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GFWC Heeko Club tours Pioneer Woman’s new building in Pawhuska

Construction worker Don Mundy is working on restoring vintage ceiling tiles from the 1910 building. Once the tiles are stripped and dents removed, they will be powder coated and replaced. Kathy Swan/Journal-Capital
Construction worker Don Mundy is working on restoring vintage ceiling tiles from the 1910 building. Once the tiles are stripped and dents removed, they will be powder coated and replaced. Kathy Swan/Journal-Capital
Historic photos reveal that the south building had a corner entrance. The Drummonds plan to restore this feature. Kathy Swan/Journal-Capital
Historic photos reveal that the south building had a corner entrance. The Drummonds plan to restore this feature. Kathy Swan/Journal-Capital
GFWC Heeko ladies view historic photos of The Building’s heydays. Overhead are vintage ceiling tiles in the south side of “The Building.” Kathy Swan/Journal-Capital
GFWC Heeko ladies view historic photos of The Building’s heydays. Overhead are vintage ceiling tiles in the south side of “The Building.” Kathy Swan/Journal-Capital
This vintage octagon-shaped storage unit was discovered during the renovation. Kathy Swan/Journal-Capital
This vintage octagon-shaped storage unit was discovered during the renovation. Kathy Swan/Journal-Capital

GFWC Heeko members were surprised following their May meeting with a tour of Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s building in historic downtown Pawhuska. For months, locals have speculated what Osage County’s celebrity writer, photographer, mother of four, ranch wife and TV personality was going to do with this massive structure.

Built in 1910, the building once housed the Osage Mercantile and later a C.R. Anthony department store. Extensive remodeling in 2000 resulted in the building being divided into two stores which failed to attract tenants. Ree and husband, Ladd, purchased the property in 2012 as a way to do “something that would benefit Pawhuska.” Ree kept her local fans updated with frequent posts to her blog which has over 20 million followers. The Heeko Club had the honor of being the first group to tour the interior since renovations were undertaken a year ago.

At this time, Ree calls the Kihekah property “The Building.” Priority is being given to completion of the 5,000 sq. ft. north side with completion targeted for early fall. Downstairs will house a one-of-a-kind deli. Upstairs will be the headquarters for the Drummond Ranch & Cattle Company. The ranch office will also provide space for their kid’s homeschool place and in-town meeting place. The open-office concept will be similar to a stock trader’s floor. Since the floors are in pretty good shape, the Drummonds plan to refinish them — gouges and all.

After removing decades of sheetrock, plaster and low ceilings, a vintage advertising mural on the original exterior wall of the south building was uncovered. A faded “C.R. Anthony” and “Crackers and Biscuits” can be seen. This mural, along with the original hand-cranked freight elevator, reflects the vintage era of the building.

Although details are still sketchy about the deli concept, it may a combination of Papa Murphy’s and Starbucks. Box lunches will feature a big sandwich, salad, cookie and water. A bakery will provide fresh bread and gourmet coffee. Customers will have an option of dining in or carry-out. A salad bar and assorted casseroles (cooked and frozen) will be available, including lasagna. Ree is excited about having a place where people can hang out and enjoy good food.

The lower level floor on the north side is also in pretty good shape and will be restored except for the kitchen area. The northeast corner of the deli will be walled off for a walk-in freezer and dish storage for their catering service.

The Drummonds are uncertain about what they will do with the south building and have not established a time frame for its renovation completion. They do plan to install a staircase in the lower northeast corner. On the Pioneer Woman’s blog, she teasingly dismissed the idea of the upstairs being a dance studio, saying “I’d have to wear a leotard, which rules that out instantly.” The mirrored columns on the upper level are reminders of the building’s earlier mercantile days and will be retained. Sadly, most of the floors are warped and damaged beyond rescue.

As workers began removing damaged plaster in the south building, they uncovered a long-closed door that connected the two buildings. Historic photos also revealed that the south building had a corner entrance. The Drummonds plan to restore this feature.

Each room will most likely have a mixture of plaster and brick. The end result will depend on the condition of the plaster and the brick. Original baseboards and window trim are being salvaged. The building’s numerous windows are being restored by an Amish craftsman in Crane, Mo. Each window weighs 400 pounds. The outside walls have been fully tuck-pointed to provide added insulation.

Ceiling tiles are being removed and the rotting ceilings repaired. Once the tiles are stripped and dents removed, they will be powder coated and replaced. The former skylights have been sealed over and a 700 ton heating & air system will be installed.

While the Heeko tour did not include a peek into the basement, rumor has it that it once housed a Speakeasy. “A den of sin, right here in our small town,” remarked Ree. Workers discovered piles of empty bottles in a crawlspace that put some credence to the stories.

The Pioneer Woman has brought world-wide attention to Pawhuska. She and her Marlboro man join other entrepreneurs in bringing new life to downtown Pawhuska. Once completed, their efforts in restoring one of the city’s oldest buildings will add to Pawhuska’s charm as a tourist destination.

To learn more about the Pioneer Woman, visit www.thepioneerwoman.com.

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