Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – First Court House is Torn Down
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, on August 28, 1935, a “landmark building of the early era here” was torn down: the Lucile Opera House.
From Peter Egan’s Sapulpa, OK: Greatest City in the Known World, vol 1, in 1902, Congress passed a bill designating Sapulpa as one of six federal court towns of the Western Judicial District of Indian Territory (I.T.).
The district marshal came to Sapulpa and could not find a building available for use as a courthouse. The citizens were told they must provide a building if a court was wanted.
Accordingly, local Sapulpa enthusiasts raised and offered a bonus $1,000 to anyone willing to build the courthouse*.
*Note: in 1902, $1,000 then is roughly $35,000 with today’s inflation.
The pair Joseph O. Hereford, who was a horse and mule dealer, and John F. Egan, who worked in real estate, teamed up to build a two-story brick building to become the courthouse. The construction began in October 1902 and was completed in September 1903. It stood tall among the residences along Mounds St and Dewey Ave*.
*Note: the address was 121-23 W Dewey, which is the northeast corner of Mounds and Dewey. This location is roughly where McAlister’s Auto Detailing is today. John F. Egan is the grandfather to Peter Egan.
The lower floor was to be used as the courthouse, while the upper floor was for a theatre, and a jail was constructed at the rear of the building. The upper floor was to be named the Lucile Opera House. It would be used as an entertainment center for the townsfolk. The opera house was named so due to that both Hereford and Egan had daughters named Lucile.
The town was named a court town was very important to the growth of the town. In addition, the courthouse construction would also further aid the establishment of the county seat in favor of Sapulpa. Sapulpa became the center for the legal profession in the area. Until this was built, people had to travel to either Muskogee or even Ft. Smith for their legal matters.
One of the first published articles about the courthouse of Sapulpa was about one the known vices of town: liquor*. In October 1904, Deputy Thompson brought a Mr. Roberts in and charged him for bootlegging. And Deputy Teel “made a lucky haul at the depot when the Oklahoma express [train] came in; two jugs of whisky and one case of beer were captured and carried to the courthouse to be smashed.”
*Note: other vices included liquor, gambling, and prostitution.
One of the earliest published weddings occurred in the courthouse a few months later. In December 1904, Seth Grubbs and Lizzie Hubbard, both from Mounds, were married with Commissioner Jennings officiating.
While the courthouse was not in session, entertainment echoed the halls of the building. John Westfall, manager of the Lucile Opera House, “booked seventeen performances of leading shows.” The first season at the Opera House kept people coming in every week.
The shows were guaranteed for fun. “Fun from beginning to end. If not satisfied, stop at the door and get your money back.” The costs of .25, .35, and, .50 cents on opening nights for the shows is all it cost you.
The following year, the Chamber of Commerce and the “sidewalk committee” reported that new sidewalks from Main and Dewey to the Courthouse were installed in March 1905.
The next year of May 1906, a ball given at Lucile Opera House for the purpose of “swelling the road improvement fund was a success in every particular.” Ticket sales and refreshment booths receipts were turned over to the cause. “The music was furnished by a home orchestra consisting of S. Moulder, Fred Morgan, H. Harrison, L. Moulder, and A. Phillips.”
In July 1906, the Lucile Opera House began a new endeavor. The organization had purchased fifty new pairs of skates. It hired a Mr. Spencer and Downing, local roller skate experts, to teach the art of skating. Skating would be available every night, with Tuesday nights free.
Entertainment was on an all-time high.
When Oklahoma became a state, November 16, 1907, the county took over the building, and the Opera House ceased to function. During the period of its use, the newly named Hereford building was rented by the government.
In 1911, the county offices were moved to the fifth floor of the Berryhill building, with district court being held in one of the Burnett buildings on N Main St.
Where the present day county courthouse stands, this location was once the Dewey College. After the six-year struggle between Bristow and Sapulpa of who was going to be county seat, finally in 1913, Sapulpa would be able to build another courthouse. The county offices gathered and moved into it shortly after its completion*.
*Note: present courthouse built in 1914 by Manhattan Construction Co. on a bid of $133,000, which would be just under $4 million today.
When the Hereford building ceased to be used as a courthouse, it was changed into an apartment house. About 32 years after it was built, Sapulpa’s first courthouse was in the process of being razed.
“Razing of the Hereford building marks the passing of another structure that played a vital part in the early history of Sapulpa and its citizenry. Its destruction today ends another historical structure of early Sapulpa.”
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.