Learn more about the history of Ardmore.
Ardmore is a progressive, attractive city bustling with activity. Founded before statehood, its history is diverse and rich. Ardmore was born with the establishment of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1887 while Oklahoma was still Indian Territory. Initially, the community's roots were agricultural with cotton as the primary crop. At one point, it boasted the largest inland cotton market in the United States. This was the beginning of a city destined to become one of the premiere towns in the State of Oklahoma. The overwhelming number of people farming in the area quickly depleted the area soil, and the cotton industry all but disappeared.
The decline of the cotton industry did not slow this progressive community. Soon oil was discovered! This discovery rapidly converted the economy from one based on agriculture to one based on energy. Quickly, Ardmore became one of the wealthiest and fastest growing cities in the Southwest. The oil industry continued to be the mainstay of the area economy throughout the decades that followed. It was not until the end of the century and the decline in the oil industry that Ardmore began to diversify again, becoming a hub of the distribution business.
Ardmore has proved to be a resilient community with the ability to overcome past adversities. In the late 1800's with the community on its way to becoming one of the main cities in Oklahoma, disaster struck with a fire that destroyed downtown. Then, in the early 1900's a deadly explosion destroyed most of the city. The citizens reacted with true Ardmore enthusiasm and quickly rebuilt. Some of these buildings are still standing today and include the train depot, a bank building, and the old courthouse. A history of overcoming obstacles positioned Ardmore to be the prosperous city it is today.
The rich heritage and proud history of Ardmore has been preserved and can be seen with a walk through the downtown area. Many of the historic structures have been preserved and are still in use. A walking tour of the downtown area should include the Carter County Courthouse as well as many Main Street structures that are on the National Registry of Historical Places. Our refurbished brick sidewalks add to the charm of this historic tradition.
World War II and the activation of Ardmore Army Air Field introduced thousands of outsiders to southern Oklahoma hospitality. Bombardiers, Ferebee and Beahan, who dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were stationed here, as was Brig. General Frank A. Armstrong, Jr., the role model for Brig. General Frank Savage, the fictitious, short-time commander of the 916th Bomb Group in the classic "Twelve O'Clock High" movie, novel and TV program. Many servicemen married local women and became business and community leaders following the War. The closing of the base and activation of a new Ardmore Air Force Base during the Korean Conflict, pressured City, County and State officials to find a use for the vacated base when it closed in 1959. The resulting Ardmore Industrial Airpark and employment provided by its various industries is a valuable asset to the southern Oklahoma area.
The Remembrance Memorial Park, near the entrance of the Ardmore Industrial Airpark (Ardmore Municipal Airport), is dedicated to the men and women who died in training accidents during WWII, the Korean Conflict and a crash near the airpark, April 22, 1966, of American Flyers Airline's Lockheed Electra L-188C. This crash took the lives of 76 US Army personnel and six American Flyer crewmembers. At that time, it was the third highest loss of lives in USA air crashes and remains Oklahoma's worst air disaster.
The Greater Southwest Historical Museum houses examples of the history of the area, featuring many turn of the century displays. Exhibits detail the area's history from the mid 1800's to the present day, telling the story of human settlement in South-Central Oklahoma from Native American history to the farmers, ranchers and townspeople who built strong communities in the region. A military annex at the museum houses memorabilia from the American Revolution through the current action in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Memorial Square was dedicated in 2001 and is a monument to the history of Ardmore and its citizens. Located adjacent to the Chamber offices, this monument was a result of the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce Foundation along with various business and community leaders and organizations. The monument pays tribute to two important aspects of this community: energy and the veterans who helped fight for the freedom we enjoy today. The monument symbolizes the community's appreciation for our freedom and the contribution the energy industry has made to this town. The citizens of Ardmore now have a place to forever honor those who helped to preserve our freedom and energy supply.
August 7, 2004 was an historic night for the community of Ardmore. The Ardmore Convention Center Grand Opening Gala was held to mark the opening of this 45,000 square foot facility. Over 700 area residents turned out to celebrate at the largest gathering of this type in the community's history. In 2011, an additional 6800 square feet of meeting space was added to the Convention Center and the new, adjoining full-service Holiday Inn was opened. The success of the Convention Center pays tribute to the courage and foresight of the community leadership for which Ardmore is known.
The proud heritage of Ardmore can be seen around the community and in the eyes of its citizens and community leaders. It has shaped the city into what it is today.