Repairs to historic house on refuge underway

Repairs to historic house on refuge underway

COMANCHE CO., Okla. (TNN) - Work to repair the outside of a historic home on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is underway. A house that’s located just half a mile from the Visitor Center needs a lot of work before it will look like it did when it was first built.

Thousands, if not millions, of people, pass this home on the refuge every year. Some stop, and some just keep driving by. Many of those visitors don't know the history of this home that was built in 1927.

Jim Meyer, with the Friends of the Wichitas, said Ben and Margaret Ferguson built the home as early settlers to the area.

"The neat thing about it is it's a really great example of local architecture using available elements like the stones, the cobblestones you see here and Medicine Park."

He said they lived in the home until the late 1930's when the military took the property and some land over, so the artillery range could be expanded. The property became part of the refuge when the military and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife had a swap in the '50s.

Bobby Williamson lived in the house, with his parents, after the refuge got it back. He was just a baby and doesn't have any memories of living there, but he's heard stories.

"My mom would tell me stories about when she would go out and put the laundry out she would have to sit out on the porch and watch the laundry because the bison would eat the laundry," Williamson said. "When they would come over the hills you didn't know it. You'd just have to be out there and aware of them. So, you'd always have to be ready to take the laundry down at a moment's notice."

He said he lived there until he was two or three.

Back in 2010, a fire destroyed most of the house. The Friends of the Wichitas started working to restore it six years ago.

"This building is literally going to be arising from the ashes because it was burnt down," Meyer said. "But through records and everything we were able to determine exactly the original structure, blueprints, and we were able to build it exactly as it was and give people a chance to see what living was like back in those days compared to what it is like today."

Meyer said they spent three years researching it. In 2016, with the help of the community, they raised $70,000 to repair the outside of the home. After the state historic preservation approved the plan, they were finally able to get to work.

At first glance, people might not realize it used to be a two-story home.

"The main floor was a living area, living room, kitchen, and also the master bedroom was on that floor," Meyer said. "The second floor contained two bedrooms for the two children that were still living with the Fergusons. They had ten children, but the rest were already grown and gone."

The house also had a basement with a washroom and garage.

"So, to me, it's a great thing," Williamson said. "I know at one point they talked about bulldozing it and putting a plaque and I just really didn't like that idea. I'm so glad we were able to do a different route."

They’re also going to redo the structure that’s in front of the house to the west. It was a gas station and vegetable-fruit stand. +They plan to have construction finished a month from now.

Copyright 2019 Texoma News Network. All rights reserved.