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El Reno

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"Fried Onion Burger" town

El Reno, There are many Historic Landmarks in town: the Avant Service Station and the Jackson Conoco Service Station, Carnegie Library, Municipal Swimming Pool, the Hotel El Reno, Historic landmarks in El Reno: Goff House, Darlington Agency, Canadian County Jail, Mennoville Mennonite Church and the Red Cross Canteen. Don't miss its Streetcar or a real Old West US Cavalry Fort: Fort Reno.

El Reno OK

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About El Reno, Oklahoma

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 1,358 ft (414 m). Population: 17,510 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

El Reno is the county seat of Canadian County and is part of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area. Many residents work in Oklahoma City.

Downtown, El Reno.

Downtown El Reno, Oklahoma
Downtown view, notice the streetcar tracks. El Reno, Oklahoma
by

Oklahoma has been inhabited for at least 11,000 years. Not far from El Reno there is a Paleo-Indian camp site 7,000 to 11,000 years old.

The last great battle between the Cheyenne, Arapaho and the United States Army took place in Canadian County.

The Native Americans that lived in the region at the time of settling by European - Amercians were the outcome of a U.S. government's policy that began in around 1820 with the intention of reloctating Indians to "uninhabited" land west of the Mississippi River in the Indian Territory (which would later become Oklahoma).

Starting in 1859, The Cheyenne, Arapaho, Caddo and Wichita tribes were assigned land where El Reno is now located.

However, the government later changed its policy and decided to assimilate the natives as regular U.S. citizens. So it assigned each individual tribe member a plot of land of 160 acres and purchased the surplus land of each Indian Reservation. This land was then reserved for settlement by white Europeans & Americans.

Land Run

A "Land Rush" or "Land Run" was the system used for the initial settlement of this "open" land. Those interested in staking a claim for a plot of land set off from a starting point and rode to the land that was being "opended" to settlement. Once they reached it, they the homesteaders claimed their land. There were several "runs" in the early 1890s in Oklahoma.

As a consequence, the federal government created County Four in the new Oklahoma Territory, which was renamed after the 1889 "land run" as "Canadian County", after Canadian River which runs through it.

A second land run took pace in 1892, in the former Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation.

The border between both runs was located on the 98th meridian, and it runs right through the town of El Reno.

The name: El Reno

The town took its name from the nearby Fort Reno, and added the particle "El" (a Spanish article equivalent to "the") to indicate that it was a different community to the fort and Reno City (which had been established further north).

The Fort was named by its first commander, General Philip Sheridan, after his friend Gen. Jesse Lee Reno (1823 - 1862), who had been killed at South Mountain, Maryland, during the American Civil War.

"El Reno" actually makes sense in Spanish; it means: "The deer". The word derives from old Norse "hreinn" which originated French "renne" and Spanish "reno" among others.

Scenes from El Reno

Scenes from El Reno. Judah Morford

Later settlement was done in a more orderly manne by lotter drawings (1901).

The first outpost in the region was Fort Reno, set up to pacify the natives (1874).

Shortly after the land run, in June 1889, a post office opened and the town was platted on the homestead of John Foreman, the following year it included additional land from Thomas Jensen's plot, after some legal issues, the town was formalized in 1893.

In the meantime the railway reached El Reno in 1890 (The Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railroad, later part of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway) A second line (Choctaw Coal and Railway Company) linked it to Oklahoma City in 1892. The railroad built a yard and repair shops in the town and was a large employer until it went bankrupt in the 1980s.

The town of Reno City, north of El Reno which had been bypassed by the tracks lost all of its residents, who moved to El Reno.

Reno City : Ghost Town

The town of Reno City was founded on April 22, 1889 on a plot previously platted for the townsite. It grew quickly and soon had almost 1,500 residents and several stores, churches and a school. The post office opened in June 1889.

But the but the Rock Island Railway bypassed it as the city refused to pay the bonus for the tracks to go through the town. A second line, the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway built its tracks on the southern side of Canadian River. This left the town isolated. The residents moved to the town that was on the tracks: El Reno. Soon Reno City became a ghost town. The post office closed in 1902 and only the school remained (and still stands there, as a home).

When Route 66 was aligned through town in 1926 it was a boost to the local business district, which shifted south in the early 1960s when I-40 was built south of the town.

In 1934, the fifth-largest prison in the US was built 2 miles west of the town and to this day is a large local employer (with 430 workers).

A 5.5 magnitued earthquake hit El Reno in 1952 damaging many buildings; it was the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma until 2011, when another hit Sparks.

Where to Stay

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Weather in El Reno

Latest El Reno, Oklahoma, weather Twin Twisters El Reno, May 31, 2013

Multiple vortex tornado of May 31, 2013, El Reno, OK. Daniel Rodriguez

Summers in the central area of Oklahoma are hot and humid. The average summer (Jul) temperatures high is 94.4° (34.7°C) and the low is 70.1°F (21.2°C).

In winter (Jan) the average high is 47.4°F (8.6°C) and the low is 23.9°F (-4.5°C).

Rainfall averages 31.5 inches (800 mm) per year, and May, June and Sept. are the rainiest months with 5.4, 4.4 and 4.1 in. (137, 112 and 104 mm).

About 8 inches of snow falls every year (20.3 cm) between December and March.

There are 85 rainy days per year with most rain falling during summer.

Thunderstorms are quite common during late spring and summer, and come with hail and strong winds. Some spawn tornadoes. Tornadoes can hit at any time during any season.

Tornado risk

El Reno is next to Oklahoma City, whose metro area is one of the most tornado-prone ones in the whole world: about 150 tornados have struk this area since 1890. Some of them were very strong (F5 on the Fujita scale, which is the maximum value).

El Reno is located in the Oklahoma "Tornado Alley and experiences approximately 11 Tornado watches every year.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
 

Wild Weather

In January 2005 an ice storm hit El Reno and left up to 2 inches of ice in certain areas. In May 2007 tropical storm Erin deposited 10 inches (25 cm) of rain on the town, causing flooding.

Tornados have hit El Reno in recent years: May 8, 2007 and May 24, 2011, the latter killed 9 people and had an EF5 force rating. Then on May 31, 2013 a 2.6 mile wide (4.2 km) tornado struck the city's outskirts killing 8 people (including three storm chasers), it is pictured above.

Route 66 and El Reno Oklahoma
Location of El Reno, Route 66

Getting to El Reno

Heading east from El Reno down Route 66 are the towns of: Yukon (14 mi), Oklahoma City (29 mi.), Edmond (40 mi), Arcadia (49 mi.), Luther (57 mi) and Wellston (65 mi.)

To the west, are Calumet (13 miles), Geary (24 miles), Bridgeport (26 mi.) and Hydro (37 mi.)

Map of El Reno and Route66

in Oklahoma.

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

The Black: line shows the 1926-1932 alignment through Calumet and Geary.

  Click to See the Eastern Oklahoma alignment

Remove or restore State shading
 

Google Maps. Terms. Icons.

Route 66 itinerary to El Reno

Route 66 logo

Route 66 in Oklahoma

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

Below we detail the interesting remains of Historic El Reno alignment of Route 66.

El Reno, Oklahoma: Attractions & Sights

Things to Do and See

El Reno Attractions

El Reno is a large town with plenty of attractions: vintage Route 66 landmarks in town: the Avant and the Jackson Conoco Service Stations, Historic sites such as the Carnegie Library, the Municipal Swimming Pool the 1892 Hotel "El Reno", Goff House, Darlington Agency, Canadian County Jail, Mennoville Mennonite Church and the Red Cross Canteen. Don't miss its tramway - Streetcar or a genuine Old West US Cavalry Fort (Fort Reno).

Vintage Route 66 historic sites

Avant's Cities and Jackson Conoco Service Stations

Route 66 takes a sharp turn at the corner of Wade and Choctaw, changing itse east-west alignment for a north-south one. At this important crossing, two service stations vied for customers for over 30 years.

Avant Service Station

220 N. Choctaw, El Reno, OK. (NW corner of W Wade and Choctaw Ave.)

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Avant Service Station, El Reno

avant service station
Avant Service Station, El Reno, OK.
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

A Vintage Art Moderne - Art Deco 1930's Service Station on Route 66.It was built by Tom Avant on the northwestern corner of the busy intersection in a modernistic mixed design.

It was built in 1933 on the site of the former Campbell Hotel (which did not attract Route 66 motorists and went bankrupt).

It was a Cities Service Oil Co. station and it had a streamlined appearance with a flat roof (all of them Art Moderne features) combined with geometric zigzag parapet and stepped out pilasters (typical of Art Deco). Its original color was white with green trim, that of Cities Service's brand.

Jackson Conoco Service Sation

121 W. Wade, El Reno, OK. On the SE corner.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Vintage home-cottage styled 1930s US Highway 66 Service Station.

Jackson Conoco Service Station, El Reno

Jackson service station
Jackson Conoco Service Station, El Reno.
Static Image by Google Street View
Click on image for Interactive Google Street View

Built in 1934, it replaced a Marland Oil service station that was of the "gas pumps only" style.

Set on the southeastern corner of the intersection, it contrasted in its design, which was a home-like one. Conoco's stations were built in the house-with-bays style (a style favored by other oil companies like Phillips 66): a cottage with steep pitched gabled roof, chimney. It resembled a regular residential home.

I-40 reduced the flow of customers in 1962 but the two stations managed to survive for some time. They are now reconverted to other uses.

Other Historic Sites and Landmarks in El Reno

Click on the image for a Street View and map of the landmarks:

William and Magdalen Goff House

William and Magdalen Goff House, El Reno

William and Magdalen Goff House, El Reno, A. Whittall

506 South Evans, El Reno, Oklahoma

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

The William I. and Magdalen M. Goff House (or "Goff House") is an imposing residential structure built in 1901.

It is a two-story building in Colonial Revival-style. It has a circular tower and wraparound porch which were a feature of American Queen Anne architecture. Named after English Queen Anne who reigned from 1702 to 1714.

Darlington Agency

It is 6.9 miles NW of El Reno (Map with location.)

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

It was the government's Indian Agency located on the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Reservation in what would later become Canadian County, Oklahoma.

It was named after Brindon Darlingoton the first agent, a Quaker who took over in 1870. The Cheyenne and Arapaho moved to Concho and the building passed to the State of Oklahoma, and now is part of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's main bird hatchery and research station.

Carnegie Library

215 E. Wade St., El Reno, OK.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

1903 Historic Building in downtown El Reno

El Reno Carnegie Library

El Reno Carnegie Public Library, A. Whittall

In the 1890s the Athenaeum Club of El Reno organized a small library. The philantropist and millionaire, Andrew Carnegie, gave $12,500 if the city would agree to maintain the library at an expense of not less than $1,250 a year. The library board accepted the completed building on May 5, 1905. Twenty-four public libraries received grants from Andrew Carnegie between 1900 and 1922 totaling almost $500,000.

Their website: www.elrenolibrary.okpls.org

Municipal Swimming Pool

Reno Municipal Swimming Pool

Reno Municipal Swimming Pool, A. Whittall

715 S Morrison, El Reno, OK.

An example of a public building built during the Great Depression.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

This a rather unique Municipal Pool Bath House which was built in Legion Park during the Great Depression (1935) to create jobs for the local unemployed. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) provided funds to build this first public swimming pool. It was located in a park that the city had acquired in 1920 and remained in use until 1991. The pool has since been filled in with earth but the building appears as it did in 1935.

It was built in Mission - Spanish Revival style, and is one of the few examples of this kind of building in Oklahoma

Canadian County Jail and Stable

300 S. Evans, El Reno.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

The jail was built between 1904 and 1907 and the stable was erected between 1908 and 1913. They are the oldest remaining county government buildings in Canadian County.

The jail is the work of architect Solomon A. Layton, and is an example of Italian Renaissance style which is quite unusual for a jailhouse.

See its Street View and location.

Hotel "El Reno"

Hotel El Reno, Oklahoma

Historic Hotel "El Reno", A. Whittall

300 S Grand Ave., El Reno, OK.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

A 1892 Old West hotel.

It was built by John Kossuth in 1892, just three years after El Reno was founded. It is a typical two-story frame structure of its time with a "gingerbread porch" and all.

It was located on Wade and Choctaw, it received its last guest in 1974. It has been restored and moved to the nearby Canadian County Museum.

It installed indoor plumbing in 1905, eliminating the chamber-pot. Electricity was installed shortly after and a dining room was added in 1910.

It was located on the main crossing in town next to to the interurban streetcar to Oklahoma City).

The restored building has ten rooms with exhibits on El Reno's history.

Mennoville Mennonite Church

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

Originally located north of town, on US highway 81 (Original site map and Street View), it was moved to the Heritage Square in the town of El Reno in 1997. (Current location Street View).

Built in 1893 it is the oldest building of the Mennonite Faith in Oklahoma. The Mennonites moved from Berne Indiana to the new territory to provide missionaries for the area.

Red Cross Canteen

Grand Ave & London St

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

See it Street View and map.

This log building was erected in 1917 and restored in 1975. It is on the museum grounds in central El Reno. It was constructed by volunteers and it was used by the American Red Cross to provide comfort, food and drink to the U.S. soldiers who were heading to World War I in Europe.

Even more Historic Places in El Reno

El Reno High School on 405 S Choctaw. Henry Lassen House on 605 S Hoff St. Rock Island Railway Depot, 400 W Wade and Southern Hotel, 319 S Grand Ave.

Heritage Streetcar

It is the only city in Oklahoma to have a streetcar in operation in the downtown area. At one time the electric powered trams linked it with Yukon and Oklahoma City. It operated from 1903 to 1947 and other lines reached Guthrie, Edmond and Norman.

El Reno now runs diesel powered streetcars from Heritage Park (see the Museum below), through the downtown disrict. Wed to Sun. Call (405)-262-5121 for more details.

Canadian County Museum

300 South Grand Avenue, El Reno OK.

Restored Railroad depot sitting on the historic 98th Meridian, with historic exhibits and several historic buildings.

The Museum is located in the old Rock Island Depot, listed in the National Register of Historic Places which was acquired byt Canadian County Historical Society for use as a museum. The museum grounds have a number of historic buildings (mentioned above) and also General Sheridan''s cabin, the oldest standing structure in Canadian County.

Admission is Fre. More information: (405)-262-5121. Open Wed to Sat 9:00 - 5:00. Sun 1:00 to 5:00.

Events and Fun in El Reno

There are several events and activities to enjoy in El Reno, but the most important one is the:

Fried Onion Burger Day Festival

On the 1st Saturday in May. The world's largest fried onion hamburger is cooked (weighing over 850 lb. - 400 kg).

See it being cooked and help eat it!.

Reno has been known for its "Fried Onion Hamburger" since the early 1900s. And has celebrated the Burger day for over 20 years.

More info: Official website

Tours & Itineraries

Head out of town westwards along Historic Route 66 to visit Fort Reno:

Fort Reno

It is 6.3 miles NW of El Reno (See Map with directions).

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

From downtown El Reno, head West Along US66 (OK-66) for 4.5 miles and take a right onto E1020 and then again a right along Ft. Reno access road. After 1.6 mi. is the fort.

The fort was established as a military outpost in 1875, and continued as such until 1907. From 1908 to 1947 it was an Army remount station, raising horses and mules for the army. Becoming in 1948 a research station of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Grazinglands Research Laboratory.

The fort spans 6,700 acres of land and includes historic buildings surrounding the Parade Grounds as well as a cemetery with burials that date from 1874 to 1947 and includes the World War II German and Italian Prisoner of War cemetery.

Fort Reno, near El Reno.

Fort Reno, Oklahoma
Fort Reno, near El Reno, Oklahoma

The fort was commissioned in July 1874 to protect the Cheyenne-Arapaho Agency at Darlington after the Red River War of that year. It was officially created on July 15, 1875 and named after Gen. Jesse L. Reno a Civil War Hero.

P.O.W. Camp

Its location on Route 66 led to its designation as a military prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.

Almost 100 acres of the eastern part of the Fort became a concentration camp for German P.O.Ws, and it eventually held 1,300 German and Italian soldiers captured in North Africa. They built the chapel north of the parade ground, and the cemetery holds the remains of 70 POWs from the Texas and Oklahoma prison camps.

As from 1876 it was the base from which U.S. troops subdued the Cheyenne and Lakota Indians forcing them to resettle near the Fort. The army also supervised the orderly settlement of the Oklahoam Territory arresting he illegal settlers during the 1880s "boomer invasion" and policing the land runs of 1889, 1892 and 1894.

A pacified Oklahoma in the early 1900s led to a reconversion of the fort in 1908 to a remount station.

The Visitor Center is located at 7107 W. Cheyenne St. El Reno. Call (405) 262-3987. Open Mon to Fri 10 AM - 5 PM and Sat. and Sun. from 10 AM to 4 PM.

Back to El Reno: Head Back from Fort Reno, go through town, and on the eastern side of town, just east of the junction of OK-66 and US 81 is the site of a now demolished but iconic Route 66 motel:

Beacon Motel

The original Beacon Motel later bacame the Big 8 Motel and finally the DeLuxe Inn, which was later demolished.

You can see its location and Google Street View.

The motel was a location of the film "Rain Man" starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.

It was however depicted as being located in Amarillo, Texas, and it is part of the scene where Charlie realises that Raymond was his imaginary friend (Rain Man).

Historic Route 66 in El Reno

Route 66 goes right through the downtown district of El Reno.

Prior to the creation of Route 66, the road linking El Reno to Oklahoma City (OKC) was State Highway No. 3, though Yukon.

The road was paved in asphalt from the junction with OK-4 west of Yukon to the Jct. with U.S. 81 in El Reno, in 1928. Route 66 then went along Shepard north and Elm St. west. which were paved in asphalt in 1929. The other city streets were paved by the town of El Reno up to Sunset and Country Club. From there westwards Route 66 was paved in Portland concrete in 1928, for 1.3 miles.

There were several routings through El Reno:

  • 1926: Shepard - Elm - Hoff - Wade - Choctaw - Sunset (in those days it was named Russell)
  • 1932: Shepard - Elm - Rock Island - Wade - Choctaw - Sunset
  • 1947: the four lane bypass of Shepard and Elm was completed in 1946 (Now Bus. 40), then it followed Rock Island - Wade - Choctaw - Sunset

Read about the Yukon segment

West of El Reno towards Bridgeport it ran along the eastbound lanes of modern Bus. 40. At the modern Ft. Reno turnoff. it followed modern E1020 Rd. (Route 66). Which was the 1926-1962 alignment until reaching US 270. At this point is where the "loop" or 1926 - 1933 alignment ran north through Calumet and Geary.

After 1932, the road just kept west from the junction of US 66 and US 270, it was built as a paved road and shortened the original alignment by several miles. It also bypassed both Calumet and Geary. It was originally paved in 1931-32 in Portland Concrete and was known as "El Reno Cutoff".

Read about the Calumet to Bridgeport segment

Sources

City Website www.cityofelreno.com

Cynthia Savage, El Reno. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org

Image by Katsrcool, under its CC BY 2.0 License.

Image by Judah Morford under its CC BY NC ND 2.0 License.

Photo by Daniel Rodriguez under its CC BY 2.0, license

Stan Hoig, Fort Reno. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org

Original artwork by A. Whittall based on Google Street View Imagery.

Image Used as per Google Street View Image

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