Holy City Of the Wichitas
Nestled in the heart of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge you will find something you never would expect to find in the heart of Oklahoma, a Holy City constructed of stone. The history of this land dates back to the early 20s when Reverend Anthony Mark Wallock had a vision of finding a mountain to recreate the story of Christ.
At the time, he found a location just outside of the Wildlife Refuge in neighboring Medicine Park, where a hill would suffice for the time. Within only a few years the Easter program had grown in size to the point of outgrowing their location. With continued growth and popularity word circulated the states and people were flocking to Oklahoma from across the entirety of the states.
By the 1930s the event had grown to around 6,000 guests and word made its way to Washington about the programs impact and the president was so moved by the impact of Wallock’s Passion Play that he allowed them to utilize a portion of the neighboring Wildlife Refuge for their annual program.
From that point it only continued to grow and thrive. By 1934 construction began within the Refuge with the WPA, Works Progress Administration, providing labor and engineers to create the structure which still remains to this date. The structures were built sourcing similar materials to that of others throughout the Refuge used for bridges and observation towers, reflecting the red sand stone throughout the property’s numerous buildings.
The Holy City includes structures depicting the Pilate’s Judgement Hall, Herod’s Court, Garden of Gethsemane, The Last Supper amongst many other buildings. The program follows the life of Christ from the manger to resurrection.
At its height in the 40s and 50s some 250,000 people were flocking to the annual program. Camping on the hillside sometimes for days to secure their spot being able to view the event, the program was known as a national treasure. Special buses and trains were routed to the Lawton area for guests to attend and make their pilgrimage each year and the event soared more and more each year.
In later years similar programs began to become a more regular occurrence and the popularity of the original faded due to its location and the commute being more taxing than other programs which might have been closer and more accessible. However, despite its decline in those traveling to Oklahoma, even in present day some 5,000 to 6,000 attend the annual program held on Easter Sunday.
Now you can visit the city 365 days a year and tour the grounds through a self guided tour which highlights the property and the unique construction. View the beautiful chapel which is modeled after one which George Washington attended in Virginia, pay respects to those who were lost in the Oklahoma City bombings at the memorial to those or check out the official Wallock Museum, which highlights the life and contributions of a single man with a vision to bring the story of Christ to the masses.
A small gift shop is also available on property and has numerous items including property maps, post cards and books documenting the history of the unique property.
This stop is one worth a visit if you enjoy history and in the midst of the Wildlife Refuge you will be handsomely rewarded with not only a piece of Oklahoma history but American History at this site.