What to See in Ponca City

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What to See in Ponca City, Oklahoma

What to See in Ponca City

Hugh Pickens writes: What to See in Ponca City, Oklahoma

The Pioneer Woman Statue

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

Commissioned by oilman E. W. Marland and erected in 1930, the Pioneer Woman statue stands at the center of Ponca City’s civic life. The result of a sculptural competition, twelve of the world’s leading artists each produced a three foot bronze of their conception of the Pioneer Woman. The bronzes toured the United States and were a sensation in New York City where they were viewed by hundreds of thousands of people at the Reinhardt Galleries and written up in Time Magazine and by the New York Times. Over 750,000 cast votes for their favorite and Bryant Baker’s “Confident” was the selection of the people.

E. W. Marland - Oilman, Politician, Philanthropist

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

In 1908 E. W. Marland came to Ponca City after losing his fortune in the Pennsylvania oil fields in the panic of 1907 and by 1920 had reestablished himself and started the Marland Oil Company in Ponca City with a fortune estimated at $85 million (roughly $910 million in modern dollars). Marland was a visionary and not only pioneered the use of geophysical techniques in the oil industry but was years ahead of his time as an employer providing housing, loans, medical care, and other benefits for the thousands of employees who worked at his refineries and pipelines.

Standing Bear - Ponca Native American Chief

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

Standing Bear was a Ponca Native American chief who successfully argued in U.S. District Court in 1879 that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law" and have the right of habeas corpus. Standing Bear spent many of his later years traveling the country to tell of his ordeal and to speak out for American Indians. In 1993 a twenty two foot statue of Standing Bear designed by Oreland C. Joe was commissioned and stands just south of Ponca City gazing over the Arkansas River Valley. Standing Bear ended his testimony in the landmark civil rights case with these words, "My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. I am a man. The same God made us both."

The Poncan Theatre

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

The Poncan Theatre was designed by the Boller Brothers of Kansas City in a mixture of art deco, classical Roman and medieval architecture. Opening in 1927, the Poncan hosted such famous entertainers such as John Phillip Sousa Band, Sally Rand, Will Rogers, and Ethel Barrymore during the heyday of vaudeville. In 1989 the theater was donated to the Poncan Theatre Company and a dedicated team of volunteers began to restore it culminating in a grand reopening and open house on September 18, 1994.

The Big Spring

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

The Big Spring was used by Indian explorers and cattlemen before the Cherokee Strip was opened to white settlement after the land run of 1893. B.S. Barnes came from Kansas in 1893 to participate in the Land Run and sold certificates for land turning prairie into a city in just five days. Barnes, who became Ponca City's first mayor, chose the location for Ponca City because there was access to natural springs and the railroad.

The Standing Bear Park and Cultural Center

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

The 63-acre Standing Bear Park includes a 22-foot bronze statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear; a Museum and Education Center featuring tribal displays, traveling exhibits, and artwork; and a 60-foot diameter circular viewing court with seals of the six area tribes, Osage, Pawnee, Otoe-Missouria Kaw, Tonkawa and Ponca. The Mission of Standing Bear is "to educate all nationalities about the Native American heritage and the important role Native Americans have played in developing our country diverse culture; To promote better understanding and communication among all our nations cultures; To increase economic and educational opportunities for Native Americans; and To provide a catalyst to enhance the self-worth of all Native Americans."

Lake Ponca Park

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

Lake Ponca Park is recreational facility located east of Ponca City. The stone shelters were constructed in the 1930's by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a US government program that took young men without jobs to build bridges, lakes and other projects during the Great Depression. The High School North stadium is another product of the CCC. In winter Lake Ponca Park is host to one of the largest displays in the "Festival of Angels" tour transforming itself into a sparkling multi-colored exhibit of animated displays.

ConocoPhillips Oil Company

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

With over 1,000 employees ConocoPhillips Oil Company is the largest employer in Ponca City. Up until the 1960's Ponca City was headquarters to Conoco Oil Company and hundreds of engineers and scientists worked at Conoco's Research and Development Center in Ponca City. More recently ConocoPhillips has donated unused office space in their facility to host the University Multispectral Lab (UML), a testing center for sensor technology located at the Research East building of the ConocoPhillips complex.

Annual Arts Festival at the Soldani Mansion

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

In 1966, the Ponca City Art Association purchased the eight-thousand-square-foot Soldani Mansion built for Anthony Godance Soldani, a member of the Osage Nation, at a cost of $92,000 in 1925. The Art Association is dedicated to enriching cultural life in North-Central Oklahoma by promoting, teaching, and nourishing the creation and appreciation of the visual arts through exhibitions and educational programs for children and adults. In September 2011 the Association will sponsor its 37th annual arts festival attracting artists from across the region who will come to Ponca City to display their work.

The Standing Bear Pow Wow

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

"The Standing Bear Foundation was born to bring the two cultures together" says TL Walker, the Executive Director of the Standing Bear Foundation. "Having the Pow Wow is a way for the two cultures to come together in a social setting." Held in late September and hosted by the Kaw Nation, Osage Nation, Otoe-Missouria Nation, Pawnee Nation, Ponca Nation, and Tonkawa Nation, thousands of tribal members and citizens of Ponca City come together for two days to dance, sing, socialize, and honor American Indian culture. "The community of Ponca City and the community of all six tribes need to use the Pow Wow to celebrate together and embrace each other's culture with understanding," says Oliver Littlecook , member of the Ponca Nation.

Louise Fluke Flag Plaza

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

Ponca City resident Louise Fluke entered a contest sponsored by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1925 and designed Oklahoma's state flag with an American Indian shield with a peace pipe, olive branch and eagle feathers against a blue background. In celebration of Oklahoma's centennial, the citizen's of Ponca City dedicated a Flag Plaza to honor Fluke. Fluke, who was only 25 when she designed the flag, was the 1982 recipient of the Pioneer Woman Award presented here at the Marland Mansion Renaissance Ball by then Governor George Nigh.

Veterans Day Parade

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

In 1953, Alfred King, an Emporia, Kansas shoe store owner, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who served in World War I and began a campaign to turn Armistice Day into "All" Veterans Day. A bill for the holiday was passed by Congress and President Dwight Eisenhower signed it into law on May 26, 1954. The observance of Veterans Day to November 11 not only preserves the historical significance of the date, but helps focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

The Marland Mansion

Hugh Pickens writes: What to see in Ponca City

The Marland Mansion was designed by architect John Duncan Forsyth and was built between 1925 and 1928 for Oklahoma governor and oilman E. W. Marland after Marland's trip to Florence, Italy where he was quite impressed with the Davanzatti Palace. Known as the "Palace on the Prairie," the 43,561 square foot house includes 55 rooms, including 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, 7 fireplaces, and 3 kitchens and features Waterford crystal chandeliers, gold leaf covered ceilings, an elevator lined in buffalo skin, hand carved details in limewood and oak paneled walls, rich tapestry and sheffield plate wall sconces. The Mansion was purchased for $1.4 million by the City of Ponca City in 1974 funded by a one-cent sales tax.

About the Author

Hugh and Dr. S. J. Pickens
Dr. Pickens and Hugh Pickens celebrated 33 years of marriage before Dr. Pickens passed away in 2017.
Pickens Museum opens on NOC Tonkawa Campus. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Cheryl Evans, NOC President, Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum, and Sheri Snyder, NOC Vice President for Development and Community Relations. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College)

Hugh Pickens (Po-Hi '67) is a physicist who has explored for oil in the Amazon jungle, commissioned microwave communications systems across the empty quarter of Saudi Arabia, and built satellite control stations for Goddard Space Flight Center in Australia, Antarctica, Guam, and other locations around the world. Retired in 1999, Pickens and his wife of 33 years moved from Baltimore back to his hometown of Ponca City, Oklahoma in 2005 where he cultivates his square foot garden, mows seven acres of lawn, writes about local history, photographs events at the Poncan Theatre, produces the annual Oklahoma Pride series with his wife at Ponca Playhouse, and recently sponsored the first formal dinner in the Marland Mansion in 75 years. Pickens is founder and Executive Director of Pickens Art Museum with locations at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, City Central in Ponca City, and Pickens Gallery at Woolaroc. Pickens can be contacted at hughpickens@gmail.com. Pickens is a covid survivor and a stroke survivor.

Personal Statement

Most days you will find me sitting in my easy chair with an HP laptop or a book in front of me. I enjoy intellectual pursuits: studying, writing, reading, researching, analyzing, and predicting. During my off time I like riding the backroads of Oklahoma in my hot rod, working out, watching old movies on TCM, playing games like chess or dominoes, participating in community theatre, and, my secret pleasure, reading trashy detective novels by John D. MacDonald. I enjoy theater and concerts and I go to NYC several times a year to see Broadway shows and visit galleries and museums.

Pickens' Publishing

In 1996, Pickens edited and published ''My Life In Review: Have I Been Lucky of What?'', the memoirs of Jack Crandall, professor of history at SUNY Brockport. Since 2001 Pickens has edited and published “Peace Corps Online,” serving over one million monthly pageviews. Pickens' other writing includes contributing over 2,000 stories to “Slashdot: News for Nerds,” and articles for Wikipedia, and “Ponca City, We Love You”. Pickens has written the following articles available on his wiki at Research and Ideas.

History and Biography

I enjoy doing in-depth research on one person and writing a detailed biography of lesser known events or figures. I like to find someone, an artist, a politician, a former Peace Corps Director, or an Oklahoman, that I like and am interested in learning more about them and writing their biography from scratch. I started and filled out dozens of biographies when I wrote for Wikipedia back in the stone age in the early 2000's when they were getting started. But Wikipedia became too bureaucratic and political for me so now I research and write biographies on my own mediawiki platform. (I only make anonymous edits to Wikipedia now usually on the discussion pages.)

Science and Technology

I graduated with a degree in physics from SUNY Brockport in 1970 and have worked in science and technology my entire career. I have held such jobs as Geophysical Observer on a geological survey crew in the amazon jungle, running a portable hydrocarbon detection laboratory on an oil rig, systems engineer for the microwave communications system and supervisory control system on the 800-mile long Trans-Andean Pipeline, independent contractor to Collins Radio in 1979 installing, commissioning, and testing microwave repeater stations all over Saudi Arabia, military advisor to the Royal Saudi Navy on naval communications, navigation, and fire control systems (1980 - 84), project engineer, then project manager for Bendix Fields Engineering (later becoming AlliedSignal Technical Services, then Honeywell Technical Services) from 1984 until my retirement in 1999.

Business and Investing

I am a speculator and enjoy designing and executing trading strategies that exploit market inefficiencies through my assessment and evaluation of information asymmetries, market psychology, and human emotion. Over the years I have put together several open-source histories of companies I am interested in including micro-caps that I have invested in.

Ponca City, Oklahoma

I was born and grew up in Ponca City, Oklahoma, a town of about 25,000 somewhat isolated in North Central Oklahoma (a two hour drive to the nearest metropolitan areas in Tulsa, OKC, and Wichita.). After I left Ponca City to go to college, I worked overseas and on the East Coast for 30 years. But my wife and I came back to Ponca after our retirement in 1999.

Ponca City is an interesting amalgam of historical developments including being being founded and created from scratch during and after the Cherokee Strip Land Run in 1893, becoming an oil boom town in the 1920's, home of the "Palace on the Prairie" built by oil magnate E.W. Marland, home to Conoco's R&D facility employing hundreds of Phd.'s in the 1950's, 60's and 70's giving Ponca a character of a university town, and finally the continual influence of Native American tribes on our history especially the Ponca tribe and Osage Nation. Some interesting articles I have researched and written about Ponca City include:

Pickens Museum

Pickens Museum is a distributed museum that is active in three location: Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa, Oklahoma, City Central in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and at Woolaroc Museum near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The museum has plans to build a 15,000 ft2 art museum on highway 60 West of Ponca City, Oklahoma. in the next few years.


Peace Corps Writing

I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru from 1970 - 73 working with the Peruvian Ministry of Education teaching high school science teachers how to build lab equipment out of simple, cheap materials. In 2000 I started "Peace Corps Online" to document the work volunteers are doing around the world both during and after the Peace Corps Service. I ran the web site for ten years and posted about 10,000 stories. Even though the site is no longer active, I still get over 50,000 monthly pageviews.


Phillips 66

Conoco and Phillips 66 announced on November 18, 2001 that their boards of directors had unanimously approved a definitive agreement for a "merger of equals". The merged company, ConocoPhillips, became the third-largest integrated U.S. energy company based on market capitalization and oil and gas reserves and production. On November 11, 2011 ConocoPhillips announced that Phillips 66 would be the name of a new independent oil and gasoline refining and marketing firm, created as ConocoPhillips split into two companies. ConocoPhillips kept the current name of the company and concentrated on oil exploration and production side while Phillips 66 included refining, marketing, midstream, and chemical portions of the company. Photo: Hugh Pickens all rights reserved.

For nearly 100 years oil refining has provided the bedrock of Ponca City's local economy and shaped the character of our community. Today the Ponca City Refinery is the best run and most profitable of Phillips 66's fifteen worldwide refineries. The purpose of this collection of reports is to provide a comprehensive overview of Phillips 66's business that documents and explains the company's business strategy and execution of that strategy.

Safety, Environment, Legal


Strategic and Financial

Business Segments

Stock Market


Refining Business Segment

Increasing Profitability in Refining Business Segment

Detailed Look at Ponca City Refinery

Other Phillips Refineries

Other Locations