The mystical Arbuckle Mountains plays the backdrop to the Tompkin’s School trilogy for a number of reasons. For one, it’s a beautiful place, and second, there are so many mysteries nestled within this hometown of mine.
One such place is tucked away in a town called Sulphur just a few minutes drive from where I went to high school. Surrounded by natural springs and historical landmarks, this treasure is also now home to the Artesian Hotel.
What do I mean by ‘again’, you ask? Well, when I lived here back in the early 2000s, the little piece of land at 1001 W. 1st Street, Sulphur, OK was just an empty lot next to a church.
I passed it whenever we drove into town, never once thinking that maybe something used to be there. A forgotten place that once was the center attraction for governors and celebrities.
It wasn’t until I was in college that my brother told me they were building a replica of a hotel that once stood in that exact spot that had been constructed back in the early 1900s, around the time the fictional school in Tompkin’s School: For The Extraordinarily Talented was founded.
We hadn’t known about the hotel before because it mysteriously burned down in 1962. Of course, this piqued my interest and so I decided to do a bit of digging on the history of this building.
Built in 1906, this five-story structure was designed by architects J.M. Bayless and C.J. Webster who originally named this hotel the New Windsor. Not exactly a unique name if you ask me. Luckily, they decided to change the name to the Artesian after discovering a well located within the property.
From its opening, The Artesian was at the very center of it all. Though a small town, the natural wells feeding the bathhouses, shops, and the scenic views of what is now the Chickasaw National Recreation Area all made Sulphur a popular tourist spot.
But one bitter-cold January all of this went up in flames. Sometime during the night of January 14, 1962, a fire broke out in the lobby and quickly engulfed the whole building in smoke. After reading article after article, I couldn’t find a definitive cause for such a devastating loss. Could it have been from a guest’s discarded cigarette? A fireplace mishap? No one seems to know which definitely leaves a bit of mystery and magic to this little piece of history.
This is exactly why I decided to interlace this mystery into my story in Tompkin’s School: For The Dearly Departed. It’s why the twins dream about a hotel that doesn’t exist anymore trying to figure out what this has to do with their powers. Little do they know, something deep below the surface of this hotel is trying to reach out to them. To reveal the truth about where their powers come from, why this hotel is haunting their dreams, and what actually happened the night of January 14, 1962. At least according to my imagination.
The Artesian Hotel, as it stands today, is definitely a close match the one that was built in the same place over a hundred years ago. If you walk along 1st Street you’ll get a perfect shot of the Artesian Hotel. I couldn’t help but be in awe of this impressive structure. A feeling like I was reliving a part of forgotten history in the presence of this grand hotel. Perhaps this was what it was like for those back in 1906 when the original hotel opened its doors for the first time. One can only imagine.