Last Updated on April 5, 2023
Picture amber fields of wheat and pastureland dotted with oil derricks and wind turbines. Although it would be easy to write off Ponca City as just another small town in middle America, its unique heritage—steeped in the bygone days of cowboys and Wild West shows, Native American settlements, and rich oil barons—can be experienced by visiting its historic homes and ranches, museums, and parks.
Just a two-hour drive from Oklahoma City, Tulsa, or Wichita, the legends of Ponca City offer the chance to step back in time.
History buffs can enjoy its many historic structures, families can delight in the 10-acre botanical garden and the two lakes within 15 miles, and outdoors enthusiasts can have a great time on the hiking and biking trails.
Try the speakeasy-style restaurant, the Rusty Barrel Supper Club, for a mouthwatering grilled steak. Or if you are in the mood for Mexican food, Enrique’s Mexican Restaurant at the airport provides “the hottest jalapeno on the runway”. Fifteen minutes from Ponca City is TS Fork, a farm-to-table restaurant in Tonkawa featuring fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
You may just find that you want to spend another day in historic, surprising Ponca City.
Marland Mansion and Marland’s Grand Home
Marland Mansion, 901 Monument Drive; tel. 580-767-0420; website: www.marlandmansion.com
Marland’s Grand Home, 1000 E. Grand; tel. 580-767-0427; website: www.marlandgrandhome.com
Larger-than-life oilman E. W. Marland, the 10th governor of Oklahoma, brought John Duncan Forsyth and international artists in to complete this European-influenced, 43,000-square-foot Palace on the Prairie. The formal dining room is paneled with English pollard oak cut by permission from the royal forests in England. Up the stairs, stone-carved owls with glowing red eyes are tucked into the corners, and the gleaming terrazzo tile floors are surpassed in beauty only by the arched, hand-painted canvas ceiling.
The Hall of Merriment on the lower floor, with its chubby, wood-carved friars perched above the hallway, beckons one to eat, drink, and be merry.
Check out the hidden poker room off the inner lounge and the 550-foot tunnel to the boat house, as well as the beams on the ceiling in the outer lounge. The beams are hand-painted to depict the history of the area from pre-Columbian Native American days through the Cherokee Strip Land Run and up to the discovery of oil.
The exciting and scandalous history of Marland himself unfolds throughout the self-guided tour of this gem.
Prior to completion of the Marland Mansion, Marland lived in the exceptional white-stucco home known as Marland’s Grand Home four minutes away. The elegant dwelling, with a central vacuum system, automatic dishwasher, and indoor swimming pool, reflects the forward-thinking oilman’s style.
This Renaissance Revival-style restored home contains period furniture on original wood floors and features exhibits of Native American artifacts on the second floor, and 101 Ranch and Wild West Show (more on this below) memorabilia in the basement.
Miller Brothers 101 Ranch
Address: 8300 Ranch Drive; website: www.101ranchota.com
You can walk the property of the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch, where only the foundations and a few weathered outbuildings remain, to get a sense of the size of what has been described as the “most diversified farm and ranch on earth”.”
George Washington Miller built a city within the 110,000-acre ranch property, with stores, a cannery, a dairy, a meat-packing plant, and a refinery. The ranch raised cattle and crops, but most notably, it was home to the 101 Ranch Wild West Show, a contemporary of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.
Cowboys and cowgirls—including Tom Mix, Lillian Smith, Bill Pickett, and Will Rogers—flaunted their skills and tricks to the thousands who came to watch.
The Depression and deep debt drove the Miller Brothers into bankruptcy, and most of the buildings were torn down.
Standing Bear Park
Address: 601 Standing Bear Parkway; tel. 580-762-1514; website: www.standingbearpark.com
A walking trail winds its way around the eight developed acres of this 63-acre park. Each of the six area tribes has a separate area set aside for reflection, but the focus is the 22-foot bronze sculpture of Chief Standing Bear.
Chief Standing Bear was leader of the Ponca Tribe, which was moved from Nebraska to Indian Territory. After being arrested for taking his son’s body back to Nebraska to be buried on their ancestral lands, his trial became significant for the verdict declaring that Native Americans are indeed people with freedoms under the Constitution.
Sit at the viewing court, walk the peaceful trail through the park, or visit the museum and education center.
Matzene Art Collection
Address: 515 E. Grand; tel. 580-767-0345
The Ponca City Library houses the rare Matzene Art Collection of paintings, pottery, and statues, donated by Richard Gordon Matzene. A world traveler and art dealer, Matzene brought these rare pieces out of Asia during the Boxer Rebellion at the turn of the 19th century.
Request an optional art tour by phone.
Pioneer Woman Statue and Museum
Address: 701 Monument Road; tel. 580-765-6108; website: www.pioneerwomanmuseum.com
Head held high, Bible clutched in her right hand, and son’s hand firmly in her left, this statue depicts the strength and bravery (and Christian nationalism?) of the pioneer women who came west. E. W. Marland commissioned this 17-foot bronze sculpture by Bryant Baker to pay respect to these confident and brave women.
Across the street from the statue is the Pioneer Woman Museum, which seeks to preserve the varied and rich legacy of women from all races and creeds who contributed to Oklahoma and the nation.
Address: 104 E. Grand; tel. 580-765-0943; website: www.poncantheatre.org
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Poncan Theatre was designed by the Boller Brothers in the 1920s as an atmospheric theater. It was designed to transport the theatergoer to a Mediterranean villa.
During extensive renovation, the ornate proscenium arch was restored, the original stage curtain depicting an Italian courtyard was discovered, and the original carpet was recreated.
Visit the on-site office for event schedule and tour information.