The Holy City of the Wichita Mountains: Ancient Jerusalem in America
Oklahoma's Jerusalem: The Holy City of the Wichitas
Located in the rugged terrain of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, The Holy City of the Wichitas is a recreation of the very streets that Jesus Christ walked. While it may not be the true holy site in Jerusalem, Oklahoma's Holy City still draws thousands of visitors a year.
This recreated Jerusalem would not have existed but for the inspiration and foresight of Reverend Anthony Mark Wallock. He fell in love with the grandeur of the wildlife refuge during his first visit. Shortly after, in 1926, Wallock took his Sunday school class up a mountain in the Wichitas and presented a recreation of the Resurrection. That short, early morning service was the birth of the annual Easter pageant, The Prince of Peace.
It is a trip back in time, only 100 miles from Oklahoma City and northwest of Lawton. In the time line of history, the Holy City of the Wichitas is just a youngster at 84 years old.
The success of the service quickly grew, attracting six thousand
spectators by 1930. By 1931, the congregation swelled to 15,000,
including 150 cast members. By 1934, over 40,000 worshipers came.
This popularity helped Reverend Wallock get a grant of $94,000 from federal funds specifically to construct a full-scale replica of the Holy City in the Wichita Mountains. The first set of buildings were completed by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) and included Calvary's Mount, the Temple Court, Pilate's Judgment Hall, Watch Towers, The Garden of Gethsemane, dressing rooms, and rock shrines, as well as the walls and gateway to Jerusalem.
The first set of buildings were completed
in March 1935. A ceremony to dedicate the Holy City of the Wichitas was
held that same year, which included an a Capella choir and Knights
Templar from all over the state. The following Pageant in April drew an
audience of eighty-two thousand. The following year, a telegram from
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was read during a radio broadcast of
the pageant. There were two thousand cast members and a hundred
thousand in attendance from sixty-five cities.
In 1936, additions included the Lord's Supper Building, Herod's Court, a lodge, and a control room. Also constructed was the Chapel of the Holy City, built to resemble America's oldest church, Christ Church in Alexandria, Virginia. The Chapel of the Holy City is very reminiscent of an old world temple with wood carvings and biblical murals in the interior. That same year, a radio broadcast of the pageant took place, during which a telegram from President Franklin D. Roosevelt was read. That year 2,000 cast members came from all over the United States, and there was a congregation of over 100,000.
Wallock was elected
Outstanding Citizen of 1938 by the citizens of Lawton. In 1930, the
state of Oklahoma included Wallock in its Hall of Fame. He died in
1948. Following Wallock's last wishes, a white marble statue of Christ,
eleven feet high, was erected in 1975.
The same year that Wallock died, the 1948 movie The Lawton Story - The Prince of Peace was filmed at the site.
In the early years, the pageant was a sunrise passion play and timed to end at dawn. By 1986, the time had changed twice and now the play begins at 9 P.m. on Easter Eve. Tourists from across the country and abroad visit Oklahoma's Jerusalem; the Holy City of the Wichitas in the Wichita Mountains.
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1901, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is a 59,020 acre Refuge that hosts a rare piece of the past - a remnant mixed grass prairie, an island where the natural grasslands escaped destruction because the rocks underfoot defeated the plow.
The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge provides habitat for large native grazing animals such as American bison, Rocky Mountain elk, and white-tailed deer. In addition, Texas longhorn cattle also share the Refuge rangelands as a cultural and historical legacy species. More than 50 mammal, 240 bird, 64 reptile and amphibian, 36 fish, and 806 plant species thrive on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
Visitor Information to the Holy City of the Wichitas in the Wichita Mountains
General Info: Free Admission, Gift Shop, Handicap Accessible
Tour Group Services: Guided Tours, Tour Bus Parking
Days/Hours Open: Sun-Sat 8am-dusk; guided tours by appointment.
Directions: Located in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, approximately 22 miles NW of Lawton, or 10 miles W of I-44.
Oklahoma's Jerusalem: The Holy City of the Wichitas in the Wichita Mountains
A pocket guide to hiking the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. The book includes 28 photographs and an easy-to-follow trail map. It's a must for hikers!
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