The stately beauty of the historic Chickasaw White House cannot be denied. Once considered a “mansion on the frontier,” the large Queen Anne Victorian-style home has all the luxury and comfort one would expect from a leading statesman’s residence.
Join Audrea Dickerson for the Chickasaw Nation Annual Meeting and Festival virtual Chickasaw White House Tour at 10 a.m., Sept. 28, at AnnualMeeting.Chickasaw.net.
Constructed with the private funds of then Chickasaw Nation Governor Douglas H. Johnston, the work he did while at the Chickasaw White House was instrumental in preserving the Chickasaw Nation, Chickasaw cultural identity and shaping the political landscape of early Oklahoma.
Artisans began hand-crafting the Chickasaw White House, located near Emet, Oklahoma, in 1895. Typical of the luxury homes of that era, the gingerbread-style house makes an impression on visitors. Specialty materials used in the construction of the home were imported into the Chickasaw Nation from across the U.S.
Ornate lattice work on the wraparound veranda, mahogany mantels, two large, ornate fireplaces and expansive ceilings in the interior rooms leave lovers of period homes surprised to find such a treasure in such an unexpected location.
As grand as the architecture is, the Chickasaw White House is perhaps more significant as it allows visitors a glimpse into the lives of those who lived in the Victorian era. The residence has changed little since Governor Johnston first moved his family into the home in 1898.
Much of the furniture within the house today is original to the Johnston family, with time period replicas rounding out the interior décor of the home. The home offers patrons an interpretive value of Oklahoma’s domestic life in the early statehood.
Governor Johnston’s granddaughter took a complete inventory and logged the original furnishings within the home. She shared the history of each piece with the Oklahoma Historical Society, which the family had entrusted the property to for posterity in the early 1970s.
Except for modern conveniences, such as air conditioning and modern plumbing running to an outbuilding containing a washroom, the property is almost exactly as when it was first built.
A Place of history for tribal government
Governor Johnston used his home for both family functions and tribal business.
According to information provided by the National Register of Historic Places, the parlor was the most important room of the house. Governor Johnston signed many historical documents on the oak table still located within it. These papers ranged from allotment divisions to individual Chickasaw citizens, matters of state concerning federal and state authorities, and negotiations between other First American tribes within Oklahoma.
The Chickasaw White House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural value, time period furniture and historic value to the politics within the Chickasaw Nation.
Working with living Johnston family members and the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Chickasaw Nation acquired the Chickasaw White House in 1998, exactly 100 years after Governor Johnston first moved into the home.
The Chickasaw Nation began the physical restoration of the home as soon as it was purchased. The home was completely dismantled. Original materials were restored when possible, while pieces of the house that needed replacement were painstakingly crafted by contemporary artisans.
The restoration process took more than five years to complete. Now, the grounds surrounding the Chickasaw White House are continually being improved, while furnishings are cleaned and restored when needed.
Visit AnnualMeeting.Chickasaw.net for more virtual tours and events during the Chickasaw Nation Annual Meeting and Festival.