This Week in Sapulpa History: The Building of a Million Stories

Rachel Whitney
Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum

This week, the building that we all refer to as the Sapulpa Herald building is scheduled to be torn down. It is part of the city’s plan for the alleyway redesign.

Here is a look at the past and the significance the building at 16 South Park St has had in the town’s history. Within the building, many people have come and gone over the years. The people in the building had written many stories, snippets, tales, and highlights of our city and surrounding area. The address and its building that shared a million stories has a history, too.

Before 16 S Park became the building-of-a-million-stories, just before Sapulpa became a city, the corner of S Park and E Dewey wasn’t developed yet. Soon, though, development began. And with new development, the town knew they needed a newspaper. The town developed a handful of newspapers in the early days. One newspaper stood out, The Sapulpa Light.

William H Platts began the newspaper publication called The Sapulpa Light around 1896. After a few years, in early 1901, Will R Winch left the Kansas City Journal to venture out into Indian Territory. He took interest in the local paper and “took over the management of the Sapulpa Light the first week of October.”

By late 1901, Oren M Irelan stepped into the print shop. “I purchased an interest and Mr. William Winch and William Platts retained an interest for about two years. After I relieved him, [Winch] and his wife retired to Kansas City.”

By 1903, along the first block on S Park, on the west side, there were two addresses listed. One was listed as 14 and the other 16 S Park; it is possible these structures were residences where the homeowners worked. Both had a listing as barbers, laborers, and a porter working and living at these locations.

In 1904, Irelan moved the Sapulpa Light to 14 South Park*. The organization wanted the building specifically for the printing office. “This building had a cement floor and numerous windows on the north side so that there could always be abundant natural light for daylight work. A cylinder press and linotype were added to the plant.”

*Note: As the town’s population and businesses grew, the address numbering system shifted from time to time when new buildings were built, new families moved in, and as streets lengthened.

In 1907, James Whitlow had the address of 16, while Sapulpa Light acquired number 14 with CC Ralston, a barber. In 1909, Sapulpa Produce Co made home at 16, whereas another barber, TR Johnson, joined Irelan’s paper. In 1910, WE Verity became editor and manager of Light and began Sapulpa Publishing Co at 14; while next door, Harry T Mitchell took over at 16 as funeral director and embalmer.

By 1914, the building housed two publications, Sapulpa Light and Oklahoma Farmer and Laborer, owned by FC Johannes. Harper’s Transfer of feed and baggage called home at 16 for the next few years. The building witnessed another change, not only ownership, or an additional publication, but this time, a name change.

OS Todd and John W Young owned the Light. This is the transformation period from The Sapulpa Light to the Sapulpa Herald. From Oklahoma Historical Society, “the Sapulpa Herald was founded on September 14, 1914, by John W. Young, previously the business manager of the Sapulpa Evening Democrat, and O. S. Todd. Oren Miller Irelan, previously of the Sapulpa Evening Light*, soon joined Young at the Herald. Young and Irelan railed against the rampant elements of crime plaguing the town of Sapulpa. So aggressive were their efforts that on May 31, 1915, the printing press was destroyed in an explosion of dynamite.”

*Note: it is unsure when or why the name changed from Sapulpa Light to Sapulpa Evening Light, but based on the publications it was between 1910 and 1913.

No one was injured in the blast, and damages did occur to the building, however. “Herald office blown up by Nitroglycerin” was the headline the following day that described the damages to their building. “Damages to the press material and blew out nearly all the windows of the building, tearing off the screens and damaging the walls and doing other damage to the building.” The newspaper kept printing and the building kept standing.

Between 1920 and 1928, the address of 16 S Park belonged to a few diners, such as Kookry, White Kitchen Cafe, Park St Lunch, and Coffee Shop. However, in 1928, Herald “moved” to 12 S Park, according to City Directories, until 1936. From 1930 to 1935, 16 S Park was occupied by two barbers, a dining room, and a shoe store called Foot Form Shoe.

Changes to the building and addresses occurred over the next decade. Finally, in 1936, the official address for the building-of-a-million-stories was officially 16 S Park. Although it was the same building that Herald began with in 1914, it had an address change. 

“Some three decades later, on March 16, 1944, the Herald was sold by Irelan and the estate of the late John W. Young to R. P. Matthews, who had worked as an editor at the Tulsa World. 

The building, now under one address, still had two businesses within it. Matthews used a portion of the building to produce another publication that he brought with him. Southwest Poultryman magazine made home to the adjacent offices of Herald. In July 1946, the building caught on fire.

The flatbed press was completely destroyed in the fire. “Employees escaped being burned. The fire started in the pit underneath the flatbed press as sparks from a welder’s torch dropped into it.” The building received some damages from the fire and smoke. Again, the workers kept up their paperwork and the building lasted.

“On April 17, 1949, the title was changed to the Sapulpa Daily Herald. In 1959, the Matthews family sold the Daily Herald to Ed Livermore. Livermore gave the struggling paper a breath of life and transformed the Sapulpa Herald from a poorly equipped, struggling enterprise, into a state and nationally-awarded newspaper. Livermore later sold the Daily Herald to Roy H. Park in 1979, and Park then sold it to Community Newspaper Holdings (CNHI) in 1997. The Herald changed owners once again in October 2007, when CNHI sold it to the Sumner family. The word ‘daily’ was dropped from the title on October 4, 2017.” Around the time of Park’s charge, the building’s front changed its look from brick to the present-day front.

The Sapulpa Herald began in that building just over a hundred years ago. Many long nights, hard days, and many articles were produced within the building. Although the building is being torn down this week, it does not mean any stories are ending. The Sapulpa Herald will be moving into their new home and continuing its work.

If walls could talk, the walls of 16 South Park St would be the “building of a million stories.”

Some significant stories that came out of the building-of-a-million-stories include:

“Sapulpa Wins the County Seat: Attorneys for Bristow File Motion of Dismissal and Notify Sapulpa this Afternoon. This Ends a Battle of Nearly Seven Years Including Two Elections” Sapulpa Evening Light, August 1, 1913. Sapulpa went to Oklahoma Supreme Court to become Creek County county seat over Bristow. Bristow would not concede the election thinking there were fraudulent voters.

“Sapulpa Will Fight to Finish: Board of Directors of Chamber of Commerce Makes Decision” Sapulpa Herald, January 21, 1927. Sapulpa loses the Frisco to Tulsa. The Herald urged people to not to panic over Frisco moving to Tulsa, the fight had just begun.

“Disastrous Fire Hits Business Section” Sapulpa Daily Herald, December 2, 1949. The Loraine Hotel caught fire and was completely destroyed. It was the worst fire in Sapulpa’s history at that time, destroying two other buildings and killing two people.

“Flames Destroy Landmark Church” Sapulpa Daily Herald, May 27, 1981. The Rock Creek Church burned to the ground in the middle of the night. It was caused by a grass fire due to arson, and the church was caught up in flames.

“Sapulpa on the Map at Main and East Dewey: Signs Aplenty Throughout Sapulpa’s History” Sapulpa Herald, January 14, 2018. A glowing sign of “Crossroads of America” was erected on the corner of Main and Dewey.