Blue skies and white clouds covered warm, red brick on the east side of The Ardmoreite building Monday. At nightfall, paintbrushes danced in spotlights, outlining figures that later came to life as colors and an artist’s touch were added Tuesday.
Approximately 4,500 square feet of the building will soon be a vibrant mural celebrating and showcasing some of the history of Ardmore. The mural is the second of its kind in the downtown area and won’t be the last.
The Ardmore Beatification Council hopes there will be a series of several murals to add beauty and character to downtown Ardmore.
“I’m very excited about it. I think it will make Ardmore more interesting and more beautiful,” said ABC board member Kay Watson. “I think it will brighten up our community and make our community look beautiful.”
Watson said for a long time it has been her passion to get murals put up around the city. Walking around the downtown area every day helped her find ideal locations for the large works of art.
It is her hope the next mural they work on will represent artwork from first grade through fifth grade students of what Oklahoma was like before it became a state. Watson said they are also brainstorming ideas for a mural to be painted near the train station. One that would be within view of Amtrak passengers.
“We want to have something for people coming through on the Amtrak that’s visible when the train stops,” she said. “Something that says, ‘this is what’s in Ardmore.’”
The first mural painted by Palmer Studios Inc., located on the Legal Aid building at 14 E. St. SW, depicted the Mercy Hospital train and an explosion that rocked the downtown area, while other elements gave insight to the history of the city’s economic ties to farming, agriculture and the oil industry.
This time around, the history of Ardmore’s ties to the military will dominate the mural.
Greater Southwest Historical Museum Director Wes Hull has been heavily involved in both projects, coming up with ideas of what would best represent Ardmore’s past. Hull said it all started with headquarters at the Ardmore Army Air Base, where the airpark is located now.
“Back in those days you didn’t have young female soldiers,” Hull said, adding the military was all male and when soldiers came to Oklahoma they met Southern belles of Ardmore.
The young men and women would meet up in the Ardmore Hotel inside the Glider Room, which was initially set up for glider pilots, he said. Later on, several of the soldiers got married to the Ardmore belles, but then were shipped off to war.
A soldier and a woman in a wedding gown can be seen within the mural to represent the history from that era.
“”When they (the soldiers) came back, they looked up their true love and some became very successful businessmen in the Ardmore area,” Hull said.
As airplanes soar through the sky in the top portion of the mural, Hull explained their significance. The very first C-130 aircraft that came off the production line had “City of Ardmore” written across its nose, he said. In addition to the C-130, he said there will also be B-12 or B-17 bombers in flight uniform painted in the sky.
A cluster of GI’s are pictured together on the wall, as well as the USS Oklahoma. Hull, a sailor himself, said one of the first sailors to be killed December 7, 1941, was Billy Turner of Ardmore.
Hull also talked about the prominent career of Ardmore native Lt. Ted Spurgeon. Spurgeon is a WWII veteran and Prisoner Of War. Spurgeon also has ties to The Ardmoreite building itself.
“He built this building,” Hull said. “I still have the advertisement.”
The old ad from July 1966 shows a picture of the building, inviting everyone for an open house to “see one of the most modern newspaper plants in Oklahoma.”
While The Ardmoreite newspaper plant is no longer the ‘most modern’ in the state, the mural has added a buzz of excitement. Several members of the community stood in the parking lot Monday and Tuesday to witness muralist Bob Palmer and his team in action.
“We’re excited about it,” Watson said. “We want to celebrate the arts, we really do.”
Watson added if anyone has ideas for a mural or for funding the projects, they can call the Ardmore Beautification Council at (580) 223-2230.