Posted by on May 1, 2013 in On Vacation - No comments

10 Points of Interest in Lawton / Fort Sill, Oklahoma

If you ever find yourself in Lawton or Fort Sill, Oklahoma chances are it’s because you or someone in your family’s been stationed there to be trained in artillery by the United States Army. U.S. military roots run deep in this town named for the American Major-General that led the pursuit and capture of Geronimo. The neighboring base, founded by General Philip Henry Sheridan in 1869, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. In addition to U.S. military history, the region is also steeped in both Native American and cattle ranching culture. Though not widely regarded as a tourist destination, the area most certainly possesses a fair share of compelling points of interest, ten of which we share here with you….

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Commissary Storehouse at Fort Sill1. Fort Sill National Historic Landmark & Museum – Founded in 1869, this historic U.S. Army base features numerous attractions, including a beautiful group of very well maintained, original 19th-century buildings centered around the base headquarters, trading post, and museum at 435 Quanah Rd. Other attractions on base include the post and Apache cemeteries, the U.S. Army Field Artillery Museum, and the Air Defense Artillery Museum (recently relocated from Fort Bliss, Stables at Fort Sill OklahomaTexas and currently under construction). Step inside the base museum and learn more about the U.S. Army’s earliest African-American enlistees, also known as “Buffalo Soldiers“, and West Point’s first African-American graduate, Henry O. Flipper, both of whom spent significant time stationed at Fort Sill in the late 19th to early 20th century.

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Geronimo Gravesite at Fort Sill Oklahoma2. Geronimo’s Guardhouse & grave site at Fort Sill – Learn more about the plight of Apache, Chiracahua, Warm Springs and Nedni Indians held captive at Fort Sill for 19 years, from 1894 to 1913, with informative historical markers located just outside of the base’s original Guardhouse building, more commonly known as the “Geronimo Guardhouse”, and just outside of the Beef Creek Apache Prisoner-of -War Cemetery far northwest of the base epicenter, on Elgin Road. Explore this sacred burial ground and discover the monumental grave site of Geronimo himself, and the nearby tombstones of his fifth wife, Zi-Yeh, as well as some of his sons, daughters and fellow Apache warriors.

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United States Army Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill Oklahoma 13. United States Army Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill – 238 Randolph Road. From the late fifteenth century up through the Second Gulf War, get a load of this stunning, expansive collection of intense military hardware that includes numerous small arms, uniforms, regimental flags, tanks, rocket launchers, computerized firing systems and missiles. Among many other artifacts, the well-developed south indoor gallery features colonial, Revolutionary and Civil War era weaponry, ranging from the 1700s to the 1900s, including an original Gatling gun. The north gallery United States Army Field Artillery Museum at Fort Sill Oklahoma 2starts with World War I and continues through the modern day with plenty of WWII, Korean and Vietnam War memorabilia. Find approximately 70 more vintage pieces of killing technology on the grounds just outside of the museum building. Our favorite piece: the “M12”; a mammoth, 155 millimeter, WWI era cannon mounted upon a modified M3 Grant tank chassis for service in the European theater during WWII, nicknamed “Adolph’s Assassin”.

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Museum of the Great Plains Lawton Oklahoma 24. Museum of the Great Plains – 601 N.W. Ferris Avenue. Outdoor exhibits at Lawton’s best off-base museum include the perfectly preserved Elgin Train Depot, built in 1902 by the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad, the 130-ton #1526 Baldwin Locomotive, built in 1926, and an excellent replica of a colonial-era fort complete with a prairie schoolhouse and trading post. Museum of the Great Plains Lawton Oklahoma 3Among the many interior highlights is another sweet replica: the leather and tool filled workshop of famed Southwest Oklahoma saddle maker, Howard Council. (Incidentally, you can visit Council’s local saddlery at 813 S.W. 2nd Street.) Make a point to visit the museum’s gift shop which boasts a fine array of literature focusing on the colonial era history of the region’s many Native American Tribes.

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Comanche National Museum Lawton Oklahoma 15. Comanche National Museum & Cultural Center – 701 N.W. Ferris Avenue. In addition to its comprehensive collection of Comanche fine art, “The museum (also) hosts national traveling exhibitions on loan from major metropolitan museums across the country such as the Smithsonian Institute, Michigan State University Museum and Chicago’s Field Museum.  These exhibits concentrate on American Indian art and culture and Comanche National Museum Lawton Oklahoma 2each is augmented with Comanche cultural material.” Formerly on display through April 30th, as part of the temporary exhibition entitled “All Things Comanche: A Numunuu Trilogy” were “items on loan … from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and World War II relics from the personal collection of the last surviving Comanche Code Talker, Charles Chibitty…”, just as an example.

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Korean War Memorial Lawton OklahomaVietnam War Memorial Lawton Oklahoma6. Lawton’s Vietnam & Korean War Memorials – After touring the Great Plains and Comanche Museums, head east on N.W. Ferris Avenue, to the far east side of Elmer Thomas Park, where you’ll find two compelling memorials, one honoring Comanche County veterans of the Korean War killed in action, and one honoring local soldiers who fought and died in Vietnam. Have a nice long look at the imposing, decommissioned tank named “The Veteran” while visiting this reverent site.

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Mattie Beal House Lawton Oklahoma 17. Historic Mattie Beal House and Local Architecture – Lawton’s fanciest and most historic residence is located at 1008 S.W. 5th Street near the corner of Summit Avenue. Other structures of note in Lawton include a very nice Carnegie Public Library building and the First Baptist Church, both at the corner of B Avenue and 5th Street, an attractive Federal Court House at E Avenue and 5th, a group of modest churches and the local fire station on D Avenue Federal Building United States Court House Lawton Oklahoma 2between 6th and 8th, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church (see featured photo at bottom of page) at Gore Boulevard and 7th, and Old Lawton High School on S.W. 9th Street between B and C Avenue, recently renovated for adaptive re-use as the new City Hall. An interesting trio of Works Progress Administration structures, an arch, band shell and sundial, can be found at Union Park, bounded by I Avenue, 6th Street, J Avenue and 5th. While on base, be sure to check out the U.S. Marine Corps Artillery Detachment Barracks on Randolph near Quinette Road, Taylor Hall at Hamilton Road and Batson Avenue, and McNair Hall at the corner of Randolph and McNair Roads.

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Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reservation Oklahoma 28. Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge – This scenic wildlife refuge offers easy-access, lengthy and very close-up looks at a variety of great plains varmints including free-range longhorn cattle, American bison and prairie dogs. More reclusive species occasionally spotted within the refuge include river otters, burrowing owls, white-tailed Deer and if you’re really lucky, Rocky Mountain elk. Click here to see a much more thorough Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reservation Oklahoma 5listing of the refuge’s many documented species. On a clear day, enjoy stunning panoramic vistas of Lake Lewtonka and the surrounding wind-swept valley from high atop Mount Scott. Find the service drive to the peak of Mount Scott on the north side of Oklahoma Highway 49 approximately two miles west of the town of Medicine Park. Approach and taunt bison or longhorn at your own risk, fools. They will gore you.

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Holy City of the Wichitas Chapel 19. The Holy City of the Wichitas – Located within the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, accessible by the service drive running northwest off of Cache Meers Road approximately 1500 feet west of Meers Road. Outside of military obligations, there is one other attraction in the Lawton / Fort Sill region that consistently draws people from all over the world: the annual Easter passion play staged at The Holy City of Holy City of the Wichitas Chapel 2the Wichitas, a miniature stage/city constructed by the Works Progress Administration in the mid 1930s. Located in the heart of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, this event draws thousands annually and, at its peak in the late 1930s, drew over 100,000. Hard to comprehend, in this day and age, how the U.S. Government’s money was once spent to build such things. Much easier to believe: this website‘s claim that, “In 1981 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit, demanding removal of religious items from federal land. A federal judge dismissed the case.”

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Meers Store and Restaurant Meers Oklahoma 110. Meers Restaurant & Store[email protected] Oklahoma State Highway 115 – Our favorite place to dine in all of the Lawton / Fort Sill area has been serving burgers since 1901. “Older than Oklahoma”, they tell you on the menu. It’s out in the sticks but well worth the extra transportational effort. Our favorite dish? The 16-ounce “Seismic Meers Burger”, featuring 97% lean longhorn cattle beef, cooked to perfection before being Meers Store and Restaurant Meers Oklahoma 4placed upon a gargantuan bun that dwarfs your hands, and then topped with jalepeño peppers, bacon, American cheese, sweet relish, mustard, dill pickles, tomatoes, purple onion and leaf lettuce. Share it with a friend or risk eternal damnation for your butt-naked gluttony. Consider the use of a fork and knife whilst appreciating the nuanced flavor that dissociates it from standard grocery store ground beef…..and then use your napkin. ~I♥DM

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Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church Lawton Oklahoma 2

About the author

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Dale Carlson grew up along the northeastern shores of Lake Michigan, where at a young age Detroit called out to him in his dreams. In 2008, after extended stays in ten different Michigan cities, the author settled permanently in southeast Oakland County where he currently lives and works in various capacities within the local real estate industry.

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