Friday, December 21, 2007

Prairie Palazzo

The Marland Mansion is an amazing home -- 55 rooms in this 43,000-plus square-foot pied-a-terre. Visitors oooh and aaah at the gilded ceilings, sparkling crystal and elegant hand-painted Chinoiserie. But even more amazing is the story of E.W. Marland. A millionaire by age 33, he was broke by 34. After moving to Oklahoma in 1908, he made his second fortune, founding Marland Oil Company. By the '20s, he controlled a tenth of all the world's oil reserves. In 1928, he was forced out of his own company by J.P. Morgan and the "wolves of Wall Street." Noted for his generosity and philanthropy, he went on to public service as a U.S. Congressman and as the 10th Governor of the state of Oklahoma. His story can't be told without including his second wife, Lydie. E.W. and his first wife, Virginia, had adopted Viriginia's niece and nephew, Lydie and George Roberts. Two years after Virginia's death, E.W. had the adoption annulled and he and Lydie married, causing considerable tongue-wagging in the small Oklahoma town. Lydie and E.W. lived only briefly in the magnificent mansion. After the loss of his oil company, his fortune declined and he could no longer pay the utility bills for the massive residence. The two moved into the artists' studio on the property. In 1941, Marland sold most of the property to the Discalced Carmelite Fathers of Mexico. He died in the chauffeur's quarters where he and Lydie had moved after the sale. Lydie became a recluse and woman of mystery. Sad endings to the lives of such important Oklahomans. Better to remember E.W.'s work on behalf of the underprivileged, aged and disabled, his conservation efforts and his founding of the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and Highway Patrol, and laughing Lydie, the effervescant princess of the "Palace on the Prairie."

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