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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Marshall Hall at Phillips University (now Northern Oklahoma College) in Enid, 1949
(2012.201.B1019.058639, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, OHS).

The Bass Building in Enid
(2008.148.035.039, William Edson Photograph Collection, OHS).

The First Presbyterian Church in Enid
(18827.344.B, Albertype Collection, OHS).

SHAW, ROY WILBUR (1880–1947).

An architect, Roy Wilbur (R. W.) Shaw was born on September 21, 1880, to Charles L. and Sarah L. Shaw in Geneseo, Illinois. He arrived in Enid in December 1900. By the time of his death in 1947 he would be credited with designing more than seventy school buildings, thirty churches, nine hospitals, and numerous commercial buildings and private residences across north-central Oklahoma. He did not receive a formal education in architecture, but he apparently worked with his father, a carpenter and contractor. He had established himself as an architect in Enid by 1905, when a city directory listed him as “R. W. Shaw, architect.” In November 1906 The Trade Bulletin (Oklahoma City) noted that “Architect R. W. Shaw” had prepared plans for a new building for an Enid businessman.

Shaw is best known for designing public school buildings in Enid. In 1910 he won the contract to design the city’s new high school. Completed two years later, the three-story Enid High School building was recognized in American School Board Journal, a nationally circulated publication, for best practices in school design. He maintained a professional relationship with Enid Public Schools for the rest of his life. Notable examples of Shaw-designed school buildings include Harrison School (1919; NRSG100001073), Emerson Junior High School (1923), and Jackson School (1936; NR89000848).

Shaw also designed numerous religious buildings. First Presbyterian Church (1927) is considered among his finest works in Enid. Congregations from other towns solicited his services as well. Notable examples include Carrier Congregation Church in the neighboring town of Carrier (1928; NR16000370) and the immense St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Okarche (1922; NR100010406). Such use of his services testifies to his renown and indicates the importance of religion to the social fabric of Oklahoma during early Oklahoma statehood.

Shaw’s affinity toward designing education and religious buildings combined with his association with Phillips University (now Northern Oklahoma College–Enid). A private, Christian, liberal arts college founded in 1906, Phillips University underwent a significant building campaign in the 1940s during Dr. Eugene S. Briggs’s presidency. Briggs hired Shaw to supervise much of the work, a responsibility that took up much of the architect’s remaining years. In 1940 he completed plans for a one-thousand-person capacity gymnasium. He also designed Clay Hall, the women’s dormitory (NR12000346). By 1944 he was finishing drawings for Marshall Hall. The nation’s entry into World War II and subsequent wartime shortages delayed Clay Hall’s completion until 1946. Marshall Hall (NR15000868) was not constructed until 1950, three years after his death. The building was completed according to Shaw’s original design, and it remains his crowning achievement.

The architectural style of Shaw’s buildings varies from the Revival subtypes popular during the early twentieth century to the burgeoning Art Deco and Moderne movements. Most of his religious buildings fall under the Gothic Revival style. The buildings’ immense size, complemented by pointed-arch openings, castellated parapets, and other features, convey a strong sense of permanence on the Oklahoma prairie. He also drew upon Revival styles for public school buildings. Jackson School features the Mission-shaped parapets, tile roof, and arcaded entries most often associated with the Mission/Spanish Revival style, while Booker T. Washington School (1921) is a straightforward interpretation of the Classical Revival style. He was also adept toward accommodating the eclectic tastes of a particular client, as best seen with the T. T. Eason Mansion (1923; NR87000417). This grand, two-story brick dwelling features elements from the Mission/Spanish Revival and Italian Renaissance Revival styles that collectively disguise an otherwise typical American Foursquare house. Shaw’s willingness to experiment with emerging Modern architectural movements is best exhibited by the eleven-story, Art Deco–style Bass Building in downtown Enid (1930). At least one dozen buildings that Shaw designed in Enid and surrounding towns are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, either individually or as part of a historic district.

Shaw married Emma Alice Coulter in 1905. The couple went on to have one daughter and three sons. A member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Shaw served at least three terms as president of the Oklahoma chapter. He was active in Enid’s Masonic Lodge no. 80 and was a board member of several civic organizations, including the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), Associated Charities, and Enid’s Carnegie Library. Entering politics in the 1930s, he served one term on the Garfield County Commission. After battling a prolonged illness, R. W. Shaw died in Enid on October 3, 1947.

Matthew Pearce

Learn More

Frank H. Marshall and Robert G. Martin, Phillips University’s First Fifty Years, Vol. 3: The Period of Greatest Advance (Enid: Phillips University, 1967).

Virginia Savage McAlester, A Field Guide to American Houses, rev. ed. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2019).

Leland M. Roth, A Concise History of American Architecture, rev. ed. (New York: Harper & Row, 1980).

“Roy Wilbur Shaw,” Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Related Resources

Carrier Congregational Church, National Register of Historic Places
Clay Hall, Northern Oklahoma College–Enid, National Register of Historic Places
Harrison School, National Register of Historic Places
Jackson School, National Register of Historic Places
Marshall Hall, Northern Oklahoma College–Enid, National Register of Historic Places
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, National Register of Historic Places
T. T. Eason Mansion, National Register of Historic Places


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Matthew Pearce, “Shaw, Roy Wilbur,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=SH034.

Published April 19, 2024
Last updated June 5, 2024

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