Famous Landmarks in Lawton – Our Top Five
(or maybe SEVEN, we just couldn’t choose)
There are 1,188 registered landmarks near Lawton for people to visit. Most are a short drive from anywhere you are in the Sooner state. Just here in Comanche county there are 31. Lawton/Fort Sill is home to 7 of them. And all are easy to get to in a short amount of time.
I took an afternoon to go out and find some of these hidden treasures near Lawton that can teach you a lot about our great state, our military and the people that have made their mark on our community.
My first stop was to the Holy City of the Wichita’s. A short drive from Lawton, nestled in the foothills of the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge, there are 60 plus acres of buildings that look like Israel from Biblical times. The annual Easter Pageant is held each year on Palm Sunday eve and Easter Sunday eve. This tradition started back in 1926 as a Sunday school class on the day of resurrection. Now some 85 years later it is the longest standing Easter pageant in the world.
Coming back down the mountain, I stopped in the Wildlife Refuge Museum. Here I found many artifacts on our state in it’s humble beginnings. I took the time to gaze outside the museum at the Longhorn cattle and American Bison roaming at will. Word of caution, don’t get too close. They are aggressive, not someones pet. You could spend a few days exploring the 59,000 acre Wichita Mountain Wildlife refuge and the associated lakes and all of the plants, animals and birds that are there to be free. Just as it is meant to be. Their website includes guided tours.
Coming back into Lawton, I went onto the U.S. Army post of Fort Sill (don’t forget your picture ID). I checked out the land marks of the old post starting at the Old Post Quadrangle. From this point there is over 142 years of history for the taking. From the old Cavalry and Infantry barracks to Geronimo’s grave. If you stop you can almost here the voices of soldiers past speaking from beyond the walls. Also the old corral where, for over a hundred years, the horses of the Half Section have been housed. These horses are considered American Soldiers and are even given a full military retirement ceremony!
Then just around from the Old Post is a museum that is dedicated to the “Fire Power” of the US Army. The US Field Artillery Museum houses both inside and out hundreds of exhibits of guns, cannons and missiles that have been used in the training of thousands of Soldiers not only from here but many other countries as well. This is a must stop if you are a Military history buff.
I did not want to leave but I still had more to see. A short drive back into Lawton I arrived at the Museum of the Great Plains. The museum is next to McMahon Auditorium and what we like to call the “Heart of the Lawton Community” Elmer Thomas Park; Over 18,000 square feet of space is dedicated to the collection, preservation and exhibition to the cultural and natural history of the Great Plains of North America. There are two galleries inside; one with permanent exhibits and one that changes from time to time. There are exhibits on the outside as well including the 1902 Elgin Train Depot which was moved to the museum in 1962 and a 1926 Baldwin Locomotive which serviced the area in the heyday of rail travel.
Behind the Museum of the Great Plains is another gem. The Comanche National Museum houses numerous artifacts that gives visitors a glimpse of traditional cultural and a detailed history of the Comanche Tribe. This came about in the early 1970′s as tribal members wanted a place to preserve their language, history and culture. It took over 35 years for it to become a reality but in 2007 the tribe opened their doors to share their story.
My final stop of the day took me back to the south part of Lawton and the Mattie Beal Home.
Originally from Kansas, Mattie Beal came to SW Oklahoma for the Oklahoma Land Lottery of 1901. By luck she was the second name drawn. Can you imagine how many people were surprised that a woman received 160 acres? Instant fame was bestowed upon her and many marriage proposals as well. There is so much history in this home, located on SW 5th street in Lawton, from the years since it was built. The Lawton Heritage Association purchased the home with the help of the citizens of Lawton to preserve one of the first homes of one of its prominent citizens.
See, there is plenty to see and do right here in the Lawton/Fort Sill and surrounding communities. Where are you going tomorrow? Any historical places in the Lawton/Fort Sill community that you enjoy visiting?