The Edmond Sun

July 26, 2013

Travel back in time in Enid

Elaine Warner
Special to The Sun

ENID — The old wooden floor was cool and smooth under my feet — just a little creaky — but what you might expect from a venerable centenarian. I’m sure that this grande dame, even in her heyday was not as dressy as today. My room was decorated for a fairy princess — or maybe Marie Antoinette, whose image hung above the fireplace.

The Southard House Bed and Breakfast Inn is Enid’s newest B&B. Owners James and Tammy Neal have added their own interests and personalities to one of Enid’s loveliest historic homes.

The Southard House is in the Kenwood Addition, an area claimed in the Land Run of 1893. It was platted the next year and bought and developed in 1895 by Harrison Lee and W.O. Cromwell who sold the 25 lots at $25 apiece.

The house was designed and built in 1912 by George Franklin Southard and his wife, Lilla Hughes Southard. Mr. Southard worked for Standard Oil in France and Portugal and, after coming to Oklahoma Territory, founded a gypsum company and, later, the Dewar Coal Mining Company and Southard Oil.

His wife was an accomplished musician and is reported to have had the only orchestral/player organ in Enid. She also played and taught piano. The couple valued learning and the arts, supporting the Enid Carnegie library, the Enid Writers Club, the Shakespeare Club, the Pianists’ Club and the Lamb’s Club, which furthered literary and social interests. The house was a mainstay in the early Enid social scene.

Mr. Southard died in 1930, his wife, 10 years later. The house went through several owners but by the mid-’90s, it was empty and falling into disrepair. On the verge of being demolished, it was purchased by Marty Tydings in 1998.  He carefully restored the property, selling in 2012 to the Neals.

Backing up a bit, James and Tammy had been long-distance dating — he was living in Fairview, she in Enid. They became engaged in 2011 and James moved to Enid as they planned their life together. Preparing for their wedding, the couple tried to book Enid’s only B&B for their wedding night. The Maple Place B&B was completely full. The town obviously needed more of this type of accommodation.

This was a light bulb moment for the two who were re-evaluating their current careers. Tammy, working in a nonprofit substance abuse center, was ready for a change. “I love decorating, creating beautiful things and hosting tea parties,” she said. And a B&B would be the perfect outlet for these talents. “I knew I wanted angels and cherubs as the theme and when we toured this house and I saw the cherub mural painted above the staircase, it spoke straight to my spirit,” she continues.  The newly married couple bought the house in November 2012 and opened in May of this year.

Tammy’s touches are everywhere. When I visited, she had just changed the motif from Fourth of July decorations to a beach theme. Pale blue walls and white furniture gave the living room a summery feel.

In my room, a satin half-canopy hung from the tall ceiling. Tiny embroidered roses decorated a quilted spread. Pale pink Austrian shades at the bow windows framed a leafy, green scene outside.  A cloth-covered table and two chairs stood in front of the windows and provided a comfy nook for guests who want their breakfast in privacy.

I took advantage of breakfast in the dining room so I could visit with my hosts. The breakfast was excellent — coffee and juice, a fruit/yogurt/granola parfait, orange-infused French toast, egg and cheese casserole and turkey sausage.  

I slept like Sleeping Beauty and dined like a queen. Who could ask for anything more?

Well, I could. Because this was work, I took the opportunity to check out some of Enid’s other attractions.

Even though I’m from Enid, I learned things about the area that I didn’t know at the Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center. An excellent 13-minute film described the 1893 Land Run, the largest in history. The newest exhibit is an actual surveyor’s chain and another exhibit shows how claims were marked.

A life-sized diorama shows a family camping during the run. A number of items in the scene are authentic pieces that came to Enid in the Land Run. An 1890s quilt used by Isaac M. Smith during the Land Run hangs nearby.

A replica of a sod house is furnished with items dating from as early as 1880. Panels on the wall feature stories about and in the words of early pioneers.

Other exhibits feature industry and agriculture in the area. There are several videos or hands-on displays — including one about the railroad war between North Enid and Enid. An entire room is dedicated to Phillips University and includes some antique astronomical items that belonged to former Edmond resident, the late Dr. Elza Hawkins.

Plan plenty of time to visit. It’s estimated to take six and a half hours to read and interact with all the materials here. Since it was 100 degrees the day I visited, I skipped the Humphrey Heritage Village for another day.

Instead, I enjoyed a beautiful Cobb salad and bruschetta in PaneVino, a charming bistro on Enid’s square. While the name sounds Italian, the menu is eclectic. The hand-cut, choice, Angus steaks are favorites but anything you get is going to be good. And owners Mickey and Mandy de la Cruz pride themselves on everything being made individually so if you have a special request, they will accommodate you.

All in all, my visit to Enid was highly satisfying. It’s a lovely little town, proud of a new events center, and new shops and restaurants making it the go-to town in northwest Oklahoma.

ELAINE WARNER is an Edmond-based travel writer.