In the spring of 2020, the town of Okemah, Oklahoma requested design assistance from the Institute for Quality Communities (IQC) through the Oklahoma Municipal League. In fall of 2020, twenty-five undergraduate students and nine graduate students enrolled in three sections of the OU College of Architecture’s Historic Preservation Planning course completed a downtown historic building survey for Okemah.
Because the course was taught completely remotely, the students, guided by Ronald Frantz, conducted the survey entirely digitally. Eleven teams of three students each surveyed blocks of Okemah’s historic downtown commercial district. They looked at their blocks over a sixteen-year period (1914-1930) and compared it to the buildings present today.
Students used three sets of historic Sanborn Fire Insurance maps (from 1914, 1923, and 1930) as well as two sets of historic photographs to determine what Okemah’s downtown looked like during the early twentieth century. They used present day site pictures as well as Google street view to remotely see the present state of the district. They were then able to determine what historic buildings are still present.
Remote learning presented new challenges to both students and faculty, especially with projects such as this one in which understanding the site of interest is incredibly important. This team of OU students was able to overcome these challenges and still produce amazing and useful work despite never seeing their team, sources, or site in person. The town of Okemah now has a comprehensive digital survey of their historic downtown area that they can use to inform future development.
OU Students Involved in This Project:
Alexandra Baker Wilkinson