VISIT PAWHUKA and look for copies of OUR Visit Pawhuska Magazine throughout town...
In the early days of Pawhuska, the natural development of what is now Kihekah Ave created a triangle shaped piece of land in the middle town. This location severed for many years as a place of gathering. In the late 19th century a beautiful band stand/gazebo was erected and became a site for historic speeches, rallies all of which were happening during the time that Oklahoma and the Osage Nation entered state hood (1890). The tribe members would gather around and receive their “head rights” at the band stand, the area was also home to the town’s hanging gallows.
As the Osage continued to prosper, construction of the Triangle Building began, in 1913 a very modern “flat-iron” building began to take shape and in just 2 short years it was open and taking tenants. During the “oil boom” it housed several businesses, including offices for many of the over 100 lawyers practicing in Pawhuska at that time. In the 1920’s the Osage Indians were among the richest people in the world, this came with a price, the murder rate against tribal members was in a rapid increase. The attorneys in Pawhuska were appointed as “guardians” of the Osage wealth, however most became “drunk with power”.
Over the next several years, decades, the triangle building slipped from it’s once grand state. A building ahead of its time, constructed from steel and brick, and holding claims for being “fire proof” this did not keep time from taking a toll on the once beautiful gem, and by the end of the 20th century it had spent a lot of time empty. However, being one of only 5 buildings like this in the US it was kept standing and was added to the historical registry in 2002.
In approximately 2010 an investment group from Tulsa stepped in and purchased the Triangle Building, but not without problems. Due to the historical listing it took them almost 5 years before they were able to undertake the much-needed renovations. Currently the building is in the process of being restored, and will eventually house a 20-room hotel, restaurant and bar.
Pawhuska has one of the only swinging pedestrian bridges in Oklahoma. This bridge has been making people’s stomachs drop for almost a Century. If you can stir up the courage you will be able to have an experience that is sure to remain as one of your highlights while visiting Pawhuska. The bridge crosses over Bird Creek and is of special interest during the rainy seasons when the creek banks are covered by high water. This is a must see location, whether you live here or are just visiting. Pawhuska’s venerable landmark that’s thrilled and terrified every creek crosser since the early days of Pawhuska. In its original use, the swinging bridge was the only way people could get across the creek into Pawhuska. The foot bridge was designed by City Engineer J.M. Buckley and was built in 1926, and then referbished in 1970. Efforts are currently being made to improve the grounds, and the park adjacent to the bridge.The bridge is safer than ever with high side rails and still has its original bounce and swing when occupied. Those having issues with heights can always watch from one end while stirring their courage. Of course, Kids Love It!
“TOWN BUILDER” as he was called in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, was born in 1870 in Ogdensburg, New York. He studied Law at the University of Nebraska and in 1891 moved to Enid, Oklahoma and established a Law Firm Whiting & Laing to practice Law. In 1909 he was appointed Probate Attorney and Competency Attorney Commissioner for the Osage Tribe and moved to Pawhuska, Ok. That same year the town of Pawhuska was established.
After retiring as the Probate Attorney and Competency Attorney Commissioner for the Osage tribe, Vernon Whiting purchased the Pawhuska Capital weekly newspaper located on the 7th Street Stairs. Six years later he sold the paper to Richard Elam and entered into the Real Estate business, becoming responsible for many fine commercial & residential properties being built, including the Hurley-Whiting building between Main & 6th street now owned by Ladd & Ree Drummond. The Old Post Office/Whiting Dance Hall building on the corner of 7th & Kihekah Ave and The Whiting Apartment building now known as Osage Square and Historic Whiting Hotel Suites located between 7th & 8th Streets on Kihekah Ave. Vernon Whiting also built other apartment buildings, residential properties and small business properties.
His most unique architectural property, and also a favorite of Ron Frantz with the Oklahoma Historical Preservation Department in Oklahoma City, is the Osage Square & Historic Whiting Hotel Suites aka the Whiting Apartment building that anchors the north end of Kihekah Ave in the Historic Downtown Business District. This two story, stucco & brick, mission style building separates itself with original style and architecture from all other brick buildings in the Historic Downtown district. It is located next to the grand 7th street stairs that connect Kihekah to the Osage Indian Agency hill on Grandview. This unique building spans one entire city block with 11 Commercial spaces at street level and has balconies and walkways that separate4 individual units with a total of 20 studio apartments on the 2nd floor.
Tenancy in these apartments were originally used by oilfield workers then later occupied by “Honeymooners”, as young high school girls dreamed about the day they would marry and move into the Whiting Apartments. Even today you will find much of the original historic charm of the Whiting Apartments when you stay in the Historic Whiting Hotel Suites.
Vernon Whiting served as Commissioner and Mayor of Pawhuska, president and director of the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce and during WWII was president of the 4 Minute-Men of Osage Co. He was a member of the Council of Defense and was very active in the stamp and bond sales. Vernon Whiting was an active and prominent citizen known as the “Town Builder” in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
PAWHUSKA’S “WHITING HALL” A FAVORITE MEMORY - In the 50’s & 60’s, with windows open, music filled the streets in downtown Pawhuska as many big bands and western swing bands would play at Whiting Hall. Tenants of the Whiting apartments, that sit across Kihekah from the Whiting Building, would dance up and down the balcony. It is a favorite memory for many Pawhuska citizens. Whiting Hall was on the 3rd floor of the Whiting Building located on the corner of 7th and Kihekah. It is another one of the historic buildings built by Vernon Whiting “Town Builder”. At one time, the U.S. Post Office was located on the bottom two floors of the building. On the weekends, many would come from all over Osage County and surrounding counties to listen and dance to the big bands and western swing bands. Some big-named bands played at Whiting Hall, like “Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys” and “The Kingsmen”. Another lesser known big band that played at Whiting Hall in the 60’s was the “Shadow Lake 8”. It was a time of social gathering and dancing the night away.
Pawhuska boys and girls that took dance lessons from the Evelyn Whitsitt Dance Studio on Kihekah Ave., near Louie’s Hat Shop, would have to attend an annual dance at Whiting Hall to complete their dance lessons. Her students learned how to do simple box steps, side steps, spins and dips, they would always be anticipating that annual dance. Ms. Whitsitt would also teach her students how to be gentlemen or ladies. For this dance they were to behave like adults. This night was like prom night, boys in their white sport coats with dates in hand. Of course, the boys, encouraged by Ms. Whitsitt, would have purchased a corsage for their date and would travel to Whiting Hall. This was their big night to show off what they had learned.
The Pawhuska House Hotel was built in the 1880’s. It was a grand structure as is evidenced by the fact that is still stands today. By 1911, the building was sold to Mr. C. C. Constantine, a Greek immigrant, who dreamed of turning it into the finest opera house in the Southwest. The Theater features a live stage and the capacity of 589 seats. Constantine’s dream was a success and in the 1919-1920’s, the theater hosted 6 opera stars from the New York Metropolitan Opera. Vaudeville, silent movies, boxing matches, and even an on-stage circus with a baby elephant and a dog and pony act were among the attractions featured at the Constantine.
As motion pictures became a primary form of entertainment, the theater kept up with the times until it closed in 1970. In 1987, a group of citizens formed a comity to save the historic Constantine. A long renovation restored it to its previous grandeur. It is now one of many buildings on the historical registry in Pawhuska.
Live theater has been a part of the historical Constantine Theater for many years. Community groups and film festivals are among some of the events held in the beautiful building. A showing of “August: Osage County” was appropriately shown there, and it was used during the filming to house extras. More recently in February of 2018, a pre-screening of “Mosaic Oklahoma”, an OETA special featuring Pawhuska, was shown. In 2017 the Osage Ballet performed “The Nutcracker” to a sold-out crowd. This was the ballet company’s first performance of this well know ballet and set the stage to make it an annual event. The Constantine is available to rent for events, and groups can book tours. Contact Garrett Hartness, President of the Constantine Arts Council, 918-287-2666.
It is rumored that the Constantine Theater has “never been quiet”. In fact, many say it is haunted. There have been reports of hearing a “scuffle” to an all out “brawl”. While others say that during the 1986 restoration, footsteps could be heard crossing the stage. These documented ghost stories go all the way back to the early years, 1906 to be exact.