Imagine, if you will, the area where the state Capitol now stands as empty prairie and how bright stars would have been without the lights of the city today. This would have been the scene on a crisp, November night in 1910.
Before the graders could grade and the builders could build, the surveyors had to perform their calculations to determine the exact location in the world of the Capitol building.
Two stories from The Oklahoman, Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 of 1910 described the actions of the surveyors as they engaged in ”Fixing the State Capital Meridian.”
The Saturday, Nov. 12, article is prefaced as though for a play:
Scene: The Capitol site
Time: Friday evening
Props: “Two delicate surveyor’s transit instruments, the best of the kind in the world, flickering lantern, fitful gleams of a gypsy fire, great bags of apples, surveyors stakes in a pile, small flash lights and above all an appetizing aroma of coffee from the bubbling pot on the fire.”
Cast– members of the capitol commission, corps of engineers and at least one newspaper reporter.
“There you are–what was it all about? An important event in the history of Oklahoma City’s acquisition of the state capitol– the establishment of the capitol site by astronomical calculation based on the whirling of Polaris, the north star, on its heavenly orbit.”
“The calculation was made by Mr. D’Yarmett in the presence of the capitol commissioners to provide an absolute basis for the surveyor’s lines on the capitol site. No human agency can rub out this important imaginary line– and should all other plats and maps and records be destroyed the expert engineer with the exact longitude of the capitol site, obtained last night, could reproduce the maps. The observation of Polaris to determine “True North” is handed down to science by the sailors of Phoenicia–in its perfected form it played its part in the building of a great state house by a great state.
“The observation was begun by a corps of engineers at 8:45 o’clock Friday night when the star
peeped from the mists of the northern sky. It was finished in the wee hours of this morning but the sensitive instruments were left on their tripods until early today when the calculation from their reading will be made and announcement given out by the capitol commission. The jarring of street cars or automobiles in carring the instruments to the city might have produced serious error. Hence the all night vigil– the blazing fire for warmth to the watchers and the glowing coals to cook the appetizing midnight meal for the the engineers and commissioners– the first picnic on the capitol site.”
The Oklahoman Sunday, Nov. 13 announced:
“The capitol of the state of Oklahoma will be located on longitude 97 degrees, 25 minutes.
“… the observation was the clulmination, the finishing touch, to the tremendous work of laying out and platting the state capitol site. The establishment of the meridian, or “the azimuth of the base line of the capitol addition,” forever fixes ” a bench mark” from which the entire site could be replatted, should all other records be effaced…”
– Mary Phillips