Ardmore (population 23,711), one of the most historic small towns in Oklahoma, began with the establishment of a ranch in what was the Chickasaw Nation. It grew up around the Santa Fe railroad, which first arrived in 1887. By the 1890s, Ardmore was the largest inland cotton market in the world.
Nearly the entire town burned down in 1895. Following statehood in 1907, much of the business district was destroyed a second time by a 1915 gasoline explosion that killed 49 people. Oil had been discovered in Ardmore in 1913, giving the town the means to rebuild. Among Ardmore's claims to fame is being the hometown of outlaw Bill Dalton, actress Rue McClanahan, and S.N. Goldman, inventor of the shopping cart.
Ardmore has recently rehabilitated the 1918 Santa Fe Railroad Depot, vacant for 20 years, and is using the Mission Revival building for Main Street program offices, meeting rooms, a police sub-station, and for its original use as a train station. Funding came from Transportation Enhancement funds, the U.S. Department of Energy, and private foundations.
This successful multi-phase, public/private project provided a stimulus for economic development. Business owners in the area report a 50 percent increase in traffic and a safer atmosphere and the percentage of train passengers has increased by 70 percent in one year. Profit from rentals assists the Main Street Authority in covering the costs of revitalization and promotion of the historic downtown area.
This year, Ardmore was one of nine Oklahoma cities participating in a statewide walking tour promotion. Tours were held in a different city each Saturday for nine weeks. Those who participated in six or more tours received a free subscription to Oklahoma Today magazine and a chance to win a weekend getaway.
Ardmore is also home to the Greater Southwest Historical Museum, on land that includes the former National Guard Armory and high school stadium, both built by the Works Progress Administration. Displays of equipment for agriculture and petroleum exploration—two of the most significant aspects of the local economy—are being developed, as well as interpreted planting of native flora, explaining its impact on how the area was settled and developed.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2005.