Christa Rice

Back in the day, Claremore was a promising territory town just right for pioneer capitalists who wanted to make substantial financial investments. Entrepreneurs Charles and Pauline Campbell came to Claremore from the east about 1910, proceeding to grasp all the prime, Main Street fronted real estate they could commandeer.

The Claremore Progress revealed, “Two new modern buildings will be commenced in a few days and will be modern in every respect. Mr. C.M. Campbell, of Washington, D.C., arrived in the city the first of the week and brought with him the plans for the new buildings and announces that work will be commenced at once. One building will be built where Draper’s meat market and Odom’s barber shop are now located, and will be the latest model in the way of a business house” [CP,3-10-1911].

This Campbell lot, located on the south side of Main Street between Missouri and Cherokee Avenues (409 West Will Rogers Boulevard) is now the home of Back in the Day Antiques and Treasures.

In April 1911, The Claremore Progress reported, “The steel is being placed in position on the first Campbell building” [CP,4-21-1911]. When completed, iron columns supported the second floor of the two-story Campbell building, and the interior was plastered [Sanborn Map,9-1911]. Large store display windows at street level embellished the entrance doors. The exterior painted cement façade and sloping clay-tiled roof eaves gave the building a Mediterranean look.

This Campbell building filled rapidly with Maud Littlefield’s music school; Dobson, jewelers; Watson Bros., electricians [Claremore Messenger,9-29-1911]; Joe Chambers’ law office; G.W. Walkley, real estate; Smith & Lynch, attorneys, and Goodwin’s Barber Shop [Rogers County Leader,9-29-1911&6-14-1912].

Though the New York 5 and 10c Store resided elsewhere, managers displayed their holiday goods in the Campbell building’s capacious show windows [CM,11-22-1912]. After the holidays, Casper Lipe moved Lipe’s Grocery into the Campbell building [CP,12-27-1912]. The following year, drawn by the larger floorspace and superior lighting, Mrs. M.B. Church transported her fashionable Ladies’ Specialty Store from the Johnson building across the street to the Campbell building [CM,5-2-1913]. Thereafter, W.J. Eldridge’s notary, deeds, and contracts business [CP,9-3-1914], Mrs. Turk Moore’s handwork business [CP,10-15-1914], Miss Thomas’s Millinery Co. [CP,3-2-1916], and Mrs. Pond’s Amarillo Beauty Parlor [CP,12-9-1920] followed suit.

Long-time Claremore residents fondly recall this Campbell building as the JCPenney Company store with its striking green mosaic porcelain tile entryway floor and three cheerful, commodious display windows. The Worth Hotel was strategically located upstairs [Sanborn Map,12-1925]. JCPenney Company took up residence at this site in 1927 and stayed at that location until it moved to its Ne-Mar Center home in 1988 [David Kruger, “James Cash Penney” Chronicles of Oklahoma, Fall 2011]. One remembers the Howell family who cordially managed the JCPenney Main Street store. Many recollect shopping at JCPenney at Christmas, buying their Easter attire there, and playing hide-and-seek among the clothes racks.

The Campbell building has gone through many transitions since it was first built by Charles and Pauline Campbell in 1911. Though the Mediterranean styled façade with its sloping front clay-tiled eave has been replaced with a streamlined simplified roof edge, the five second-story windows remain. At 110 years young, the building has recently experienced another stylish facelift.

As was true 100 years ago, Claremore’s quaint downtown historic district still inspires business entrepreneurs. Vintage buildings, lovingly restored by forward thinking real estate developers, are adding fresh space for a new generation of city residents and business owners as the heart of Claremore regenerates. Look forward; 50-100 years from now these businesses will be the ones old-timers remember, “Back in the Day.”

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