Best Places to Live

Muskogee, OK

Population: 38,776
Antony Boshier

The appetite for historic preservation is growing in Muskogee, OK. Residents know they have a good thing going and are beginning to take more aggressive steps toward protecting the character of their community. While this city was formed as a railroad town in the late 1800s, its roots run much deeper than that. It was the hub for the settlement and development of what became Indian Territory and home to what is known as the Five Civilized Tribes who walked the Trail of Tears. Today, there are a number of museums and cultural attractions in Muskogee that celebrate the city's heritage. 

Visitors who truly want to immerse themselves in Muskogee's history might choose to spend the night in the Historic Hayes House. The luxurious house was constructed in the early 1900s and is located near museums and Bacone College.

Among the latest preservation projects in Muskogee is the renovation of a 100-year-old structure in downtown that had become dilapidated. The eight-story building, once one of the tallest buildings in Muskogee, has been turned into apartments for seniors with low- to medium-income levels. Another triumph for preservationists in Muskogee was the rehabilitation of the Severs Block Building, also in downtown. The building was completed in the late 1800s and was damaged in a fire 2006. The city was going to demolish the building, but private investors found support in the preservation community to rebuild the structure.

City ordinances prohibit the demolition of structures in designated historic districts without approval. Local leaders say there is general support for the protection of historic properties. The city itself maintains one of the largest and most beloved properties, Honor Heights Park, which was created in 1909. 

"We're just reaching the age as a city where we have to do something to protect our heritage," says Jonita Mullins, executive director of Downtown Muskogee. "Saving these buildings builds community pride and has an economic component to it. Businesses see that you care about your community and that we do care about quality of life. When anyone is looking to relocate they want to see that the community is making efforts to improve the lives of their residents and keep its character."

Number of Structures on the National Register of Historic Places: 24

Accolades:

Named a Distinctive Destination in 2011 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation

• Named a Top 10 Main Street Community by the Oklahoma Main Street Center

Historic Landmarks: Fite Mansion (1905), First Missionary Baptist Church (1903), Fort Gibson (1800s)