The Plan

While it may appear that nothing is going on at The Mac right now, looks are deceiving. We are anxiously awaiting this Friday when we will have full possession of the downstairs. It will be interesting to get the rest of the stuff cleared out, get the storefront windows clean and begin to think about how to divide the retail spaces. Rob is anxious to get the 7th Street entrance to the upstairs uncovered. It was closed off in 1964 when the building storefront was remodeled for C.R. Anthony’s. It should open up behind the storefront on the northeast corner of the building.  Hmmmmmmm…………..

This is what we’ve been trying to imagine for months now……

8 APARTMENT PLANHow to layout loft apartments on the 2nd floor.

This is just a rough draft on a possible layout.

We can fit six 2-bedrooms, a 1-bedroom, 1 studio & a laundry room.

We want to keep the central hallway with all of the great windows and doors in place.  All of the glass is patterned so it will allow for privacy. Not all of the doors will be used but they will be there.  It will maintain the current feel of the common space and it’s super cool.

We have many major things that will be determined over the course of the coming weeks : Finalize the layout of the units, determine a plumbing, mechanical and electrical plan,  figure out which windows can be saved and the ones that will have to be replaced, getting on Allen Lewis’ schedule to get the roof torn off and replaced, and the list goes on and on and on.  All the while, we’ll be awaiting our approval from the NPS on our tax credit application.  We can’t actually “start” on the project until we have their approval.

We have another project down the street that we have been working on fast and furiously over the past two weeks.  “The Horton on Morton” is next door to the Okmulgee Police Department.  This building was built in 1918 by Fred Severs (who also built the Severs Block on 6th Street where the Citizens Security Bank resides).  He sold the building to the Okmulgee Democrat Publishing Company.  When they went bankrupt in 1922, the building was purchased by H.H. Horton.  So being the fans of Dr. Seuss that we are, the name seemed fitting.

Plus we always have to give our properties a name.  We have the “Witches House” duplexes on East 8th, named for their steeply pitched roofs.  The “Clinic” on the corner of 8th & Morton that was home to a hospital upstairs & medical offices of Drs. Buell and Myers in the 1940’s, 50’s & 60’s.  There is the “Blue House” also on East 8th with the “garage apartments” behind.  And I can’t forgot “Tom’s apartments” on the Old Morris Highway.  (We bought them 15 years ago from my mom’s husband, Tom, but they will always carry his name).  It’s a little eccentric but it makes it easy to keep track.

Ok…..getting back on track……let’s take a quick look at The Horton.

Horton livingThis is the living room of the apartment that is in the back.

It’s a great space.  We’ve painted the ceiling black, the trim is a shade of khaki called Portabella and there are creamy white walls.

(the refrigerator not live here permanently, in case you were wondering.  It will go to the kitchen soon).

We’ve pulled out carpet and vinyl tile and have discovered beautiful wood floors throughout that are going to be refinished this week.

Kitchen at The Horton
Kitchen at The Horton

Here is the kitchen.  It’s huge for an apartment and has tons of cabinet space.  These are white metal cabinets that were probably installed in the 1940’s or 50’s.  They are in great shape.  (It’s also been a good place to gather up all of our tools while we work). It has the same creamy white walls and portabella trim and a big window on the opposite wall that has a great view of the Okmulgee Post office.

The bathroom is really going to be cool……..

here’s a glimpse………..

exposed brick in the bathroom we are updating at The Horton
exposed brick in the bathroom we are updating at The Horton

All of this amazing brick was hiding behind some laminate paneling and plaster.

The shower has new subway tile and the floor will have white small hexagon tile.

All of the debris was carried down the 26 steps that lead from Morton Street to the upstairs.

All of the new tile, mortar & grout were carried up the same 26 steps.


I hope that these many trips qualify as exercise since  I’ve been MIA from Paula Brydges’ spin class all summer long.

One of my favorite parts of The Horton renovation was the text last week after a visit from the tenant that will live in this great space in a few weeks.  “Y’all have done a number on this place!!! Looking awesome!!!  🙂 Love it”

Another great thing is that the air conditioner works great which is a big plus in July in Oklahoma…..thank you Bud Hayes for putting in a new fan the weekend we started work.

But the very best part was this note Rob left for me early one morning last week……..

Be still my heart!

We flippin' Okmulgee


The McBrayer Family

I got to spend Monday morning with 3 “McBrayers”, touring the Mac!  I had so much fun I that I forgot to take a dang picture, so no visual…..sorry!

Nancy McBrayer Gleeson brought her kids, Michael and Amanda down for a visit today.  Nancy’s grandfather, Thomas Humphrey McBrayer built the Mac in 1916.

Three days after we put the building under contract, my brother called me and said “I’m going to text you a name and phone number.  It’s for a relative of the McBrayer’s who built your building.  You need to call him.”


Really…….I’m just supposed to call some guy up out of the clear blue sky and start in about how I’m buying a building that was built by one of his relatives?????

I did……”Hi….I’m Margaret and my brother gave me your name & number.  I’m calling because I’m buying a building in Downtown Okmulgee that one of your relatives built.  Call me back when you get the message so we can discuss…..”

Thank the Lord I got his voicemail.  What kind of nut job is this guy going to think I am?

Two hours later the phone rang…….

“Hello….Margaret?  My name is Nancy Gleeson and my son Michael just called and gave me your number.  He said you called earlier today and said you are buying the building that my Gampy built in Downtown Okmulgee?”

Gulp……..”yes ma’am.  We are buying the McBrayer Building and are planning to restore it”……..and an hour and a half later………my brain was overflowing with all things McBrayer over the past 98 years!  I had hit the mother lode!!!!

Mc Brayer Family - CopyMeet the Thomas Humphrey McBrayer family!

Thomas & Nanny Lou moved to Okmulgee in 1910, where he worked for a railroad and a wholesale grocery company.  He later went into business for himself with a feed store and in 1916, built the building.  His feed store was housed in the back.  He later went into real estate, lease buying and the oil business, making many of his deals in the lobby of the Parkinson Hotel that sat directly west of his building.

The McBrayer’s had six children: Thomas, Martha, Andrew (whom they called Bill), Mary Louise, Sara Kathryn (Katy) and Nanna Lou (Dan).  They attended the Methodist church.   Thomas married & moved to Hollis.  Martha married Orus Bingman and resided in Okmulgee her entire life.  Bill lived in Bartlesville (dad to my new pal Nancy) and retired from Phillips.  Mary Louise married & moved to Henryetta.  Katy married Henry Martin and they lived in Okmulgee and had Martin Monuments.  Dan lived in Oklahoma City.  The six siblings are all deceased now and they died in the same order in which they were born.

The McBrayer Family owned the building until 1997.  Nancy and her brother Andy, came with her Dad, Bill, to move things out of the upstairs offices at that time.  Many of these treasures they have saved through the years and are now sharing them with me!

It’s funny because I have been surrounded by McBrayer’s most of my life:  Martha and her husband sat in the row behind my family in the balcony of the First United Methodist Church every Sunday throughout my childhood.  Katy and her husband Henry were close friends of my Mom.  Sis, Tom, Katy & Henry enjoyed many years of Friday night dinners out and were all members of The Harmony Sunday School class at FUMC.  Katy’s son, Bill & wife Danna are still very active members of our church today.

I look forward to having the whole McBrayer clan attend the 100th birthday celebration for this beautiful building that has been a part of their family for so long.  And I look even more forward to exploring more of the history of this family that has made such a lasting impression on our hometown.

The Mac is on the left in this photo from 1942
The Mac is on the left in this photo from 1942

The Application

What is wrong with me?                                                                                                                                     I’m having  anxiety, a panic attack and fear over two pieces of paper.

Two sheets……8 1/2″x11″ have me hostage.

This doesn’t scare me……………..

bad floor







Neither does this…………….






I’m not even afraid of these former tenants we evicted………






I even have a guy in OKC that sent me the two pieces of paper that has pledged his whole-hearted support and will proof-read what I write to make sure it’s correct……

What do I have to be afraid of???????

nps app pic





Maybe I’m afraid I won’t do my girl justice?  Maybe I’m afraid that the folks at the department of the interior won’t recognize how beautiful she is and won’t deem her worth saving?

You see, for those of us just crazy enough to take on a historic preservation project, there are some ways to get assistance.  There are federal and state (in Oklahoma) tax credits for qualifying historic preservation projects.  It’s a program that is handled by the US Dept. of the Interior through the National Parks Service.  Each state has a historic preservation officer (SHPO) that is the contact to make application.  My new pal Harry Simms is Oklahoma’s man.  I have yet to meet Harry personally.  But if my phone conversations, e-mail communications and visits with mutual acquaintances are correct, I think we will get along just fine.

Just to make it clear…..Harry nor the NPS (National Park Service) are just standing around handing out checks.  The application process is going to be an education in and of itself.  You see, their goal is to insure that historic preservations projects are done correctly.  They share the same passion as I do.  They want to help preserve our history through our buildings.  They want photos and documentation and details of the condition of the property.  They want the historic history of the property.  They want you to show them how it’s a contributing factor to the history of America.  The have done this before and know what they are doing.

I have not……..and I think that’s what scares me.

So after a day filled with laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, making lunch, going to an apartment and pulling up tack strips & staples from where we removed carpeting that was over a hardwood floor, I finally took a deep breath, spread out the contents of my file folder on tax credits and began to complete Part 1 of the application.

I didn’t even have to lock myself in here to get it started…..








Tonight,  I have my rough draft of the description of physical appearance and statement of significance ready to e-mail to Harry tomorrow for his review.  I’ll go have the 90+ photos that my friend Paul A. Orosco took printed tomorrow so that I can create a photo log and key to submit with my completed application.

So now I guess the only thing that I have to be afraid of is this………..

laundrythe laundry baskets are bottomless.   It’s hot and sweaty work in the middle of a typical Oklahoma summer.  We change clothes many times each day.  I think the clothes breed every time we walk out of the door.



But I have accomplished another first in this journey.

I wonder if there is a tax credit for laundry services while restoring a historic building?  Think I’ll ask my new pal Harry about that tomorrow.

The Elephant

IMG_2148Let’s just go ahead and get it all out in the open right now…………….it’s the question that is looming in the back of everyone’s minds………the proverbial elephant in the room……..

“Have you two lost your minds?”  (We know that you are all thinking it…….)

Who in their right minds can look at this……

2nd floor holeand this……..







photo 4and this………..







IMG_2138and this……and see anything positive?????





Folks…’s not all cool preserved woodwork and neat windows.  It’s not all beautiful hardwood floors and retro sinks, light fixtures and doors.

This is not going to be all glitz,  glimmer and fun.  It’s going to be work.  It already has been.  It’s hard, sweaty, dirty, gross and down right disgusting, at times, work!!!!

Our sweet girl is chock full of flaw and imperfections.  She’s lived a hard 98 years.  She’s been neglected.  But the one thing we know for certain is that we HAVE NOT lost our minds.

Over 20 years ago when we were newlyweds, thinking we were in total control of the path our lives would take, we discussed moving back to Okmulgee.  The big 3 factors were:

  1. We wanted to have and raise our children surrounded by our family.
  2. Rob wanted to join Rotary as his Dad had been a long-time member.
  3. Rob wanted to buy & manage rental property, as his Dad had done for many years.

While we’ve had many detours, set-backs and changes throughout our lives  but these desires have been met.  Our boys have grown up living within 1 mile of all of their grandparents and their Mammy (my sister, Mary).  Rob has been going to Rotary on Thursdays at noon since 1992 and we have bought, renovated and even sold rental properties throughout Okmulgee.

So while you might think we are a little bit crazy…..(and we’ll both admit to that with pride), this isn’t exactly our first rodeo.

Rob has worked on rental property since he was 14.  He’s also been an insurance adjuster, an insurance agent and real estate agent.  He worked for years in finance.  I’ve had my real estate license for 7 years.  We’ve learned from, and with, each other for years.  We’ve unclogged toilets, pulled staples out of hardwood floors, scraped wallpaper, scrubbed nasty refrigerators and gotten up in the middle of the night to go let tenants in who have misplaced keys.  We’ve met the police to break up wild parties and stood and endured an enraged tenant as he called us every name in the book.  We have often said we could write a best seller just using our experiences with rental property.

We’ve also met some great people through the years.  We’re  proud when others call and have been given our names from a friend who has rented from us before.  We are proud when tenants graduate from OSU-IT and move away to begin their dream jobs.  We have gotten to meet and play with kids while their parents look at our properties to see if it will fit their needs.

And while we have never taken on a project of this size or scale.  and don’t know what the next 18 months will bring, we are excited to pour our hearts into it.

We go to bed talking about it and get up talking about it.  It’s still new and exciting and fun, but we fully embrace that there will be issues and problems and days when we will throw our hands up in frustration.

But she’s ours and we love her and we are  just crazy enough to have faith that it will all be a great chapter in the story of our life.



The Treasure

IMG_2207Just a staircase…..opened up for the first time in 60 years.  Let’s walk up and see what’s at the top…….





IMG_2206So, it has a nice little landing close to the top……interesting………….




Looks like some has been sweeping up……..




Wow….door after door after door……..

look at that wood work?

Doesn’t it give you goose bumps?


Well… gives us goose bumps.  Every single time we walk up those stairs.

Who would have imagined that all of this amazing space full of beautiful wood work, light fixtures, hardwood floors was hidden away all of this time?  I certainly never did.

IMG_2176look at the trim…..look at the window glass……look at the cool corner sink




IMG_2168look at the neat names still in place on many of the office doors…….




Can you feel it yet?

Can you feel the life that once flowed through these spaces?

Can you imagine the 30+ people who came down from these offices onto the streets of Downtown Okmulgee for smoke breaks, lunches and hot dates after work?

Can you feel the life?  I can.

I can feel neighbors stopping in the hall ways to chat.  I can feel  friendships forming with neighbors.  I can feel plans being made and experiences.  I can feel a place of rest and retreat.

And now that the treasure has been discovered…………..let’s roll up our sleeves and go!

The Negotiation

I knew there were some amazing spaces above the sidewalks of Okmulgee but few had I ever seen.   I grew up here.  I took dance lessons from Phi Delta Lee Neal on the back mezzanine of the Commerce Building at 7th and Grand.  I used to love to ride the car elevator to the second story of Fidler-Harlan and gaze out of the wrap around windows at my home town.  As a kid I’d roam in and out of Jones Furniture, M&D Star Drug, Ramsey’s Department Store and many other of the shops that called downtown home.  But by the mid-70’s,  when I was growing up, there were no occupants of the upper stories of our downtown buildings.  It never even occurred to me that there was anything more than what was directly off of the sidewalks.

Rob had often mentioned  touring the offices in the 2nd story of the building at 7th and Morton.  He had asked the building owner, who was a childhood pal and fellow Okmulgee High School Class of 1979 graduate, if he would take him upstairs one year during his reign as the “Head Nut” (also known the chairman of Okmulgee’s annual Pecan Festival that was held for 15+ years in June).  It was the Summer of 1995 or 1996 (he was the Head Nut for 3 years).   Every so often, over the past 18 or so years, Rob would occasionally mention those offices; usually when there were tales being told about the history of Okmulgee or the Pecan Festival.  It was never something that was ever given much of a second thought.  That is, until the phone call this spring……

“Hey Rob……someone told me you would be interested in buying the building at 7th and Morton if it were to come up for sale?”

The retail store there had been closed for 7 or 8 years.  The display windows were covered with paper and the upper story windows were either boarded or broken and the only inhabitants were a gang of pigeons.

Rob replied, “Who told you that?  I don’t really need any more property to manage.  We downsized 3 years ago from 30 units to 14 units.  I’m getting old and tired.  I do nothing but work all of the time now.  But you know……I would like to maybe see the building”………..

So we took a tour and thought we were really being sneaky parking down the block and around the corner.  When we walked out of the front door, there stood several ladies who were setting up for the annual Relay for Life event.  As soon as we emerged we got the “Hey…..are you guys going to buy this building?”  And where it came from, quick as a flash, I replied, “no…..just doing a routine insurance inspection”.

And immediately I began to consider the ramifications of just having told a flat out lie to a friend……..who is not only a teacher but Catholic to boot…………….

While I was considering what my eternal life was going to be like, having just committed the one sin that I preach CONSTANTLY to my kids to not do, the ideas began to churn….. “what ‘if’ we bought the building?  What if we made apartments upstairs?  What if we divide the 7000 square foot retail space into smaller spaces?  What if…..what if…..what if….”

Several days passed.  Several dreamy discussions took place.  We decided to make an offer.    And we waited….and waited….and waited.  Finally, after an excruciating 72 hours, the answer was no.   Just no…..not even  a counter offer.  So Rob asked if they would like to counter.  The reply was a simple “No.  We don’t like counter offers.”

So the next morning, Rob emailed them again.  “I get that you don’t like counter offers.  I don’t either.  But if you were to counter, what would be your price?”.  That evening we got the number we had been looking for.  The next morning, we drew up an offer that split the difference.  By bedtime, we had a deal!

Rob re-opened the door and staircase on Morton Avenue.  It had been closed off in approximately 1954.

And within 10 days, Rob had opened up a door and staircase that had been closed off for over 60 years.  And what was at the top of the stairs was a treasure waiting to be discovered.

The Book

So I curled up under my electric blanket with a snoring bulldog at my feet and a snoring husband at my side and I began to read……Chapter 1….Chapter 2…..Chapter 3……wait a minute……what town is this book about?  Chapter 4, Chapter 5………it can’t be about Siloam Springs…..Chapter 6, Chapter 7……….good golly…..this guy has to be writing this about Okmulgee.  “Rob…..wake up……you’ve got to listen to this……….Rob…..”.

The next morning I thrust the book at Rob with the , “you have got to read this book”.  I got the standard “ok” and then he set off for the day’s activities.  So I texted Rusty, “have you read this book?” to which I got the usual “I’ve started it and I need to finish it”.  That earned him the scream via text “GO GET IT RIGHT NOW AND START READING SO I’LL HAVE SOMEONE TO DISCUSS IT WITH!”.   A week later, with no one having read it and having no one to discuss it with, I pushed it all to the back of my mind…….or at least I tried.

Fast forward a month.  We had found our new Main Street director.  I gave her a couple of weeks to settle in before I appeared in her office and thrust this book in her face. “Please read this book.  The town that he’s flipped is very similar to Okmulgee.”I went home and asked Rob again, “please….read this book.”  His response, “do they make it on an audio book?  You know I never sit still long enough to read.  Get it on audio and I’ll listen to in my truck.”  They don’t make the book in audio.   Dang.  Back to square one.

Several weeks passed and I finally just let the book go……obviously none of my contemporaries were readers.  Then I got the call from Heather, our new Main Street director.  “Guess what? Ron Drake….the book guy is going to be presenting in Sapulpa next week and I’ve gotten us an invite to come hear him!  Are you in?”    “Well, yeh…..”

Well, the presentation did not disappoint any of us that attended.  Even my non-reading pals were intrigued now.  The message was clear and straightforward; your downtown is not the only downtown that is not thriving.  You have to embrace the businesses that are located on the highway as they are an important part of your town.  Downtown is a different niche.  Take a good look at your downtown spaces in a different way.  Imagine if the 2nd story spaces were loft apartments.  If you get people living downtown then they will bring life to downtown.  They will want cafes, coffee shops, book stores, art galleries, cool shops to frequent.

So the next day, at any given time, you could spy us walking around Downtown Okmulgee, looking up, seeing what had been right in front of our faces for the past 100 years and imagining things in a whole new perspective.  By days end, Okmulgee Main Street had contacted Ron and hired him to come over and consult.  In that conversation, Heather asked what he thought about several of us coming over for a day trip to experience Siloam  Springs for ourselves.  Two weeks later, we loaded up in a borrowed church van and took ourselves a little road trip.

Roadtrip to SiloamAfter a tour of several of the  loft apartments, retail spaces and Ron’s office we settled in for lunch at 28 Springs.  It was fun to walk in and see familiar faces as many of the people we had met earlier in the day were there dining as well.  Ten of us enjoyed a great meal and spent the ride home brainstorming about the potential that we have in Downtown Okmulgee.

One of the last comments I made to Ron as we left was, “you are going to absolutely fall in love with Okmulgee when you see our buildings.”  To which I got the standard reply “I’m sure I will.”

Well, not being one to just sit by and do nothing, I called my fellow MS board member and photographer Paul A. Orosco and asked if he’d take a few shots of some of our downtown buildings so we could send them to Ron before he visited Okmuglee.   Anyone who knows Paul won’t be surprised that his reply was “Sure.”  And no one will be surprised that when he brought me a cd of the requested photos there were 97 shots of Downtown.

They say a picture says 1000 words…..well, Mr. Drake was speechless when he saw our downtown.  He even made a detour to come through Okmulgee the week before his scheduled consultation so he could see them for himself.  I think he fell in love with Okmulgee’s downtown that day.

Behind the scenes and on the QT, Rob and I had been looking at a beautiful building downtown.  I could hardly contain myself and keep my mouth shut until we worked out the details to get it under contract.  the book

As you can see, I finally convinced him to sit still long enough to read the book…………………

……….and this is where our story begins.



The Lunch

It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; several tables set up the Episcopal Church, a great homemade meal prepared and served by several from the Main Street Board.  A handful of the diehard Main Street supporters and another handful who were just there for the free lunch.

Rusty was quick to introduce Rob and I to Linda Barnett, who is with the Oklahoma Main Street, as she was going to be our speaker.  As our Main Street program was without a director at that time, she gave us a pep talk and reminded us about our rich history as one of the founding programs in Oklahoma (we established in 1986) and that this is just a rough patch that you’re going through and that she knew our search for a new director would be successful.

When she touched on the architecture of our beautiful downtown buildings, she mentioned a presentation she had heard recently and said, “he has a book and if anyone wants to see it, just contact me and I’ll let your read mine.  But I’m going to be off for 6 weeks having a knee replacement”.

While I enjoyed her presentation, what was really running through my mind was, “what has Rusty gotten me into?”…… director, very few people here, a very tired vibe amongst those present.  Geez……it’s going to be a looooonnnnngggg 3 years on this Board.

The next month at a monthly Education Foundation meeting,  Rusty came up after and said, “hey kid, I just went ahead and ordered a copy of that book that Linda spoke of….” to which I then replied , “……….and…….?” “Well……..I  haven’t actually read it yet.  But I will and then I’ll bring it to you, ok?”

At the following month’s meeting of OEF, I cornered Rusty; “how was that book and are you going  to bring it to me?”    “Well, kid…..I’ve started it but when I finish it, I’ll bring it to you, ok?”   That night I got on Amazon and ordered the book…………..

It arrived via UPS on Friday night.  Sell-Sheets_RonDrake_update-2-5-13-940x1238

Bring Back the Mac

IMG_2243Have you noticed the beautiful building that stands regally on the SW corner of 7th & Morton in Okmulgee, OK? She needs a little facelift and I’m her new BFF that’s going to help make that happen. #OkmulgeeRising

#Okmulgee Rising

How do you make a “positive disruption” in a small town like Okmulgee, Oklahoma?  That seems to have been in my mindset for the past 22 years.  I’ve tried the traditional methods; getting involved in civic organizations like Okmulgee Service League, Chapter Z of PEO, Chamber of Commerce’s Pecan Festival and Okmulgee Main Street.  I’ve volunteered to serve on fund-raising campaigns to build the YMCA Aquatic Center and the restoration of the Okmulgee Public Library.  I’ve spent countless hours in our public schools and working on the board of trustees of the Okmulgee Education Foundation.  Every one of those have given me so much joy and satisfaction; leading to life-long friendships and acquaintances while enhancing the quality of life for many aspects of Okmulgee.

Then there was the phone call last Fall………”hey Margaret……Rusty…..I want to ask you something and I really want you to think about it before you say yes”………would you consider serving a 3 year term on the Okmulgee Main Street Board?”

I’ve actually learned how to say “thank you but no” over the past few years.  It’s getting easier to say every time I do.  This one was different…….this one was a request from a lifelong friend and when I say lifelong, I truly mean lifelong………Rusty is a friend and classmate of my brother.  They also grew up in the same neighborhood in Okmulgee.  He was at the hospital when I was born and I found a picture last month of us at my 1st birthday party……so lifelong is not an understatement.

So as all of the reasons I was going to decline this invitation ran through my head, my mouth opened and I spoke the word yes……………

“Great, plan to come to our annual lunch meeting and presentation next week…..Linda Barnett from the Oklahoma Main Street is the speaker and you can sit with me.”

UUUUUuuuuuuuggggghhhhhhh………..what had I just gotten myself into??????

Little did I know, that lunch meeting was going to change my life……….