History in Stackable Blocks
The ancient storefronts of El Reno are contained on a few easy blocks in the midst of downtown. Red-brick facades abut one another in near-uniform walls along these streets, which except for fresh coats of paint retain their original splendor and design. In general, buildings in the Midwest of the 1890s were two-story affairs with deep-set interiors albeit with narrow faces, with the occasional colossus at the intersections of major streets.
Residents as Old as the Residence
Part of the preservation of El Reno's downtown history means to convert ancient structures to something useful in their present form. Throughout Oklahoma and Main Street USA, lawyers' offices and souvenir shops form the usual tenants, but near the train station some old buildings need little attention to transform from yesterday's hotels and businesses to today's senior citizen homes and modern enterprises.
1889 Land Run History
As an ongoing government station by the time of the 1889 Land Run, El Reno played a prominent roles in settling claims for homesteaders in that historical melee. The Rock Island Line (fairly mirroring the Chisholm Trail cattle path) forms the primitive western boundary for the two million acres settled on April 22.
Old Mascara Never Washes Off
Along the main historic drag on Rock Island Avenue, careful inspection of the storefronts will usually reveal the former purpose for the building. Whether it be the former El Reno Gun & Pawn Shop (now a florist) or the establishment for the Kraft Brothers (now the Rock Island Block), old entablatures often state their original names for the record.
N.B. I have since had a reader correct this listing, that there is no such storefront formerly known as "Kraft Brothers" but rather the "Kraft Building" named for the Krafts (father and son) who are buried in El Reno.
Victorian Trim and Detail
Victorian architecture as it was known in the United States from the 1890s onwards is no different in El Reno than it is in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kingfisher, Guthrie, Van Buren or Fayetteville. Two-story limits were common, with bay windows on the upper facades and sometimes pilasters fused into the siding. In some ways our turn-of-the-century businesses resembles wedding cakes, with names abroad on the entablature, details in the upper apartments, and a cozy, welcoming entrance.