Brookside Center

Today, the Brookside Center - also called the Duncan-Dannenberg home - is city owned and can be rented for events.

When residents of Tahlequah need a venue for a modest get-together, one of their options is the city owned Brookside Center.

The center is another of the city's stately late 19th century homes, but unlike many of the other houses, the Brookside Center - also known as the Duncan-Dannenberg home - is not on the National Register of Historic Places.

"Architecturally, it can't be on the National Register because there have been so many changes on the outside," said Tahlequah historian Beth Herrington. "It is now a rental opportunity for downtown events like the Thompson House or the Armory [Municipal Center]."

The interior has also undergone changes. A wall was removed to connect the front and back parlors and facilitate gatherings.

"But the fireplace is still there with its surroundings, and it has a beautiful bay window," Herrington said. "It has a big beautiful bay window, and many things that were typical of family homes in those years. This house is important to Tahlequah, because we are losing so many of our homes that show our beginnings."

His name usually isn't the first associated with the Brookside Center, but Augustus "Gus" Ivey had the house built in 1888 in the carpenter gothic style. The Dannenberg family next owned the home, followed by the family of James Duncan.

"The house is important because the three gentlemen who first owned it were all active in promoting the Tahlequah community,' Herrington said. "It is also significant because of the spring that flows into the Town Branch."

Ivey was an attorney, and editor of the Cherokee Advocate in 1878. He also served as editor for two other local newspapers.

John C. Dannenberg owned the house in the 1890s, and was auditor for the Cherokee Nation before becoming a deputy U.S. Marshal. His wife was Okla Spradling, who Herrington described as a socialite of late 19th century Tahlequah.

"She used to organize balls at the old opera house, and those sorts of things," Herrington said.

The property held local significance long before the house was built, because it was the site of Duncan Spring.

"In the early days, the chief and council met there at the site of the Cherokee Courthouse Square," Herrington said. "They were right across from the spring. When people traveled to the councils, they camped there and used the spring. I believe the spring house dates to the building of the house."

In the past, the spring house was used to store milk and butter, and the land around the house was important for other reasons.

"Back in the early 20th century - say 1914, '15, '16 - it was popular with couples," Herrington said. "The steps that went up the hill; that was a good place to sit with your sweetie when you were courting. In the 1920s, Duncan Spring was the site of an Easter pageant they put on each year up along the bluff. The site has been used for a lot of events."

The city acquired the property around 1965, and during the 1980s it was converted to a public use facility.

Herrington said the city was spurred to save the house after a break-in. There is an iron fence around the front of the house, and a part of the house was converted to an rented upstairs apartment to keep the structure occupied.

"Before that, the house had fallen into disrepair," Herrington said. "But there was a beautiful painting inside called 'Point of the Pines.' It was painted by Mrs. D.R. Bedwell, the wife of a professor in the science department at Northeastern [State University]. She preceded him in death by many years, and he donated the painting to that house. Someone broke in and stole that painting, and it has never resurfaced."

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