French-Parks House

The French-Parks House on Keetoowah Street in Tahlequah was recently nominated by a group of locals to be added to the Oklahoma Preservation's Most Endangered Places List for 2020.

Tahlequah doesn't look the same as it once did, but several local residents are trying to keep one portion of the city intact and protected.

On the corner of Keetoowah Street and College Avenue, across the street from the Tahlequah Public Library, stands a large house with ivy covering the outside. Long-time residents know of its connection to its more famous sister: the Thompson House, just down the block at Keetoowah and Choctaw.

Dr. Johnson Thompson built his home in the 1880s, and it's now maintained by a nonprofit organization. The group hosts meetings, receptions, showers, weddings and educational history days for school students. Thompson also built the French-Parks House - this one for his daughter, Jane Anna. She was the wife of Constable Robert M. French, who served as high sheriff of the Cherokee Nation.

"[Johnson] owned all of that property and he built the two houses in the late 1880s," said Ann Lancaster, who works with the Thompson House organization. "Anyhow, I'm interested in preservation and I belong to an organization called Preservation Oklahoma. Last year, they sent out a quarterly letter and they had a blurb on selecting the 10 most endangered places in Oklahoma. I thought, 'Oh, how neat. Maybe we can do something about the French House.'"

After consulting with Thompson House volunteers, Lancaster decided to nominate the French-Parks House to Preservation Oklahoma's Most Endangered Historic Places List for 2020. While adding it to the list would not ensure its protection, it could raise awareness about its importance.

The house's brick and symmetry embraces the Federal style of home-building (1780-1820). The exterior corners are garnished with Renaissance period quoining, and the structure also features characteristics of the Carpenter Gothic style (1870-1910).

The second owner of the home was Jefferson Parks, an early Oklahoma legislator and county judge.

The house has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

"It's an important, historical part of our community," said Lancaster. "One of the interesting things about Tahlequah is its history. Places that have some sort of history are more interesting than places that don't have a sense of history, and it's part of our history."

The French-Parks House is currently for sale, but after more than two years, it still has not been purchased.

"The Realtor who has it listed told me that she almost had it sold, but the expense of fixing it was just going to be too much for the budget," said Lancaster.

The house also has a unique layout.

"The downstairs was the law office from the last people who lived in it," said Lancaster. "Then the apartment was upstairs, which they've got this big, old, fine kitchen and the bedrooms."

The interior of the house is in "poor shape," though, said Lancaster. Her hope is that its status on the endangered places lists will stir public interest and that someone with the ability and desire to rehabilitate it will save it.

"I don't know what anybody would do with it, but it needs to be saved," she said. "Sometimes old houses are sold and they're altered, and they don't stay like they are. Tahlequah doesn't have that many old houses. We have a number, but not so many that are pre-20th century."

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