It is beyond question: Guthrie, Oklahoma, is one of the loveliest towns in the Southern United States. Such loveliness, of course, is never by accident, and the citizens of Guthrie know it well. That’s why, even at one hundred twenty-five years old, a gorgeous Guthrie is still performing the beauty preparations, this time in the form of a downtown park in honor of the town’s—as well as Oklahoma’s—premier architect, Joseph Pierre Foucart.
Belgium-born Foucart was descended from a distinguished French patrician family: his grandfather was one of Napoleon’s officers and saw battle at Dresden and Waterloo. Foucart himself in his early twenties fought bravely in the Franco-Prussian War, was taken prisoner twice—and outwitted the enemy each time by escaping. Trained as both architect and engineer, the brilliant, young Foucart showed his mettle early, superintending the building of the Pouhan in Spa, Belgium, at age twenty-two; the Castle of Viere two years later; the world-famous Winter Garden wonders at the Royal Grounds in Laeken by age twenty-seven; and was awarded the prestigious position of chief draftsman for the new City Hall of Paris, erected in 1880—a $96-billion project in modern economic terms.
Well, all I can say is he got in some pretty good practice before he came to Guthrie. In 1889 forty-year-old Foucart chose the brand, spanking-new territorial capital of Oklahoma for his own new home and as the seat of his American architectural practice. He lost no time transforming the upstart, overnight tent city into one of the wonders of the Victorian Age. Guthrie, Oklahoma, is now proud to be the most intact surviving Victorian community in the nation. And they owe that dignity, of course, in large part to city father Foucart. In April 2014 Guthrie unveiled a bust of Foucart that will adorn the new park—a fitting tribute to the man who descended on Guthrie at its inception and designed a loveliness to delight its citizens and multiple thousand annual guests for many, many years to come.
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