LeFlore County Museum in Poteau, OK (The Rebirth of a Historic Building)

Updated on February 25, 2020
Urbane Chaos profile image

Eric Standridge is a historian and author that focuses on Oklahoma's history, with an emphasis on LeFlore County and Poteau, Oklahoma.

The Lowrey Hotel, 1940s
The Lowrey Hotel, 1940s

The Roaring ‘20s came to Poteau with a boom. While much of the country suffered in the post-war depression, the budding city of Poteau maintained a vibrant economy. In 1910, Poteau’s population numbered at just above 1,182. By 1920, the population skyrocketed to around 2,500. Wealthy businessmen flocked to Poteau in droves, investing in everything from real estate to industry.

Development was at a high during the Jazz Age. In 1924, after 25 blocks of Poteau’s streets were paved, the city held a massive celebration. These newly paved streets were crowded with citizens from all over the county. Automobiles mingled with the old-timers in their horse-drawn buggies while festively costumed citizens promenaded through the streets. Music filled the air as this celebration continued into the small hours of the morning.

As travelers continued to pour in to Poteau, it soon became apparent that the number of accommodations would not hold the influx of visitors. All of this progress prompted Wiley W. Lowrey, a local businessman and land developer, to lay plans for the finest hotel in this part of the country.

The Lowrey Hotel, 1970s
The Lowrey Hotel, 1970s
The Lowrey Museum Today
The Lowrey Museum Today | Source

The LeFlore Country Historical Museum: The Old Lowrey Hotel

Built in 1922 on a $32,000 contract, the future Lowrey Hotel was first built by W.W. Lowrey to be used as home for retail and office space. Later converted into a luxury hotel, the Lowrey Hotel was a luxurious hotel that would be the envy of any big city.

Today, the hotel stands as a testament to times gone by. Plans were developed a few years back to convert the old building into a new county museum.

Throughout the years, the Old Lowrey Hotel has served various purposes. With each reincarnation, the building has gone through massive changes. In the 1960s, the lobby was walled off from the entrance and the clerestory windows were covered by massive metal panels on the exterior. Carpet was installed over the original tile floors, and many of the once-grand windows were boarded over. As one can imagine, it will take considerable effort to restore the former grandeur of the Old Lowrey Hotel.

The metal panels have been removed, the carpet ripped up, and the partition in the lobby has been torn down. In October 2010, the workers were busy repainting and restoring the second floor.

Today, the museum has made an amazing transformation! With a rotating exhibit on the bottom floor and two other floors of amazing exhibits, the museum is now a showcase building and destination point in downtown Poteau.

The museum focuses on showcasing artifacts that illustrate the history of Leflore County and telling the story of the area's early history. It is now a center for traveling, short term and permanent exhibits as well.

The Lowrey Hotel, around 2000
The Lowrey Hotel, around 2000

The Grand Old Lowrey: History of the Hotel

Wiley W. Lowrey was one of the most prominent men in Poteau. Lowrey served as president of the Oklahoma Immigration Company and was an entrepreneur in the gas and real estate industries. It can be said that if it weren’t for Wiley W. Lowrey, Poteau wouldn’t be what it is today.

Always looking for new investment opportunities, Lowrey understood the need for a modern building in the heart of Poteau. With the arrival of so much so many visitors to Poteau, Lowrey quickly decided to purchase a lot on Dewey Ave. In 1922, construction on the three-story Lowrey Building began.

First conceptualized as an upscale office building, the Lowrey Building incorporated retail spaces that spanned the ground floor. Among these retail spaces were a barbershop, a jewelry store, and cleaners. The second and third floors were set aside as office space.

This office building would ultimately live a very short life. Sometime around 1930, the office building was converted into the Lowrey Hotel. Extensive reconstruction of the building followed. The old barbershop was converted into a two-story-tall lobby. The jewelry store and the cleaners were gutted and converted into the dining room and a coffee shop. In that same section, a full-service kitchen and a mezzanine private dining room complete with a dumbwaiter were added. Arched windows completed the look of an elegant, modern hotel.

The office spaces on the second and third floor were also converted into hotel rooms. Bathrooms were installed, complete with stylish inlaid tiles and modern fixtures. The hotel rooms were stocked with expensive furniture, including fine beds, chairs, pictures and writing desks. Fully carpeted rooms added to the elegance of the times. The building also boasted of a steam heating system. The Lowrey Hotel was as fine as any hotel to be found in any major metropolitan city.

During an age where air conditioning was non-existent, the old Lowrey Hotel remained cool during the summer and warm in the winter. For the traveler, this was a major advantage. This was achieved through the unique construction of the Hotel. The Lowrey Hotel was the first building in Poteau to be constructed of steel and concrete, and it was dubbed as being “fireproof.” The concrete served as excellent insulation in winter, and helped to keep out the heat during the summer.

The Lowrey Hotel soon saw more business than it could handle. Situated on an area of high ground between two railroad depots just off the main highway, the hotel quickly became a favorite stopping place for road-weary travelers. In addition to the shops and the rooms, the Hotel Lowrey provided public restrooms and showers. For the traveler, this truly was the finest hotel in the area.

As the years rolled by and growth in Poteau began to slow, the hotel began losing money. Sometime in the early 1960s, the doors were closed and the hotel went out of business.

Since then, the building has been home to the Carl Albert Community College dormitory and the OSU Extension Service office, as well as other short-lived businesses. Each new occupation of the Old Lowrey Hotel brought changes to the building. Until the Leflore County Historical Society acquired the old building in 2008, the old hotel only faintly resembled its former glory.

Today, much of the original building has been restored. Continuing efforts are being made to preserve and restore much that has been lost.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Downstairs during renovations
Downstairs during renovations
Downstairs during renovations
Lefore County Museum:
303 Dewey Ave, Poteau, OK 74953, USA

get directions

The museum is located in Downtown Poteau.

© 2010 Eric Standridge


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Urbane Chaos profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Standridge 

      2 years ago from Wister, Oklahoma

      Mr. Lowrey, The spelling has been corrected. Thanks for pointing out the mistake!

    • profile image

      Robert Lowrey 

      2 years ago

      I have all of the incorporation papers of all the companies the Lowreys formed. Also, Please correct the spelling of the name in this article.

    • Urbane Chaos profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Standridge 

      9 years ago from Wister, Oklahoma

      J.M., Right now, I'm gathering research to do an article on Poteau, but haven't ran across anything on the American Indian Oil Co. yet. If I find something, I'll post it here.

      A good resource that you might try is to search through Google books. I've found various older online books that focus on Poteau companies. These books were published around 1910 through 1930, so they should have something on that.

      Also, if you're in the area, you might check the local library. There is a genealogy section in the back that offers a wealth of historic information on Poteau.

      I wish you luck!

    • profile image

      J.M. Blair 

      9 years ago

      I am loking for information on American Indian Oil Co. as a research project pertaining to T.P. Blair of Poteau 1905.

      Any help would be greatly appreciated: J. M. Blair


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, wanderwisdom.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)