DURANT, Okla. — The Bryan County Courthouse will be having a milestone anniversary this year. The courthouse on 4th Street in Durant, Oklahoma turned 100 on July 4.
The city of Durant will have a celebration for the courthouse on July 15.
“The more I worked on the courthouse to start renovating it, I saw how interesting it is,” Bryan County District 1 Commissioner Ron Boyer said. “It has a unique design and heritage. The architect that designed this also designed the state capitol. We want to bring people back to the roots.”
The courthouse was the center of Durant 100 years ago, Boyer said.
“When this was built, the city only went as far as 9th Street,” he said. “So this really was the center of town. This was built two months after we entered into World War I. This building went almost 20 years without anything around it. I marvel at what they built in 1917. I would love to build community pride back. It is a privilege to be here.”
Main Street Tourism Director Stephanie Gardner agrees that the Bryan County Courthouse is an integral part of the history of Durant.
“Main Street is the heart of our town,” Main Street Tourism Director Stephanie Gardner said. “The historic part holds the roots of Durant. We feel that will fit in perfectly with the centennial. The courthouse is not on Main Street, but it is a part of our downtown district.”
For Gardner, it is important that the centennial celebration be more than just a history lesson. She wants it to be fun and interesting for area residents. Gardner has been working with centennial committee chair Nancy Ferris plan the courthouse celebration.
“It is important that this is fun and interesting. When you look at all of the cool things that Durant has done in the past, and what we are founded on, it is important. Historic downtowns are going away. Durant is in a time of growth with new businesses coming in, with new residents coming in because of the new businesses. We really want to celebrate being from Durant and being from Oklahoma. It falls in July when people are feeling really patriotic so it is perfect.”
The centennial celebration will include the removal of the cornerstone of the building. In the cornerstone is a copper time capsule from the courthouses original inauguration.
“R.L. Williams gave a rip-roaring speech when the courthouse was dedicated on July 4, 1917,” Ferris said. “According to the records we found, he gave a flag to the National Guard who was here at that time. The Masonic Lodge of Oklahoma helped put the time capsule in the cornerstone. On July 15, the Masons from all over Oklahoma — it could be well over 100 of them — will come and help remove the stone and reveal the time capsule.”
The time capsule will be opened that day at Three Valley Museum in Durant. The contents of the time capsule will be brought back to the courthouse and presented.
“We want to celebrate history as well as that we live in Bryan County,” Ferris said. “We are going to start out the day with a parade.”
There will be floats that are pulled by hand, children’s wagons and bicycles that have been decorated in a patriotic way, and people walking.
“There were a few cars in Durant in 1917 but not a lot,” Ferris said. “The churches also had a parade. There were groups from each of the churches and sang hymns. The were celebrating that they were free to worship. How beautiful would it be if we could get people to join us in that way.”
Then on the corner of Evergeen and 1st streets where the farmers markets are on Saturdays, there will be an area for children.
“A touch a truck event will take place near Beach Street,” Ferris said. “We want children to be able to see these emergency responder vehicles and touch them. We want them to get familiar with the guys that run these vehicles.”
Near St. John’s Episcopal Church, there will be a centennial stack pancake breakfast for $5. There will be bacon, sausage, eggs, coffee and other breakfast items.
“Father Jim Blagg has said that he will do a blessing of the pets will be a part of our mutt strut so the pets can be a part of that day,” Ferris said. “On the west side of the courthouse, the Texoma Arts Association will have an arts tent set up. Several artists will be in there. There will also be a trades day alley. A lot of different unusual items will be available.”
At 11 a.m., will be a patriotic portion of the event. Area lawyer, Ken Rainbolt will give a history talk and Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb will speak. At 4 p.m. on 3rd Street, a vintage car show will take place.
“There will be music there as well with food trucks,” Ferris said. “Around the gazebo at the courthouse, the Shawnda Raines performers will be performing. Tanner Young is a guitarist that will be performing with some friends that play with him.”
The jail house rock will be held at 8 p.m. The jail was housed at the top of the courthouse when the courthouse was first built.
“People can come out, visit with friends, bring their lawn chairs and see old neighbors,” Ferris said. “We will also have 100 cupcakes for 100 years at our cupcake run.”
At dusk, a fireworks display will begin just off Main Street.
“Oklahoma did not become a state until 1907 and this building was built in 1917,” Ferris said. “Durant became like a marriage mill. Texas had a waiting period for people to get married, but in Oklahoma, a couple could get their wedding license and be married on the same day. So the courthouse was way important then. Every transaction in life, marriage, death, birth, buying land, paying taxes, or criminal court all took place at the courthouse. The courthouse touches everyone’s life in some way every day.”