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July 18, 2014

Celebrating milestone year for state Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY — It was with great fanfare nearly a century ago that Oklahomans crowded into cars or horse-drawn buggies and paraded to 23rd and Lincoln.

Anticipation had been building for nearly four years, ever since Oklahomans at the polls in 1910 made the monumental decision to move the state capital from Guthrie to Oklahoma City. After much deliberation, state officials had decided on a plot of land just north of downtown for the new Capitol.

So it was with excitement that thousands crowded round as Oklahoma’s second governor, Lee Cruce, an Ardmore man, raised an iron pick on July 20, 1914, and broke ground for what would become the cornerstone of the 452,000-square-foot building.

A Chandler man trying out a new-fangled invention — known as moving pictures — captured it all on film so the moment could be shown in South America and Europe. His footage has since vanished into history, despite the best efforts of the Oklahoma Historical Society to find it.

A photographer stood on top of a streetcar and captured it all in still images.

On Thursday, to commemorate the past and hail the future, officials gathered at the Capitol with historic photos and the now iconic pick ax. They had planned to gather next to the cornerstone at the southwest side of the building, but a rainy morning moved the celebration indoors to the newly renovated ceremonial Supreme Court chambers.

Until 1930, the pick ax sat in the basement of the Capitol but is now kept in a vault in the custody of the Oklahoma Historical Society. It’s brought out on occasion.

Only five people can get inside the vault. Even the Historical Society’s executive director, Bob Blackburn, doesn’t have access.

The infamous pick looks much like it might have a decade ago. Brown-poled with a silver top that is turning gold on one end, it still bears the inscription written in white pen a century ago: “Pick used by Gov. Lee Cruce to turn the first ground for the State Capitol Bldg,” with the date.

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