You don’t have to be in Ardmore long before you start hearing stories about hidden tunnels snaking throughout downtown.
While the extent of the tunnels may have been lost to the ages, the existence of the tunnels is easily verifiable.
Construction for downtown’s Streetscape project unearthed portions of the long-buried, partially-forgotten tunnels Friday. On hand was local Ardmore historian and businessman Tom Dunlap, among others. Dunlap has been instrumental in the development of Depot Park, including donating properties and organizing the efforts and donations to relocate the Mercy Train downtown.
“I’m not the authority, I’m someone that is regurgitating the authority, someone that can separate the truth from the lore,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap quoted longtime Carter County District Judge Tom Walker information on what is known about the underground of downtown Ardmore.
“There are two kinds of tunnels, two tunnels,” Dunlap said. “One of them is the one that’s from a saloon to the hotel. That is vintage 1909 stuff, back when the Whittington Hotel — which Whittington Park is named after — was the going hotel in this town.”
Two tunnels, one running east to west down the frontage on the north side of Main Street, the other running north and south along Caddo - with its distance being disputed - as it is unclear exactly how far the tunnel extends.
A third tunnel was used as drainage, which is still visible from the east side of the train tracks..
“There is a reason why there is a tunnel here (Main Street), when it’s supposedly the storefront on Main Street,” Dunlap said. “That gets into why the delivery stuff had to be done on this side of the street. It’s because it couldn’t get in the back because there was a creek.”
Former District Judge Tom Walker confirmed Dunlap’s recanting of the this portion of Ardmore’s history.
“The one (tunnel) that goes east to west was because of the nature of the alley,” Walker said. “About half a block north of Caddo, there was a dip in the road. In the early days of Ardmore, there was a bridge across there.”
Walker said the area was once home to a wagon yard, with the low point, or dip, marking the place where a shallow creek ran, lined by outhouses. Eventually, the city installed the arched-brick storm drain.
Walker confirmed that the east-west tunnel was used to transport goods into the stores that lined Main Street, to bypass the creek.
A more notorious tunnel ran north-south under Main Street.
“What is believed as the very first hotel in Ardmore, the Buckles Hotel sat on the northwest corner of Main Street,” Walker said, adding that after the original building was razed, a new one took its place featuring a drugstore on the ground level, a hospital on the second floor and a tavern, the Dew Drop Inn in the basement.
“The entry into the hotel and the drugstore were on Main Street, the entry to the Dew Drop Inn was on Caddo,” Walker said. “The story is, when patrons would engage the services of a lady of the night, they would be able to travel to the Whittington Hotel without ever having to be in the lobby.”
Walker said the story, while popular, has yet to be confirmed.
Jadean Fackrell, former owner of Chateaux’ 117 building, said that when she first purchased the building —two storefronts down from the corner of Caddo and Main — she stumbled upon a trapdoor in the floor which led to the basement. The basement, once excavated, revealed arched entryways into the east-west tunnel, or what she described as a hallway that lead from building to building.
The arched entries are still visible today from the basement of Chateaux’ 117 — formerly Greenberg’s Jewelry — and other businesses downtown, though most have been blocked.
Frackrell said the tunnels themselves no longer extend the length of the street, from business to businesses, but have been blocked by concrete.
Frackrell added that the building next to Chateaux’ 117— now the home of the Stag — is the oldest standing building in Ardmore, constructed in 1895.
Walker said it’s believed that the tunnels remained in use up until World War I, though others claim the tunnels were used to transport bootleg alcohol, the latter of which remains unconfirmed. However, a look through The Ardmoreite’s archives provide some evidence the tunnels may have been used for illegal endeavors.  As an example,  the Dec. 23, 1928, edition of The Daily Ardmoreite has multiple reports of individuals being “busted” for possession of alcohol ranging from a few pints to a few gallons, while reports of “bootlegging” activities can be found in the Jan. 17, 1907, edition.
Do you have any stories about the tunnels under downtown Ardmore? Send your memories of Ardmore’s history to robby.short@ardmoreite.com or to 117 West Broadway, Ardmore OK  73401, c/o Robby Short.