost. Who were these people who, 100 years ago, were able to erect elegant, timeless structures on freshly turned prairie soil? The columns and marble in the Security Building and State Bank Buildings show the care and permanence these pioneers aspired to. They show how they turned the wealth of the land into man-made structures of value.

1910 Aerial Photo:

Also on this website in the Robert Allison Collection (RACp.2010.18.04) is an exceptional aerial photo that orients these buildings in their own time. It is an aerial photo shot from “Little Frank’s” balloon in 1910 which clearly shows many of the early, now lost buildings of Oklahoma City and two remaining ones. Centered in the photo is the Colcord Tower as we look NNE. It looks the same today. You can tell it by its brilliant white color and familiar “L” shape. The Baum building (destroyed by Urban Renewal) is behind the Colcord. The now straightened Robinson jogs across Sheridan (then known as Grand) to the right. North and west from the Colcord (down and to the left) is the non-descript Security Building with a black elevator house on the top. This sits at the SE corner of Main and Harvey, on the current site of the Parking Garage and partially on the Devon construction site. This was the site of the Security Building built by W.T. Hales in 1904. The architects were Layton Smith and Hawk of Oklahoma City.

In “Little Frank’s” balloon photo, the Hales Building is one block left (north) of the Colcord and looks remarkably similar to the Colcord. It sits white and tall with a small return to the west as well. Now Corporate Tower (and the Fedex store) occupy the site. The Hales building was permitted on November, 1909 and built 12 stories tall as the State Bank in 1910 at a cost of $350,000. The permit called for a steel frame and concrete building. Prior to it’s demolition, the Hales building had 66% occupancy and was structurally sound. Some of the family was attempting to save and renovate the building, but were unsuccessful. It was dynamited and destroyed in 16 seconds on April 8, 1979. Newspaper photos show much steel in the wreckage.

Hales Building History:

The Hales building was originally built by Oklahoma City Banker E.H. Cooke for his State Bank. E.H. Cooke was an early investor in Oklahoma and operated in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. E.H. Cooke chartered State Bank in 1893 and built the building in 1910 It was named the Hales building when the First National Bank moved into the new First National Tower. W.T. Hales purchased 1/2 of the the building in 1915 and bought the last 1/2 in 1928. He purchased several assets from EH Cooke, including some in California. The Hales Building was north opposite the Katz Drug Store, famous for Clara Luper’s sit-in on August 19, 1958. East of the Hales Building sits the Oil & Gas Building, a dark building of red brick which still stands. Today that is where Quizno’s is across the street from Fedex.

Mauran & Russell of St. Louis were architects for the Hales building, while the Selden Breck Construction Co of St. Louis was the contractor.

The building was faced with Bedford Stone from Indiana and had imposing street facades. Bedford stone is a light colored, fine grained oolitic limestone that is very uniform and well suited to large architectural projects. It was used in the state capitols of Indiana, Georgia and Illinois as well as hundreds of other signature buildings, both public and private. The finish throughout the building was quarter sawn white oak. The floors were of Tennessee Marble with a wainscot of Italian Marble.

WT Hales History:

W.T. was an early prominent businessman in Oklahoma City starting when he arrived here from Neosho, MO in 1890. He was 17 and began trading in mules. He eventually sold them all over the world. In 1901, during the Second Boer War, he sold mules to the British in South Africa. During the First World War he sold then to the British and French. He also sold mules to the the 101 Ranch, eastern coal mines and the many railroad crews opening up the American West. His mules and Oklahoma mules in general, according to 1912 accounts in the paper, were prized around the world for being “better bone and weight than those raised in any other state, this being attributed to the long feeding season and the abundance of alfalfa”. In this same article it states that the 1912 Oklahoma mule market was 2 million dollars and estimates that the mule market from Oklahoma in 1913 would be 3 million dollars split between the Hales and his brother, Davis and Younger. W.T. Hales’ older brother, George Hales, was his business partner and was a city councilman for many years. WT Hales was a shrewd investor and used his profits in mules to diversify into real estate and oil. He was also a major venture investor in Oklahoma City with interests in the development of Heritage Hills, a co-investor with GA Nichols in Nichols Hills, major Investment in the First National Tower and was an “angel” to the Biltmore Hotel when it fell on hard times after WWI. The brothers were often referred to together in the papers as co-owners of the mule business. George, the older one made the land run of 1889, but WT’s parents made him wait until he was older to come to Oklahoma. in 1890, WT “picked up the reins” of the mule business and became a ‘world class” livestock entrepreneur. They were both instrumental in attracting the railroads to Oklahoma City in 1901 and organizing the stockyards less than a decade later. WT Hales started with his livery in Oklahoma on the site of the Chase Tower. Then it was the perfect place for his mules – next to the Santa Fe tracks and in the middle of downtown at Main and Broadway. Mr Hales was one of the early proponents of the Stockyards and in attracting the meat processing companies to move to Oklahoma City. When the mules were gone from Broadway and Main, he redeveloped the block and built a building that housed retail, a dance hall, and a restaurant. The mules went out to the Stockyards on Agnew in about 1909.

Sending Mules to World War I:

The family tells an interesting story about Hales’ mule trade with Belgium and France. At the beginning of WWI, W.T.Hales contracted to sell hundreds of mules to those countries and was supposed to ship them through Galveston. He sent the mules and his overseer, a Mr Clark, to Galveston to meet the European ships. Hales recruited Clark from his oilfield operations and knew he was capable, tough and a problem-solver. Everyone expected Clark to return from Galveston within a few weeks with the check. When Clark got to Galveston, there was no payment for the mules, so Clark got on the boat with the mules and sailed to Europe. W.T. Hales’ friends thought Clark had absconded with the valuable mules. But Clark was true – he returned to Oklahoma, check in hand. After nearly a year on land and sea, delivering the mules, parlaying with the French and Belgians to get paid, he came home with W.T. Hales’ check!

Descendants of the Hales line still live here in Oklahoma with surnames of Peterson and Mullaly.

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  1. Here’s a 40’s-era photo of the First National Bank building with the Hales Building in the foreground:

  2. Lynne, that’s a fairly unique photo. Where did you get it? Further, your entire flickr collection is pretty impressive. Tell us more about it!

  3. Ian Hales Conger

    WT Hales was my great great grandfather. Viva Peterson was my great grandmother, daughter or WT Hales and Mary O’Neta Childers-Peterson was my grandmother.

    I reside here in CA and have heard many great stories of my wondeful GG Grandfather! I only wish I could have met him, but I will one day!

    Ian Conger

    • Ian,

      Reminder – her last name was Cadenhead. And by the way, there’s no apostrophe in Oneta – it’s not Irish.


      • Patrick ~ are you Patrick Cadenhead who has posted in the message boards? If so, I would love to contact you. I am the granddaughter of Chester Lafayette Hales, nephew of W.T. Hales. I am trying to fill out my family tree, but I’m missing a lot of links. How can I contact you? My e-mail address is
        Thank you
        Sharon Hales Frazier

      • Well Patrick her married name was Cadenhead, her maiden name was Childers. I am well aware she was not irish. An apostrophe doesn’t make someone Irish but yes you are correct. .. no apostrophe. Nice hearing from you too.

        • Ian,

          As you probably should know, her maiden name was Peterson.

          Art Childers was her first husband (out of five) to whom she was married for a relatively short time. She expressed regret about how mean she treated poor Art, and how she used to throw shoes at him in the middle of the night when he snored.

          But from about 1950 until she died in 2003 (for over fifty years and the majority of her life), her name was Cadenhead, which is really the married name you should properly reference.

          Her tombstone in Fairlawn Cemetery OKC is inscribed with her maiden name Neta Peterson, as when the plots were purchased, Mama Pete didn’t use want to use Nini’s married name (it was after Nini divorced my grandfather) because she was sure Nini would marry again (She never did).

          But she is not buried there; her ashes were sprinkled in the Seven Falls, Garden of the Gods, and Pike’s Peak in Colorado, per her wishes.

          Hope you are well.

    • Patty Hales Brown

      WT hales was my great great great grandfather!

    • I found a letter from your great grand-parents in a book. Would love to return it to your family if you like.

  4. Regarding the man in the picture. It is identified elsewhere online as W.T Hales. I am not a “Hales” descendant, but my half-brother was. His name was Allen Hales Buck. I have pictures of Allen as a baby with his mother Lucille (daughter of W.T.) sister Marcia and our father Clarence Patillo Buck. The pictures I have were taken in the garden of the Hales’ home. The background in the pictures are very similar so I am guessing this picture was taken there as well.

  5. William t hales V

    Well I am wt hales v. My dad grew up in Oklahoma and I’d love some more information on my great great grandfather. Please get back to me as soon as you can. It is up to me to carry on the hales name and would love some info to tell wthales6 and 7

  6. Sue Nichols Sanford

    My great grandfather was George Hales and my father was William D. Nichols. He spent a lot of time with Uncle Will (W.T.) and Aunt Neta. I also had the privilege of knowing Aunt Neta.
    My great grandmother was Fannie (Mammy) Hales. I spent a lot of time with her when I was a kid growing up in Oklahoma City. She told the MOST WONDERFUL STORIES OF WHAT THEIR LIFE WAS LIFE AT THAT TIME!!)
    I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM ANY ADDITIONAL RELATIVES. My grandmother was Jessie Jane Hales. I have a wonderful picture of the whole family on the front steps of Uncle Will’s house On Christmas day 1917. All of the boys got new bicycles!!

    • Sharon Hales Frazier

      Sue ~
      I would love to share information with you and see any information you have about the Hales genealogy. My grandfather was Chester Lafayette Hales, and my great-grandfather was James Lemuel Hales, brother of W. T. Halaes.

  7. Hello Hales Relatives,

    Would love to correspond and share info with you. Feel free to contact me at I descend from W.T. Hales through his eldest daughter Viva; Papa Hales is my great great grandfather.


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