By Roger Moore, Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History
Since the early stages of the twentieth century, the northeast corner of Seventh and Main Streets has produced plenty of memories for residents of the Stillwater community. From a post office to its current function, the building continues to provide a valuable aesthetic quality to the downtown area.
Eleven years after the Land Run, in 1900, the population of Stillwater was less than 500. During the early growth of the town, a post office was located at Seventh and Main Streets on the northeast corner. It remained at the location for approximately ten years before moving to the nine hundred block of South Main. The post office location changed frequently from 1890 to World War I.
Around 1917 the building became the home of M.G. Searcy’s Grocery. Not only a provider of “Staple and Fancy Groceries” like sugar, eggs, butter, and cotton, the grocery store was a meeting place for the community.
In a 1920 letter to his fiancé, Searcy writes about the daily struggles of running a grocery store while also striving to provide a positive impact to his community. He relates a conversation with a patron by writing, “One made the remark to the other that she traded at Searcy’s Grocery because she knew that Mr. Searcy told the truth about his goods and would not recommend an article unless it was good. In my home life I do not use sarcastic words and seldom do in business but it is hard to keep an even temper when dealing with a few people.”
The grocery store remained in business until 1933 when Glen Varnum, music director at the high school, began operating the Chenoweth and Green Music Store at the location. For the next fifty seven years, the store provided “Everything in music,” including pianos and piano tuning, band instruments, guitars, stereo phonographs, televisions, sheet music, and records.
John Butler, who repaired instruments at Chenoweth for a number of years, continues to provide service to community musicians by helping his son, Stuart, at Stu’s Music Shop on North Boomer.
During Searcy’s tenure on the corner, another piece of Stillwater history, the Aggie Theater, made its appearance just to the north. In 1926, Claude Leachman contacted Dr. Duncan Selph, owner of the property, and signed a lease and contract to build a movie theater. Opened in September of 1926, the “Old Aggie” held stage shows in addition to motion pictures.
The Aggie was one of three theaters in Oklahoma on the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit and one of three downtown Stillwater theaters, joining The Abbott and The Camera. Sound motion pictures appeared in late 1928 and the theater was rebuilt to accommodate the changes; The Jazz Singer was the first sound motion picture shown in the theater.
A fire in 1948 destroyed all but the projection room of the theater. Rebuilt, a third grand opening occurred 21 December 1948; a fourth grand opening was held in 1969. In 1980, the name was changed to the Centre Twin, but the theater would close in 1987.
Seven years later, in 1994, Teubner and Associates purchased the space, and while upgrading the location has maintained the architectural integrity of one of Stillwater’s oldest buildings.