Site of the tallest oil rig on Route 66
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About Elk City, Oklahoma
Facts, Trivia and useful information
Elevation: 1,919 ft (585 m). Population: 11,693 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
Elk City is an important town in Western Oklahoma, in the northeastern part of Beckham County, on Route 66. It is the "Natural Gas Capital of the World".
This part of Oklahoma has been inhabited for over ten thousand years. The historical period begins with the 1541 expedition of Spanish explorer Francisco de Coronado, who was seeking his own "Eldorado", (Quivira), a mythical city of gold.
In the mid 1800s, the U.S. government relocated in Oklahoma tribes from eastern US (from Ohio to Delaware to Florida) and also from other parts west of the Mississippi River. The natives were granted Reservations in the Indian Territory. But later, in the 1880s the policy changed: Indians were to be assimilated. The Reservations were disolved by giving each tribal member a plot of 160 acres and buying back the rest of the land. This created a surplus territory which was then "opened" to settlement to non-natives.
The Name: Elk City
U.S. Army Captain Randolph B. Marcy explored the area in 1852 and when they reached the area where Elk City is now located, Marcy noticed "elk tracks upon the stream we passed in our march today, I have called it 'Elk Creek'... elk were frequently seen in the Wichita Mountains; but now they are seldom met with in this part of the country"
So it was named after the elk or wapiti (Cervus canadensis) a large member of the deer family native to North America.
See the Bull Elk Statue on the corner of 3rd and Washington
From 1875 to 1895 cattle was driven through the area from Texas to the railheads in Dodge City - Kansas for sale in the eastern markets along The Great Western Cattle Trail which passed close to present Elk City's location.
Settlers staked out their homesteads in the area after the 1892 Cherokee & Arapaho Opening, but the town would have to wait until 1901 when the Choctaw Townsite and Development Company sold lots for a town along the railroad that the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (later Rock Island RR) was building towards Texas.
In those days the town was in the south of Roger Mills County, but in 1907 it became a new county: Beckham.
The first post office (1901) was named Busch, but it was changed (because there was another one with the same name) to Elk City in 1907.
The tracks reached the town in 1901 and another railway went through Elk City in 1910. It was linked to the world. That year population was 3,165 residents.
It was hit by two fires, one in 1903 and another in 1906 which burned many of the wood frame buildings to the ground.
Miss America 1981 Susan Powell and songwriter James "Jimmy" Webb are from Elk City
Route 66 was aligned through the town in 1926 along the former Oklahoma State Highway No. 3, this increased local business as motels, diners and service stations sprung up to cater to the travelers.
The economy originally focused on farming now has a strong backing from the oil and natural gas (first found in 1947), and led to its self-proclamation as "Natural Gas Capital of the World".
Getting to Elk City
Where to Stay
Book your hotel at Elk City. There are quite a few motels in the city.
> > Book your Hotels in Elk City
Lodging Near Elk City along Route 66
Find accommodation nearby in other towns along Route 66.
Book your hotel in Elk City:
> > There are RV campgrounds in Elk City.
Elk City’s Weather
Location of Elk City on Route 66
This part of Oklahoma is a relatively dry region. Summers are warm and wetter than winters which are cool and dry.
Average high in summer (Jul) is 92.6°F (33.7°C) and the low is 68°F (20°C) . During winter (Jan), the average high 46.8° (8.2°C) is and the low is below freezing: 22.1°F (-5.5°C)
Rainfall is 28.8 inches per year (731 mm), reflecting the drier conditions of Western Oklahoma. Snow can fall in the area at any time between September and May (the first snowfall takes place usually, on the first week of December). Its altitude causes greater snowfall than locations further east: averaging 11” per year (with maximum values of about 40”) 27 to 102 cm.
Oklahoma's "Tornado Alley includes the region around Elk City which experiences around 11 Tornado watches every year.
Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
Map of Route 66 through Elk City
The 1926 to 1985 Route 66 entered the city from the east and curved into it along Van Buren Ave. and headed n west along 3rd St. On Main St. the first US 66 alignment from 1926 to 28 headed south and took a zigaging course into Sayre. Then it was straightened out and after 1929 it kept west along W 3rd St. curving with a SW course to Sayre. See this Map of US66 through Elk City.
Below is a mpa published in 1931, showing the alignment of US66 between Clinton Oklahoma and Texas. Part of it had been paved (solid red line) and west of Erick into Texas it was an unpaved "All-weather road".
An earlier map, from 1924 -two years before Route 66 was created, shows the alignment of Route 66 through Erick
Our Map of Route 66 Map in Oklahoma shows all of the US-66 alignments in the state, and all the towns along it.
Read about all the US 66 alignments from Clinton to Texola
Maps, itineraries and detailed description 1926 to 1985 alignments.
Route 66 landmarks & attractions
Sights in Elk City
Elk City its Route 66 Attractions
This typical western Oklahoma town has a few historical buildings: Casa Grande Hotel, Hedlund Motor Company Building, Storm House, and the Whited Grist Mill. It main sight is a sprawling Museum Complex that includes the National Route 66, Old Town and the Farm & Ranch Museums plus the World's tallest non-operating oil rig. We describe them and all the surviving Route 66 motels, hotels and gas stations in an east to west city tour.
Rittenhouse in his guidebook published in 1946 describes the town as having "a distinct mid-western appearance and might be a town in Indiana or Ohio."
...hotels: Casa Grande and Story; courts: Bungalo, Elk, Royal, Motor Inn, Star... good cafe is Campbells; hospital in town; garages: Brewer's and Galloway's; stores...Jack Rittenhouse (1946)
We begin our on the eastern tip of town, at I-40's exit 41, and drive into the city along E US 66 Hwy, a four lane highway built in the mid 1950s.
Two Old Gas Stations
Only two gas stations from the classic days of Route 66 have survived in this section.
One is next to the La Quinta motel (2611 E Route 66) to your right is in good shape, oblong box gas station, empty oump islands and flat canopy. Brand unknown maybe late 1960s or early 70s.
The other is 0.9 mi. west, next to the Animal Clinic. It has a flat canopy with four steel poles, two garage bays and double pump island. Now it is car repair shop. It is pictured below.
Former Gas Station
Ahead, after the curve where US 66 turns south and becomes N Van Buren Ave. to your right (921 N Van Buren Ave) you will see a 1950s gas station. The glass plate office is lower than the two-bay garage, it has no canopy.
1920s Cottage Gas Station Phillips?
At 623 N. Van Buren, to your right is this ancient cottage-style gas station from the late 1920s.
It was built in the days that service stations were designed to blend in with their residential surroundings. This one has a cross-gable roof, which was used by Cities Service, Conoco, Enco, Texaco and Phillips 66 between 1920 and 1950. It has a chimney on its northern side and the narrow vents in the gable ends -they are now walled up, tell us it was probably a Phillips 66 (1927-38) or a Conoco (1930-40).
It was a Texaco at one time, now it is closed. An antique on Route 66!
Ahead, to your left, at 406 Van Buren Ave. is a used car dealer in what was at one time a gas station.
The detached V-shaped (butterfly) canopy with central steel beams was favored in the 1950s and 60s by Conoco and Enco.
Route 66 curves to the west, crossing the I-Beam bridge across Elk Creek, it was built in 1929. Ahead, the Oil Rig looms taller and taller.
To your left is the bronze sculpture, the Binding Contract by Brasford Williams (201 E. Broadway). It depicts Donald and Jimmy Harrel, owners of the Bank of Western Oklahoma, horseback sealing a binding contract with a handshake.
World's tallest non-operating oil rig
The rig stands to your right, facing the Bank, on the NW corner of N. Madison St. and Route 66, Elk City is the rig, street view.
It is very appropriate for a town that calls itself "the Natural Gas Capital of the World" to have in its central district a towering oil rig, which is in fact the world's tallest, non-operating oil rig.
It is 180 feet (55 m) tall, that is roughly the height of a 22 story building
Th Parker Drilling Rig No. 114 was built in the mid-1960s for the Atomic Energy Commission to drill deep shafts for atomic bombs, which were test-detonated underground. Later it was used for for conventional oil and gas drilling.
Next to the towering rig is a historic hotel.
Casa Grande Hotel
103 E 3rd St., Elk City, OK
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
it was the largest Route 66 hotel between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas.It was built in 1928 by E.M. Woody.
It has a Spanish Eclectic style. The four story building was built in brick with Bedford stone decorations. It was a popular style during the 1920s and early 30s, portraying the American Southwestern culture. It would later be replaced by the tourist court and the motel which were more practical for those traveling by car.
A 1930s photo of the hotel, notice the oil rigs behind it, and the gabled rooftop.
The same view today, with the giant rig next to it, and Route 66 running alongside the building.
Here at Main Street, the 1926-28 turned south (to your left). Drive south to see a historic Ford dealership.
Hedlund Motor Company Building
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places
To your left, on the SE corner (206 S Main, Elk City, OK).
More than one hundred years old, this historic building was constructed in 1918 for Oklahoma's second-oldest Ford dealership. It was Built in Mission Revival style (it is the only commercial building in town to use this style): stucco walls, inlaid clay tiles, and tiled roof with curved parapets.
1920s photo of Hedlund Motor Co. Credits
As the images above show, the building is the same, though the gas pumps on Main St. have long been removed.
M and M Conoco Super Service
Head back to Route 66 on the corner, to your right is a former gas station from the 1920s. It can be seen in the photo, facing the hotel. It was a Tydol and a Conoco gas station. The main canopy build on Route 66 was torn down, and the building on the corner lost its chimney, but the overall Spanish style has remained intact. It was known as the Conoco Super Service and also as M and M station.
Turn left along Route 66 and head west. On the third block, to your right (321 W 3rd) you will see a muffler shop, a former Texaco station with a mansard roof typical of the 1960s.
A step away from the gaudy space-age gas stations of the early 60s, this style tried -like the cottage stations of the 1920s- to blend in with its suburban surroundings. Texacos 1960s stations had a mansard roof with green shingles and and multiple service bays (like this one, with three), plus large display windows on the office.
The western side of Elk City along Route 66 was modernized in the 1980s and most of the classics (motels and diners) were torn down. Some have survived though and you will see them
Kings Inn, former McCoy Motel
Drive 1.1. miles west, cross N. Peace St. and to your left is this classic Motel (1918 W 3rd)
The pool has gone, but the canopy with its slender steel poles by the office, and even the gable roof neighboring house are the same.
A postcard from the early 1950s described it as follows: "New modernistic motel, Air Foam Matresses, Franciscan Furniture, Tiled Glass Door, Shower Bath."
Former Sands Motel
Next door, as part of Kings Inn, is the former Sands Motel.
The flashy neon sign has gone, and also the swimming pool.
However, the original building is still there, notice the multi-pane windows and the "two door - one door" layout and the "V" shaped steel pipes on the right of the image which are painted yellow in the early 1960s postcard can still be seen (red arrows) in the current view.
Just ahead, to your left is the Classic Flamingo Motel.
Evolution of Iconic Motels on Route 66
The Flamingo Motel (2000 W 3rd. St.) built in the 1950s, was a strikingly modern motel which promoted itself in postcards like the one shown below as:
The newest and most modern in Elk City Nicely appointed units in an attractive new brick motel. 24 beautiful units -T.V. - Refrigerated Air Conditioning - Thermostat heat - Telephones, Swimming Pool - Connecting Units - Children's Playground. Your Host: Mr. and Mrs. E. J. Bell"
Below is the current appearance of this motel. It's swimming pool is gone, but the main office and the rooms although changed are clearly recognizable (see the office's windows). The iconic vintage 1950s Motel sign is gone, replaced by a more sedate one - those 50's neon signs were much more charming and enticing don't you think?.
Across the street is another motel.
The former Holiday House Motel is now the Americas Best Value Inn. At 2015 West 3rd Street. A postcard from 1967 described it as: "51 nicely appointed units in an attractive brick one and two story Motel, TV, dial phones, heated swimming pool, refrigerated air, hot water heat and fenced playground. Our restaurant is across the street. Banquet room for 150 people. Best Western, Triple A, American Express, Diner's, Carte Blanche and American oil credit cards."
The Motel is still open and you can Book a Room in the Americas Best Value Inn
The office canopy has been modified, the external stairways and swimming pool have gone, and it has a more imposing Mediterranean style but look at those saw-tooth crests across the gabled rooftops, they have survived.
Museum Complex: Five Museums
Drive 0.3 mi. west to N. Pioneer Rd., and at 2717, West 3rd St. you will come across a sprawling museum complex with five museums linked in one location and with only one admission fee.
Route 66 roadtrippers will surely head straight for the Route 66 museum, but the others are also worth visiting.
National Route 66 and Transportation Museum
To your right, at 2717, West 3rd St., Elk City OK. Phone: 580-225-2207
The whole Roadtrip along Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles in one museum. Brochures, audio kiosks, artifacts and exhibits of the Mother Road across the years, murals, and even a collection of Indian motorcycles.
Two Kachinas at the Museum
Give yourself at least 1 hour to visit it. The museum's highlights are:
- Quirky roadside attractions
- A collection of Popeye Memorabilia (yes, the sailorman)
- Gift Shop
- Large size Kachina "dolls" (Street view)
The two kachina dolls that you can see in the parking area, were originally located at the Indian Trading Post belonging to Reese and Wanda Queenan.
It was located two miles west, at OK-6 and US66. It was torn down. Below are two photos from the 1950s and 1982, showing the Kachina's at the old trading post.
The large one is called "Myrtle", and the slim on is "Ya'at'eeh". They were built with steel tubes and old il cans. Wanda deeded them to the museum and she worked there as a curator until her death at age 91 in 2014.
Kachinas form part of the mythology of the Pueblo Native American people. There are over 250 different Kachinas and each has its special attributes. They are represented with small carved figures called Kachina dolls. They are given as gifts to bring good luck, abundance and health.
The other museums in the complex are:
Old Town Museum
Clothes, toys and furniture of the early 1900s, a mock up of window front displays (bank, general store) and of the world's largest rodeo stock company. A train depot with a caboose. There is an Opera House at the site too.
Farm and Ranch Museum
The big red barn houses a collection of farm implements and outside there is a variety of windmills displaying their evolution.
A must, it gives a clear idea of how important the Blacksmith was: they did not only shoe horses, they fixed and made iron tools, plows and more!
National Transportation Museum
With a Drive-In Theatre, a 1959 Red Impala and a 1955 Pink Cadillac.
This ends your city tour. You can head west towards Sayre to see two more sights.
Route 66 sights heading west towards Sayre
Elm Grove Motel
From the museum head west along Historic Route 66 for 6.6 miles (see map).
To your right, on the North Frontage Rd. just before it meets BK-27 are the remains of the old Elm Grove Motel.
The empty building is still there among the trees, and you can make out the same windows and doors (red arrow) that you can see in the old photograph from the early 1950s, below (Route 66 became a four lane highway here in 1956).
Timber Creeek 1928 Steel Bridge
Drive west for 3.1 miles (see map) and visit a historic bridge on the 1928-1956 Route 66 alignment: Timber Creek historic 1928 steel truss bridge.
Head west, Sayre is just 3.3 miles away.
Route 66 Alignment near Elk City
Parks and Outdoors
Close to Elk City there are some interesting outdoor areas and Parks which we describe in our other pages for this region: Foss State Park, 20 miles to the NE and Washita National Wildlife Refuge 33 miles north of Elk City. Both described in our Foss page.
To the northwest of Elk City is the Black Kettle National Grassland (in our Sayre page).
Some sponsored content
> > Book your Hotel in Elk City
Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
Linda D. Wilson, Elk City. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org
Elk City's website www.elkcity.com
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.