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Route 66: Chelsea, Oklahoma

Chelsea is the town where oil was first found in Oklahoma, it has three places listed in the National Registry of Historic Places: Pryor Creek Bridge, the Chelsea Motel and the Hogue Home, a 1912 mail-order-home from Sears & Roebuck, unique in Oklahoma. Enjoy the small-town flavor of Chelsea and the old Route 66.

Chelsea OK

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About Chelsea, Oklahoma

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 705 ft. (215 m). Population: 1,964 (2010 census).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Chelsea, is located in the northeastern corner of Rogers County, Oklahoma, on the historic Route 66.

Center of Chelsea
The Buildings in the center of Chelsea
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

Chelsea's History

Northeastern Oklahoma has been populated for more than 10,000 years. Native Americans hunted buffalo on the plains when the first Europeans explored the area. The current population of Cherokee and Shawnee were relocated to the Indian Territories in the mid 1800s.

The US government took the Indian lands in the east and gave them new territory beyond the Mississippi River. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 resulted in a massive migration ("Trail of Tears") of the Cherokee Nation.

They owned their land and set up a government in the Indian Territories, and gave permits for railroads to cross their land and also for mining and oil exploration.

The Atlantic and Pacific Line (A&P) built a railroad that began in Saint Louis and crossed the country with a diagonal course. It would eventually reach California in 1885, after being acquierd by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1880.

The A&P built a stop there in 1881, and a post office was established on Nov. 21, 1882. It was named "Chelsea".

The Name: Chelsea

The town's post office received the name of "Chelsea" from an A&P railroad official, Charles Peach, after his home back in England.

The Old English meaning of the word is "Chalk landing place", derived from "cealc hyo", the place name in England of a port where chalk shipments were disembarked.

A town sprung up around the station and it was incorporated under the tribal laws of the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, in 1889.

It was a ranching and farming community, producing oats, corn and wheat. Cattle and hay were also shipped out by train.

The first state bank in Indian Territory opened in Chelsea in 1896: "The Bank of Chelsea". The town was surveyed and platted in 1902.

The first oil well in Oklahoma

In 1884 the Cherokee Nation had passed a law that authorized the creation of a company "for the purpose of finding petroleum, or rock oil, and thus increasing the revenue of the Cherokee Nation".

In 1889, Edward Byrd, a "wildcatter (a wildcatter is a person who drills "wildcat" wells: exploration oil wells drilled in areas not known to be oil fields) obtained a lease to search for oil from the Cherokee Nation and drilled his first well near Chelsea in 1890.

He was lucky and struck oil at a depth of only 36 feet (12 m). The well produced half a barrel a day. Byrd quickly formed the U.S. Oil and Gas Company.

This field, the Chelsea- Alluwe oil field would transform the economy of Chelsea and also, of Oklahoma.

However in 1897, Congress nullified tribal law and dissolved the reservations and its government. The state of Oklahoma (1907) was admitted into the U.S. and it soon established Rogers County.

Chelsea Trivia

Will Roger's sister, Allie McSpadden lived in Chelsea.

Gene Autry (1907 - 1998) lived in the town when he worked for the railroad. He was a performer who became famous on the radio, TV and movies as a singing cowboy during his career which began in the 1930s and spanned 30 years.

In 1926, Route 66 was created and it passed through the town of Chelsea, two Historic sites in the town (Chelsea Motel and Pryor Creek Bridge) are related to Historic Route U.S. 66.

Chelsea has...
  • The first oil well in Oklahoma
  • The first Sears kit home in the state of Oklahoma, a "mail-order-home" from the Sears Catalog, built in 1912.

In 1926, Chelsea had at least one oil refinery and a booming commercial district. Route 66 shifted the center of the town from the old railroad depot to the east, along the new highway.

Soon many stores opened along Route 66 (Walnut Ave.). But by the mid 1950s the road was congested and unsafe. The Interstate system would soon replace it: the construction of the Turner and Will Rogers turnpikes in 1957, left Chelsea in a backwater, bypassed by progress.

Where to Stay

There are several hotels in towns close to Chelsea along Route 66 :

>> Book your Motels and Hotels in Vinita (18 miles east of Chelsea) or in Hotels in Claremore (19 miles west).

Lodging Nearby:

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>> There are three RV campgrounds near Chelsea.

Weather in Chelsea

Average annual rainfal is 44.7 inches (1.135 mm) and it rains on average 85 days per year, mostly during spring and summer. There are 231 Sunny days yearly.

The average high temperature in July is 93°F (33.9°C) and in January the average low is 23.6°F (-4.7°C).

It snows in Chelsea during winter and about 5 inches (13 cm) can be expected between Nov. and March.

Chelsea's Tornado Risk: The town is within the "Tornado Alley and experiences about 8 Tornado watches every year.

Read more about: Tornadoes on Route66.

Route 66 and Chelsea Oklahoma
Location of Chelsea, Rogers Co., Route 66

Getting to Chelsea

Chelsea is 63 miles from the Kansas state line. It 18 miles southwest of Vinita and 19 miles northeast of Claremore.

Heading west along Route 66 are Catoosa (29 mi.) and Tulsa (47 mi.).

Map of Chelsea and Route66

in Oklahoma.

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment; Red line: Interstate highways, where they overlap the old alignment.

  Click to See the Western Oklahoma alignment

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Google Maps. Terms. Icons.

Route 66 itinerary to Chelsea

Route 66 logo

Route 66 in Oklahoma

Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across Oklahoma.

Chelsea, Oklahoma: Attractions & Sights

Things to Do and See

Town Attractions

Chelsea

Visit its historic Chelsea Motel, the old Pryor Creek bridge, on the original 1926 Route 66 alignment and the oldest Sears mail-order-home in the state. Close by is the first oil well of Oklahoma. Experience small-town America and its vintage setting along Oklahoma's Route 66.

The most recent alignment of Route 66 enters the town from the east and then curves southwards along its "Main" Street, Walnut Avenue. The original alignment back in 1926 was different, and you can still drive along it:

The 1926 Route 66 Access to Chelsea

Original Route 66 alignment through Chelsea

When coming from the east (Vinita), just before you reach Pryor Creek, take a left, and head south along S 2460 Road, it soon reaches Pryor Creek, and the Historic Bridge:

Historic Pryor Creek Bridge

S 2460 Rd, Chelsea, OK.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

This bridge is 1⁄4 mile east of the town, on E 1st St. (S 2460 Rd.). It was built in 1926, and spans the Pryor Creek carrying Historic Route 66 across it.

Historic Pryor Creek Bridge, Chelsea, Oklahoma

Pryor Creek bridge
Pryor Creek Bridge, Chelsea, Oklahoma
by

It has one single span, a modified Pratt Through Truss bridge (a bridge that has beams bracing it above the roadway). It is 123 ft. long and 19 feet wide.

It was on the original Route 66 alignment (1926) and carried traffic until the route took its current course futher north, in 1932.

See its Google Street View and location.

Into Chelsea

Continue westwards along E 1st. St. and at the intersection with Walnur Ave., on the right side of the road you will see the Historic Chelsea Motel:

Chelsea Motel

Walnut Ave. and E 1st. St., Chelsea, OK.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

A historic motel built in the 1930s with an impressive (for its days) neon sign built in 1947.

Chelsea Motel
Chelsea Motel, Chelsea, OK
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

The hotel opened sometime between 1936 and 1939 (date not certain). It was a mom-and-pop motel which changed hands ocasionally during its 20 year lifespan. It was a simple rectangular building 75 feet long and 16 ft. wide. It had six units, built with wood. Three of its elevations were plastered with stucco. Its neon sign was added in 1947.

The Interstate I-44 sealed its fate as it bypassed Chelsea in 1957. It closed in 1976. Nowadays it is a private property which can be viewed from the street only.

Town Tour

Take a left along Walnut Ave. and then a right along W. 6th St. you will see the Historic local newspaper:

Chelsea Reporter Office

245 W 6th St, Chelsea

J.A. Clawson established The Reporter in 1896, and its the oldest business in Chelsea and one of the oldest newspapers in the state. The paper is still being printed and is a locally owned and operated weekly serving the local rural community needs.

Head south down Olive Street to visit the Historic House.

Historic Hogue Home

1001 South Olive, Chelsea.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

The Hogue House was built in 1912, and is a two and one-half story home constructed with horizontal wooden boards on a concrete block foundation. It is 35 ft. by 40 ft. and is topped by an intersecting gable roof.

Details are interesting like the ornamental Priscilla window in the attic story.

Historic Hogue House, Chelsea, Oklahoma

Hogue House
Historic Hogue House, Chelsea, Oklahoma
by

This is the first house of its kind in Oklahoma and east of the Mississippi River.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. began selling their catalog homes in 1909 and Joe Hogue saw one on display at a Sears store during a business trip to Chicago in 1911. He bought it for $1,600, and had it shipped to Chelsea by train. It was the Hogue Family's residence since then.

See its Google Street View

Tours & Itineraries

Oak Hills Winery and Vineyards

7070 S. 4240 Rd. , Chelsea, www.oakhillswinery.com; (918) 789-Wine

For a taste of Oklahoma wine. Tour the vineyards and enjoy wine tasting. From Thursdays to Sundays 11 AM - 6 PM, by appointment.

Nearby Route 66 Towns

Visit the nearby towns of Vinita (18 miles east), and Catoosa to the west, with their typical Route 66 attractions.

US Highway 66

Historic Route 66 alignment

Learn more about alignment of Historic Route-66 through Oklahoma.

The Historic 9-foot wide Ribbon Road segment of US 66 is only 33 miles east, at Afton.

Natural Attractions

National & State Parks

Spencer Creek Cove Public Use Area

Located on the 30,000 acre Oologah Lake, just 10 miles west of Chelsea along county roads (E340 and E350) (GPS info: 36.51083, -95.56111), it is ideal for fishing, boating, camping and picknicking. There are facilities at the site. Read more at the official website.

Find more State Parks near Chelsea - Vinita

Sources

Image and Image by Abe Ezekowitz, under their CC BY 3.0 License.

Chelsea Motel, National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program

Chelsea Area Historical Society

American Oil & Gas Historical Society First Oklahoma Oil Well.

Nomination Form, Hogue House, National Register of Historic Places

Oklahoma Historical Society Route 66 Mobile Tour Stop List.

Image Used as per Google Street View Image Api Updated Dec. 31, 2014.

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License

Map Icons by Nicolas Mollet under its CC BY SA 3.0 License