Oklahoma Woman Remembers Father Who Designed State Fair Arch

Sunday, April 30th 2017, 6:07 pm
By: News 9

The high winds Saturday morning brought down a piece of history at the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.

The Independence Arch that stood on the grounds since 1976 buckled and fell to the ground.

“My heart literally just broke,” said Pamela Fahey.

It was Fahey’s world that came crashing down with the arch as she could only watch the damage from her TV.

“When David Payne walked over, I could see the arch lying on the ground, it was really hard for me to listen and see the damage,” she remembers.

Fahey’s father, architect Afton Cruce Gille designed what was originally called the “Spirit of 76 Arch” for the Oklahoma State Fair. Her mother, Mary Catherine, was the mechanical engineer on the job. 

“Every time I drove by this part of town, I would just feel like 'that's my daddy, he's going to be there forever,'” she said.

On Sunday, she went down to the scene and taking a closer look on the ground was no comfort.

“It’s memories and I helped with the letters,” she said. “There's orange letters that are put on it that says ‘when in the course of human events’ and I helped make those letters to be put on.”

The arch was erected in 1976 to serve as a gateway into the state fair park. It stood 80 feet tall over the Constitution Fountain, which her father also designed. His work was dedicated by President Gerald Ford.

“It’s history and it's my history, it's my father's history, it's part of his legacy,” Fahey said.

Her father, a World War II veteran, designed several other buildings at the fairgrounds including the Clock Tower, the Stockade, the Trailer Park and Garden and Flowers Building.

“I helped as a teenager working on all these projects with my dad, so I was his sidekick,” she said. “We would come to the fair every year and we'd go see all of his buildings.”

Now, as people come to look at what’s left and snap a few pictures in remembrance, Fahey cherishes any picture she can find when it stood in all its glory.

“I hate to see it down and I’m hoping and praying the state fair will put it back up, that's what I would really like to see, it to go back up,” she said.

State fair officials are still assessing the damage to the arch to see if anything can be salvaged or if they'll have to start all over. However, no decision has been made yet on if they will rebuild it.

Meanwhile, Fahey is looking for any pictures anyone has taken of the arch. If you would like to share your pictures of the arch, just send them to pics@news9.net.