Hadden Hall recently underwent renovation to become downtown apartments, but the 100-year-old structure started life as an apartment hotel.
The three-story brick building at 215 NW 10 provided apartments for city visitors who wanted something homier than a hotel.
A new sign on the building recognizes Hadden Hall’s inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places and notes it is a circa 1910 building.
The circa 1910 was used probably because the applicants had no better luck than I did finding an exact date for when construction got started on the building.
The earliest listing I found was in The Oklahoman’s classified advertisements on Dec. 6, 1911:
“FOR RENT — Nicely furnished rooms with private bath, at Hadden Hall.”
Further research found notices from newlyweds in the newspaper’s society columns that they would be “at home” at Hadden Hall.
The research also introduced me to a remarkable woman who may have been the building’s longest resident, Miss Helen Ferris of Apartment 106.
Ferris, an English teacher from Illinois, joined the faculty of Central High School when it opened in 1910 and probably moved into Hadden Hall in 1912. The city directory for 1911-12 lists Ferris at 215 W 10th.
She was the first woman to be named vice principal of the high school in 1918, but continued to teach a fine literature class.
Ferris was respected and loved by the thousands of students she taught — her former students nominated her for Oklahoma City’s Most Useful Citizen of 1936, and she was selected for the honor.
In 1937, Edith Johnson, columnist for The Oklahoman, wrote of her: “Miss Ferris is not only one of the greatest women of Oklahoma City but one of the greatest women of this state. Nor does her greatness as a woman, as a teacher, as a friend and as a counselor depend upon either an era or an event. At any time or in any circumstance the contribution of Miss Ferris has made to the people of this city and state would be a priceless gift to humanity. Inspired teaching is the need of every generation, and inspired guidance likewise.
“She will live in the lives of her pupils who are what they are in no small measure because of what Miss Ferris taught them, because of the influence she had on their minds and their hearts, the direction she gave to their ambitions, the principles which they have followed in all accomplishment.
“Although Miss Ferris, together with so many women of her profession, has no children of her own body and blood, she is a mother to unnumbered sons and daughters.”
Ferris retired as vice principal in 1940, and in 1941 retired as an English teacher.
From 1941 until her death in 1951, she rarely left her apartment because of a medical condition, but with nearly 3,000 former students a year visiting her, and with her books, needlework, telephone and letters, she was never lonely.
She had another first — her funeral was the first one held in Central’s auditorium.
If you should pass Central High School or Hadden Hall, remember Helen Ferris and the teachers who have meant much to you.