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Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Skirvin - The Real Story

Over the years, around this romantic and marvelous hotel, have grown many legends. Many of the 'facts' reported have perpetuated errors in the historical record of the building. Some paranormal groups have profiles of the hotel's past with these errors. It is time to clear the air.
The Skirvin Hotel - gem of Oklahoma City for decades and recently reopened in rennovated glory - was inspired by the Southland Hotel in Dallas. Galveston native and capitalist, W.H. Skirvin bought land in 1909 at the corner of Broadway and First in Oklahoma City and announced his plans in 1910 to build a "modern hotel" ("Work Starts Soon on the New "Skirvin House". The Oklahoman. (Feb.27, 1910; pg. 5).

The architect for the hotel, Solomon A. Layton, oved the classical styles and incorporated them into many of his buildings. That location was also where a delapidated landmark was falling down, the old Richardson Real Eatate Office, known from very early days ("Landmark Demolished..." The Oklahoman (May 1, 1910;pg. 39). The Skirvin House was being called the SKIRVIN HOTEL by April of 1911 when a story advertized the "ten-story hotel". It opened September 26, 1911. Within about months additional floors were being added and expansion continued at a good pace. ("Add Five Stories to Skirvin Hotel", The Oklahoman (July 10, 1912:pg. 1). The hotel soon became one of the stellar facility hosting events attended by politicians, the wealthy, and large conventions. As early as 1913, it could honestly claim in its ads that it was "one of the great hotels of America" (The Oklahoman, Dec. 21, 1913:pg. 14).

In 1913, manager Fred Scherubel died, "Health Troubles Cause of Suicide of Skirvin Manager (Oklahoman, April 18, 1913:pg. 1) followed a day later by an article indicating bullet trajectories and other issues had the police looking more closely at the death ("Officers Probing Scherubel Death", ibid, April 19, 1913, pg. 5) and two days later he was "tenderly laid to rest" in full Masonic rite splendor ("Fred Scherubel Funeral" ibid., April 21, 1913, pg. 1).

Is it haunted? Over the years nebulous stories of phantom and frisky ghosts had emerged but lack any real substantive historical basis or quantative evidence. Until someone can supply some dates, names, and facts - or can do a quantative study of the facility - they should probably remain in the arena of urban legend. That is perfectly fine as well. Stories give the past its depth, romance, and appeal.

The hotel is a survivor, a lovely old building that somehow dodged the bullet of the mis-guided movement called "urban renewal" that stole so much of the past from the future.

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