Eighteen thousand souls. Its wikipedia page says "McAlester is the home of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the former site of an'"inside the walls' prison rodeo that ESPN's SportsCenter once broadcast." Okay, I guess that's important. Also:

"McAlester is home to many of the employees of the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant. This facility makes essentially all the bombs used by the United States military. In 1998 McAlester became the home of the Defense Ammunition Center."


Let’s start with a theater instead of stumbling upon it:

Cinema Treasures:

The Okla Theatre was built within the walls of the Palace Theatre which was destroyed by fire in December 1930. The Okla Theatre was opened July 10, 1931 with Robert Montgomery in “The Man in Possession”. The architect W. Scott Dunne designed a Moderne style partial Atmospheric style movie theatre, with $50,000. The side walls had stepped rectangular shapes and in between them were plant boxes containing imitation foliage.

Photos here. This one . . .hits me right in the sternum. I don’t know why. It’s such an impossibly futuristic style.


“Zeb, I’m afraid I’m going to have to buy you out.”

“You cain’t do it, Robert. At most I’ll sell you 90% of my business.”

“All right, then”

“You’re the new girl, right? When you answer the phone, whisper Z then say R with a strong, confident voice.”


“It’s just how it’s done, that’s all.

Another Moderne gem, done entirely in brick. This was built as the International Institute for Investigating Internal Indigenous Inquiries In Idaho (local branch)


Like a hand over its face:

J. J. McAlester. You’d think they would have given the building a bit more respect.

James Jackson McAlester (October 1, 1842 – September 21, 1920) was an American Confederate Army soldier and merchant. McAlester was the founder of McAlester, Oklahoma as well as a primary developer of the coal mining industry in eastern Oklahoma. He served as the United States Marshal for Indian Territory (1893–1897), one of three members of the first Oklahoma Corporation Commission (1907–1911) and the second Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma (1911–1915).

What the hell happened here

It’s hard to imagine what this was, ever, at any point - but surely there was a day when it was a modern note on the streetscape, and stood out with pride.

Not any more.

Looks like the caboose of the Buckaroo Express tried to back out of the front.


And now, a different part of downtown with quite an array of solid citizens:



The Order:

The Order of the Rainbow for Girls was founded in McAlester on April 6, 1922 by Rev. W. Mark Sexson. From the initial installation class of 86 girls, the Order grew to 50,000 members in 1940. In 1941, the Order began plans for a larger office building that would serve as a memorial to those who had made the Order possible, and a shrine for members worldwide. The building was designed by the Tulsa firm Black and West, and the funds for the building were approved at the 1950 Supreme Assembly session. The contract for the construction was granted to the Dewey Loveall Construction Company in August 1950, and the cornerstone was Masonically laid on May 2, 1951.

Masonically laid.


Oh to be young on a summer night and step out of the hot ballroom into the cool of the evening on that porch.



“Sorry. No, we have space available, but your function doesn’t sound sufficiently . . . how shall I put it?


These are all on the same street, by the way.


So . . . is this town mostly ceremonial classical structures?

That’s the courthouse.

You must know what this is.



Completed in 1930. Not a hotel today.


Any guesses what it is? Yes! SENIOR HOUSING

We all know what this is, too:

It’s a school, as you can tell just by looking at it. Also there is impressive coal:



Coal built most of this, I suspect.




That’s the Scottish Rite temple. “Many questions raised by the Blue Lodge Masons, but left unanswered, are answered in the Scottish Rite.”

I have no idea what the questions, answered or unanswered, may be.

Perhaps that's the first question: what are the questions?



Well, with all this wonderful architecture, surely the designers who came later were inspired to add to the soaring stock of historically resonant designs

If that thing landed in your public square in the 50s, they'd call out the army.


Surely that’s an aberration, and they tried to avoid the same mist -