Great State: Lighting up the Prairie for 100 Years

BLACKWELL, OKLAHOMA — The old settlers around Blackwell, Oklahoma got used to the idea that when the sun went down it got pretty dark, which is what made the Electric Park Pavillion such a big deal when the lights went on in 1913.

“Back when electricity was a big thing,” remarks a visitor to the old Pavillion turned museum.

“Yes,” agrees museum director Joanna Campbell. “This was the first electrically lighted building in Kay County.”

The City of Blackwell sold bonds to get it built.

For decades, it was the place for big gatherings like boxing matches, stage shows, and even a reunion of Civil War veterans.

Campbell says at night, “You could see it, I’ve heard, for 20 to 50 miles away.”

The old Pavillion is now the Top of Oklahoma Museum.

Director Campbell has the former auditorium packed with Blackwell history.

Artifacts from the old zinc smelter, war memorabilia, and lots of old pictures of what the pavilion used to look like.

But there are still remnants of forgotten grandeur above the dropped ceiling.

Beneath the dome, modelled after the White City Chicago Worlds Fair, a faint light still glows.

“It was all open at one time,” she says.

“There might have been a little balcony but I’m not sure.”

“It’s a hundred years old in here and you can just feel the vibes,” she continues.

“I think it would have been awesome to see it in its original state.”

It’s been years since anyone called this place the Electric Park Pavillion.

The name above the door says Top of Oklahoma Museum now.

The building narrowly escaped the 1955 twister.

It made it through to modern times to become the storehouse of Blackwell history.

Campbell says, “I feel the reverberations of things that went on here before. It feels like home.”

It’s still lights up at night.

In an era when just about everything plugs in and glows, the old Pavillion still stands as the first to light of Christmas in 1913 Kay County.

The grand-daddy of light displays hasn’t lost its luster.

For more information on displays and operating hours at the museum go to blackwellchamber.org/custom2.asp?pageid=1923