Sunday, July 26, 2015

WPA Hospital Mooreland (OK)

Mooreland is a small community east of Woodward in northwest Oklahoma.  The hospital at 6th and Krouth Streets (Blocks 4 & 5 of the Matthews edition), sits on about two acres and was built in an art deco style between 1940/41 when the community had some 800 in population and the ten plus miles to Woodward's hospital was too far to drive in an emergency.  Its 180' x 85' size features a flat roof with parapets, concrete construction, classic corner windows, a blue frieze running the higher borders.  The architect was Ed Hudgens and in 1985 it was listed in a Oklahoma Historic building nomination as a "Woodward WPA" site.  In 1989, a bid by a group (Rivers of Life)  to make a 60-bed drug and alcohol abuse facility was denied citing the nearness of similar facilities.

For over forty years the hospital provided crucial care and comfort to the citizens of the area. During the horror filled hours and days after the devastating 1947 tornado, many victims were brought to the location as Woodward Hospitals filled.

The event was traumatic and is marked by displays in the Woodward Historical Museum.  Some of the most compelling aspects are the mysteries left in the storm's wake.

In the wake of natural disasters, there is much tragedy and loss. People pick themselves up, cry of the loved ones gone, the property lost, and the dreams crushed by the shaking of the earth, the roar of the flood, the power of the winds, or any of a dozen other natural disasters. 

Memorials are erected to recall the lives lost and the families cut apart through misfortune. It is hard to even imagine the pain and agony of loved ones finding their families and friends in the wreckage. Worse, is the need to identify loved ones after such a catastrophe.

Yet, one of the most heartbreaking and puzzling has to be the people who remain after the disaster, after the identifications, and after the families and located their loved ones.  The ‘unidentified’ that linger on and cause a person to wonder how can a person, a adult or a child, remain ‘unidentified’?

On April 9. 1947, a massive storm front came up from Texas and crossed Oklahoma before moving northward. In northwest Oklahoma, one community would never forget the date or the aftermath.  Woodward would lose at least one hundred, see only their courthouse remain standing.

The mystery normally mentioned is the tragedy of Joan Croft, a 4 year old who was taken from a hospital by two men and never seen again.   Equally tragic, however, was the fact that there were at least two unidentified children in the wake of the monster of wind and debris.

Today in Woodward, Oklahoma there is a memorial honoring  the victims of the tornado of April 9, 1947 includes three females.  Unknown the victims were aged 6 months, approx 3 years, and one 12 years.
At one point, family and school teachers from around the region came by to view the bodies to try and identify the children.  

Yet, no one could identify the children. No one. In all of these decades those names have, apparently, remained unidentified. --- Mystorical, M.A. Hudson

Now, according to sources consulted, it is in private hands awaiting renovation. The possibilities are interesting, and possibly endless, for renewal of this historic building into a viable part of the 21st century and a reminder of another day and another time.  Housing, condos, care facility, office space, educational space......We shall see if this survives to enjoy another seventy years...or falls, like so many places, to time.

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