The Ferguson House Chapter is Finally Closed
Presidential Ponderings by Jim Meyer – On Monday, February 1st, the final chapter in the restoration of the Ferguson House was completed. A large black, gabbro boulder, which had been cut and engraved with information about the Ferguson House, was placed in front of the building for all to see and enjoy.
This story began back in the summer of 2014, nearly 7 years ago. At that time, Ellen Jonsson was a member of the Friends and served as our Historian & Grant Writer. The Friends had determined that we wanted to undertake the total restoration of this iconic landmark. A devastating fire in 2010 had destroyed 75% of the structure. Everything except the cobblestone walls and foundation were consumed in the blaze Since this structure had previously been listed on the National Register of Historic sites, we knew we wanted to restore this beautiful structure but at the same time we also knew that we had our work cut out for us. We quickly learned that we would need to document for the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) not only exactly how it had looked when it was originally built, but also what materials were used to build it.
This is where Ellen jumped in and began the job of digging through all of the archives she could find to answer these questions. By December of 2016, through Ellen’s tenacious and diligent work, we felt we had the information we needed to pursue this task. We determined that we wanted to rebuild the exterior of the house and “rough in” the interior with no utilities. Our architect, Charley Wright from Medicine Park, calculated that the rough cost to do this construction would amount to about $70,000. Armed with this ammunition, we immediately began a fundraising campaign and through the generosity of many people and companies we were able to meet our goal by August of 2016. In particular we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Terry K. Bell Charitable Trust. My wife, Jean Hausheer, was able to secure a matching grant of $35,000 from them.
But, even with the funds now secured, we continued to encounter multiple obstacles that translated into one delay after another. Finally, in the summer of 2019 we received approval from SHPO to at last begin the restoration of the Ferguson House. The actual construction was completed in January of 2020 by Mike Bratzler and his son who were with Bracon Framing and Construction.
Once completed, we had always felt that the perfect way to complete this project was to have a rock engraved, similar to the one which stands in front of the Boulder Cabin. We wanted a monument that would tell the story of Ben Ferguson and the home he built for his family in 1927. We searched at length for a company who could undertake this task. We needed someone who could both cut and engrave a native boulder that we hoped to find in the Refuge. We were told that the only company that could undertake such a job was located in Georgia nearly 1000 miles away. And then, thanks to Eva Cook, she told us about the Willis Granite Company which is located in Granite Oklahoma a mere 70 miles from the Refuge. When we contacted John and Brenda Hickerson, they told us, “No Problem”. All we needed to do was to get the boulder to them and they would take it from there. So, with that obstacle overcome, we undertook the task of now looking for a black gabbro rock. It needed to be a specific size and shape for the monument which we then planned to place it in front of the Ferguson House. After literally looking all over the Refuge for just the right rock, we found one right outside the Environmental Education building. It was estimated that this rock weighed around 7000 lbs. and was roughly 4’ x 3’ x 3’. We delivered the rock to Willis Granite in February of 2020. But as had been the case throughout this project, we encountered more delays which included the virus as well as their engraver falling off a roof and breaking his leg.
As I stated at the beginning, one year later we finally received delivery of the engraved boulder. So, after a journey that began in the summer of 2014 our goal was finally achieved and our project completed. You can see from these pictures that we can ALL be very proud of the beautiful structure that now stands for all to see as they visit our Refuge. Thanks to the many people and companies who contributed to our project and most of all to the Friends of the Wichita’s who helped make this possible. God Bless and Thanks for All You Do!