Oklahoma is full of history. Sometimes you drive right past it. Some remarkable places are often overlooked.
That's the case with an old home with an interesting history in Claremore.
It's hard to believe, but the magnificent mansion was once going to be torn down.
"It's a treasure to have a home like this, and to keep it," said volunteer manager Kathy Wilken.
But this treasure had lost its luster and was falling apart.
Built more than a century ago by a wealthy businessman, Claremore's Belvidere Mansion was saved by the Rogers County Historical Society.
"The only way that this home is kept open is through private donations," Wilken said.
John Bayless, an entrepreneur involved in banking and railroads, started construction on the home in 1902. It was finished in 1907.
"Mrs. Bayless named the home Belvidere. It's a French word meaning a beautiful view, or beautiful to see," Wilken said.
Bayless was drawn to Claremore because, at the time, it was much larger than Tulsa and had two railroads.
"So, he thought this is the place to be, so he sold his land in downtown Tulsa and bought this square block in Claremore," Wilken said.
Then he began building the magnificent three-story Belvidere Mansion.
Most of the materials used to build the magnificent mansion came from the 1904 World's Fair in St Louis.
"He had them loaded into boxcars in St. Louis. After the exhibits, they tear down the buildings, so he recycled in his day," Wilken said.
It turned out beautifully. The Belvidere Mansion is 9,000 sq. ft., with five bedrooms and three baths.
"When you see the outside, you see the turrets, which are - right away you think Victorian - but on the inside, you see a lot of the art/craft era," Wilken said.
Also, it's a home with its own unique qualities, like an open central atrium that improves air flow in the house.
"The open gallery feature allows you to see downstairs to the first floor, upstairs to the top floor," Wilken said.
And then there's the third floor, which was used as a ballroom.
Today it includes a tea and lunch room and gift shop.
Sadly, Mr. Bayless never got to live in the house. He died of appendicitis just before it was finished, but the family's history and the craftsmanship is still alive inside the mansion's walls.
"There's not many homes that you can go into that has the ambience that this one has," Wilken said.
"Christmas at the Belvidere" is underway, now through Christmas, at the mansion.
It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Belvidere can also be rented for special events. Go here for more information.