At the beginning of each June, El Reno hosts World's Largest Hamburger Cook-off Day. My lousy picture is of the grill built by the kids at the local vo-tech. It's about 6-8' in diameter and is flipped over half-way through the cooking. Hundreds come to El Reno for this event - the smell of grilling onions wafts for miles around. This is small town Americana at its best. Lots of activities for kids.
Removed a few miles from Fort Reno and not having seen a coat of paint or protectant these many years, the former headquarters of General Phil Sheridan now also stand on the oval near the Rock Island Depot. Built to serve the general during the Indian Wars of 1876, the structure is the most modest of wooden cabins, able to shelter the old cavalry general and his desk and small staff but little else.
On Bickford Avenue stands a large red-brick building that in all likelihood had once been a hotel. Featuring three stories in a city where two was the norm, the narrow facade disguises a long structure that assumes the entire block. Now a souvenir and memories shop, the conscious visitor can study the Victorian details in the ceiling and walls to help imagine the way El Reno life was around 1900.
Above and behind the Heroes Plaza is a large mural depicting the history of El Reno from its modest beginnings overseeing the activities of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Nation (the Darlington Agency) to the establishment of Fort Reno to becoming a major historical city in both the Indian Territory and later State of Oklahoma.
At the corner of Woodson and Rock Island Avenue is the Heroes Plaza, dedicated to the men and women who served in America's 20th-century wars. As usual with a county seat, the memorial is set off in a confined space where relatives and patriots can study the engravings in peace and solitude.
One of the prominent old structures in El Reno is the Goff House, a privately-owned mansion now serving as a B&B. Sharing features of both the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles of architecture and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this wonderful Victorian-era home sits not far from historic downtown.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mennoville Mennonite Church was removed from its original location (like the Hotel El Reno) to sit in a circle of plenipotentiaries ennobling the illustrious history of El Reno. Built in 1893 with 27 charter members, the Swiss-German missionaries from this sect and church attempted the conversion of Cheyenne-Arapaho tribesmen to the Protestant faith before and after the Land Run.
The Hotel El Reno came under the auspices of the Canadian County Historical Society after its removal to the present location. Even more so that the historical museum across the oval, the hotel portrays a living history by furnishing every room as it must have been from 1892-1930. A businessman's bedroom, a honeymooner's retreat and a collection of ladies' fashions from 1911 are only a few examples.
Built in 1892 and likewise listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Hotel El Reno now serves as a kind of adjunct to the nearby Canadian County Museum. Originally standing a few blocks from its present location at Wade and Choctaw, the hotel once served as a prominent stop on Route 66. Closed in 1974, the beautifully-restored interior now features ten rooms each filled with facets of El Reno history.
Originally built in 1917 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this modest-looking structure was the first Red Cross hut built in the United States. Restored in 1975, the small "office" served over 50,000 GIs during WWI.
Today's Fort Reno has a single building wherein you can set your foot, apparently because the asbestos risk is either too small or nonexistent. The chapel came along much later than most of the buildings (not until 1944), which perhaps explains its admissibility. The design is simple but religious, with humble pews before an appropriately humble altar. Here you can say a prayer in favor of preserving the entire fort, a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Reno, the original miltiary post for this Indian frontier, still stands in an unvisited block a few miles west-northwest of town. Structures date from the 1870s, with commissaries and horse stables from the 1880s, and other additions and their purposes given on signs outside the structures. Unfortunately, most of Fort Reno is falling into ruin, the result of local disinterest and lack of funding. Except for the fort's chapel, all buildings are off-limits due to asbestos issues.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, every space of the Canadian County Museum is a display of the historical activities that took place in the depot and elsewhere. Photography is welcomed, as are the donations, but it would take many hours to review every relic and particle of information on display throughout the many rooms of the museum.
Housed in the former Rock Island Depot and home to the Heritage Express Trolley (an old-fashioned conveyance giving historical tours, $3 for adults), the Canadian County Museum is in every respect like the Santa Fe Depot in Davis, Oklahoma. Wartime recruiting, postal services, information offices, and the stationmaster's quarters were all once part of the working depot, now a historical fabric of El Reno and environs.