Main Streets 2017: Oklahoma
Wide and atmospheric, Main Street recalls this small city’s bygone frontier days.
Ardmore is the cultural and economic hub of Arbuckle Country, a 10-county region of south-central Oklahoma named for the ancient, forest-covered Arbuckle Mountains just north of town. Oil was discovered nearby in the early years of the auto age, and its economic benefits have been combined with the community’s commitment to preserving and improving downtown. You’ll find impressive venues here for the fine and performing arts, along with shops, restaurants and the historic Santa Fe Depot railroad station.
Halfway between Dallas/Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, Main Street began as a plowed ditch in a frontier town. Ardmore began growing in earnest after the Santa Fe Railroad came in the 1880s, and the town became a regional trading center.
Residents rebuilt after an 1895 fire — and in the early 1900s, Ardmore became a high-traffic cotton port, where wagons would line up by the hundreds awaiting their turn at The Cotton Exchange. The Exchange today is “a beautifully restored building offering retail shopping and loft apartments,” says the Ardmore Main Street Authority, whose citizen volunteers are dedicated to promoting and preserving downtown.
The oil boom began with the 1913 discovery of the Healdton Oil Field, still one of the largest ever found in Oklahoma. This became, and still is, Oklahoma’s largest oil-producing area. Residents rebuilt the downtown again in 1915 after a second big fire — and today’s Main Street features a number of historic, restored buildings that date from the frontier era. The Santa Fe Depot, built in 1916 right on Main, is served by Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer, with daily service from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City.
Among the downtown attractions are the Greater Southwest Historical Museum, whose exhibits, school programs and collections highlight the history and culture of south central Oklahoma. Within the Historical Museum, the Military Memorial Museum showcases military history. Heritage Hall, formerly the Ardmore Civic Auditorium, is an Art Deco structure that was renovated several years ago and is a favorite venue for concerts and downtown gatherings.
And inside the Ardmore Public Library, the Eliza Cruce Hall Doll Museum houses a collection of more than 300 rare and antique dolls from the United States and Europe.
Santa Fe Depot photo taken by Mitchazenia
Additional photos taken by Matthew Rutledge