WICHITA MTS WILDLIFE REFUGE, Okla. (KFOR) – Most of the history surrounding the Holy City of the Wichitas is on full display, in broad daylight.
The stations of the cross are easy to spot from the hillside on which they were constructed in the mid-1930s, as are more than 40 buildings made from solid stone.
Holy City board member, Ron Jarvis loves the original chapel and the art work on display in the sanctuary.
“It’s phenomenal,” he states, “and it’s lasted all these years.”
But he and staff members found something else here five years ago that baffled them.
“Everything is a treasure hunt here,” he smiles.
In a leaky corner of a reception hall closet, caretakers found a huge, rolled canvas – 20 feet long and 5 feet high.
On it, the Holy City in all its glory.
“It’s amazing,” says Jarvis. “There’s a lot of talent there, but the painting was not in real good condition.”
A closer look revealed an artist signature, Allen Fewell and a smudged date, 1953.
But no one remembered ever having seen it.
Jarvis explains, “No one can remember seeing it displayed.”
There were just too many layers of historical dust to uncover much information.
Jarvis had better luck with the restoration.
A few phone calls brought him to Tim Francis, who works with big pieces of art all the time at Frame Masters in Edmond.
“We were a bit concerned when we got there,” he recalls. ‘
The painting, he continues, “Actually had holes in it.”
He made some calls as well and ended up shipping the mural to an art restorer in Kansas City, MO.
Tim supplied the frame, and in Augusts of 2022, it finally went on the only wall it would fit, what will soon be the refurbished Holy City Museum.
Francis says, “Considering what we started with, we were very pleased.”
“What do you think of it now,” asks a visitor to the museum?
Ron Jarvis replies, “I think it’s great.”
Holy City Founder, Anthony Wallock had a vision for this valley amphitheater close to a century ago.
He thought the surroundings looked a lot like the hills of Judea in Isreal.
Add some longhorns and a few bison, and you get a window into the Wichitas that survives on canvas too, a 20 foot by 5 foot minor miracle that was hidden here all along.
For more information on the Holy City of the Wichitas, including their annual Easter pageant, go to their Facebook page.
Great State is sponsored by WEOKIE Credit Union