Travel to U.S.: Oklahoma: Norman 2: Before World War II
Norman before the Interstate.
Where it all began. Every morning at about nine, Amtrak comes through, en route from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth. At nine in the evening, more or less, it comes back.
The station in the late '90s, before Amtrak began service and when the railroad's only concern was keeping people away from the track.
Main Street crossed the tracks perpendicularly at the station and was platted with a width of 100 feet. For the next 50 years, commercial development hardly extended more than three block east and west of the crossing, with the densest development on the east side. This is the 200 block of East Main, and it shows the rigid layout and construction of the old downtown. The townsite blocks were 300-by-400-feet square, and they were cut into two ranks of 25-by-140-foot lots, separated by a 20-foot alley. Chicago had taught people to fear fires, and Norman ordinances dictated that Main Street buildings have 13-inch masonry walls. The result was a line of massive, elongated, brick cells, logical for its time but a huge impediment to later developers who wanted clear spaces wider than 25 feet.
An alley view of the same block. The double-decking was only an office deep.
The Norman Hotel, in the 100-block of West Main. It was (and is) one of the few three-story buildings on Main, and it stayed in business at least from 1926 until 1968.
On East Main: the cornice atop the now-defunct Carey Lombard Lumber Company. Pretty fancy for a small-town, but Norman had its pretensions.
Most of the town merchants were strictly local, and turnover was very rapid, but a few national companies established themselves and stayed put. Here at 212 East Main F.W. Woolworth was in business by 1926, and the doors shut in 1960 or '61.
Another example, this time at 129 West Main. It's had several occupants, including a Goodyear store, but beginning in 1942 as a Safeway. As such, it stayed in business until 1957, when Safeway moved a few blocks west, to a larger site just west of the original townsite. Behind the streetlight there's still the concrete block and the base of the pipe on which the Safeway sign stood.
A block north of Main Street was a lumber yard belonging to the same company whose initials stood so grandly on that Main Street cornice shown a few images back. The building now is a foundry, part of a brave effort to make Norman an arts center.
Three blocks east of the track, Main Street crosses a road that since the 1920s has carried U.S. 77. A mile north of that intersection, there was pioneer motel dating from 1947: Norman Courts (later the Norman Park Hotel; now demolished). Nearby was this now abandoned Phillips gas station.
Most homes were very modest, like this "shotgun" a few blocks south of Main Street. In the background, the University of Oklahoma's Sarkeys Energy Center.
Another one-room-wide shotgun. Like the previous picture, this one hugs the railroad track south of Main Street. It's not the quietest place to sleep, because the track is still active, especially at night.
Some homes were a big bigger, though still on the modest side. In this case, it's the garden that is most striking, for Norman were pretty bleak in the 1890s. Now an urban forest covers much of the town. Thanks to it, the older parts of town are remarkably sheltered from Mr. Hammerstein's wind "rushing down the plains."
A more civil bungalow, one of many in the Craftsman Style, popular in Norman for many years.
Cottages in the deep woods.
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