Located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the Henry Overholser Mansion preserves the former home of “city father” Henry Overholser, open to the public as a living history museum for guided tours. Businessman Henry Overholser is credited as the “father of Oklahoma City,” developing many of the city’s early urban and residential areas throughout the late 19th century.
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In 1901, Overholser purchased three lots of land within the city’s Highland Park Addition for the purposes of constructing a residence for himself and his wife, socialite Anna Murphy Overholser. An 11,700-square-foot Châteauesque-style residence was designed by architect W.S. Matthews, noted for his training at Kensington Academy in London, and completed in 1903 for a cost of $38,000. The mansion was officially opened to the public the following year for private special events with a gala reception.
As the first mansion constructed within the city, the Overholser Mansion served as a major center for social life in the area, hosting cultural luminaries such as opera singers Amelita Gala-Curci and Ernestine Schumann-Heink. It remained in the Overholser family for the more than 50 years, passed down to Overholser’s daughter Henry Ione and her husband David Jay Perry in 1937. Following Henry Ione’s death in 1959, Perry sold the residence to the Oklahoma Chapter of American Institute of Architects and Historical Preservation, which later donated it to the State of Oklahoma. The mansion briefly served as the official residence for United States Senator Mike Monroney while under the care of the State of Oklahoma. After two decades of supervision by the Oklahoma Historical Society in the late 20th century, management of the mansion was transferred to Preservation Oklahoma. The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and was fully restored to its original condition in 2015 through joint efforts with the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, the Women’s Architectural League, and Historical Preservation, Inc.
Attractions and Tours
Today, the Henry Overholser Mansion is owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society, with the Preservation Oklahoma nonprofit organization, which was established in 1992, overseeing all tour and management operations. The 11,700-square-foot mansion is designed according to the Queen Anne and Châteauesque styles of European architecture, featuring an exterior construction of sandstone and brick. A carriage house and porte-cochère on its grounds that adds another 4,000 square feet of footage. Many of the home’s interior walls and ceilings feature handpainted detail work and showcase original imported Italian light fixtures. Original English carpeting, French stained-glass windows, Brussels lace curtains, and Belgian woodwork is also showcased throughout the mansion.
Docent-led tours of the mansion are offered Tuesdays through Sundays during the morning and afternoon, with tour groups embarking every hour and tours lasting approximately 35 to 45 minutes. All tours begin in the mansion’s carriage house and span restored rooms throughout its three stories. Tour rates are offered for adults, students, and seniors, with all children under the age of six admitted free with paying adult admission. Tour reservations are required for tour groups of 10 or more, including educational field trip tours for elementary and secondary school students. The mansion is closed during the month of January and during times of inclement weather where conditions would prohibit safe travel throughout the estate.
Ongoing Programs and Education
An educational tour program, “Henry Overholser and the Built Environment,” is provided for elementary and secondary student groups of up to 60 students. Programs include guided field trip tours of the mansion, as well as in-classroom educational programs centered on the legacy of the Overholser family in the Oklahoma City area and their influence on architecture and urban development in the American South. A historical reenactor portraying Anna Overholser is also available for appearances, and a PASS-objective-incorporated teacher’s guide is provided for instructors.
The Henry Overholser Mansion may be rented for private special events, including weddings, reunions, and business events. A maximum of 20 guests are permitted for weddings held within the mansion, with food and drink prohibited due to the preservation of the mansion and its furnishings. The mansion’s carriage house may also be rented for weddings and events for up to 50 guests, with seating and access to a full kitchen provided by the facility. All events may also add on guest tours of the mansion for an additional fee per guest.
In addition to its restoration and maintenance of the Henry Overholser Mansion, Preservation Oklahoma oversees a number of programs related to historic homes and businesses throughout the Oklahoma City area, including the Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Historic Places list, which flags historic properties at risk of demolition and raises awareness for preservation efforts and campaigns. The organization’s This Place Matters campaign, established in 2009, also offers a variety of tours and lectures highlighting other area historic places, and a number of preservation-themed workshops are offered throughout the year centered on public initiatives such as Route 66 preservation efforts.
405 NW 15th St, Oklahoma City, OK 73103, Phone: 405-525-5325