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Notes on the Geography of Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown

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Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown picture 1

Despite the two naval air stations built courtesy of World War II, downtown never grew very imposing, largely because interurban railroad service was so convenient that Normanites thought nothing of shopping 20 miles up the line in Oklahoma City. Worse news came in the 1950s, when Interstate 35 was built some two miles west of the railroad station. Shopping migrated toward the freeway, and Main Street went into what seemed like a terminal decline, minimally impeded by the construction in 1965 of the 6-story office building, shown here in the distance. The Vista Building's name made sense, because the building was high enough to see the horizon in every direction, especially from the restaurant that operated for many years on the top floor. The photo dates from about 1990.

Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown picture 2

Another of the last buildings added to Main Street: the Lockett Hotel opened in 1952. In the mid-60s it became the Coronado Inn Motor Hotel, but new owners and a new name couldn't save it when, in 1964, a Holiday Inn opened next to Interstate 35. A Howard Johnson opened across from the Holiday Inn in 1973, and a Ramada followed the next year a mile down the highway at Lindsay Street exit. The ex-Lockett closed and was converted to offices in 1975.

Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown picture 3

Some merchants competed by investing in the aluminum screening so popular in the 1950s.

Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown picture 4

A handsome font helped this business survive from 1928 until about 2015. Since then, the building has housed at least two Mexican restaurants.

Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown picture 5

Over on U.S. 77, running perpendicular to Main Street and three blocks east of the railroad, Norman's Cadillac-Oldsmobile dealership moved to a site near Interstate 35. A muffler shop moved in. Few passersby wondered why a muffler shop should have a showroom, but now you know. Unfortunately, the muffler shop closed, too, and the building has been abandoned for some years.

Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown picture 6

Proof: a newspaper photos from 1951, the only year when the dealership carried this name.

Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown picture 7

Another occupant gets ready to move in: 2017.

Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown picture 8

The location is Classen Boulevard, perpendicular to Main Street and a few blocks east of tracks. This used to be U.S. 77. In the days before interstate highways, it was the main road from Oklahoma City to Dallas.

For more on the automotive businesses that clustered here, see http://www.okhistory.org/shpo/architsurveys/ThematicPorterAveNorman.pdf

Oklahoma: Norman 3: Post-war Downtown picture 9

What did U.S. 77 need besides gas stations? Drive-ins, obviously. This site was residential in 1937 but became the Blue Goose Cafe in 1938. Between 1940 and '48, it was Harry's Drive Inn. From 1949 to 1955 it was McCall's Drive Inn. From 1956 to about 1963 it was Sims Drive Inn. In 1964 it was Salyer's Restaurant. Since this picture was taken, it has graduated from an auto-parts store to a dentist's office.

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