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.