Story by Roger Moore
Images courtesy of Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar Photograph collections and exhibits
It is hard to imagine what Frenchmen Louis Jardot would think about his section of land in the southwest corner of Stillwater’s original town site in 1889. Jardot, with like-minded settlers, picked and purchased a section of land, put down roots, and started to build a community that, 130 years later, continues to expand in all directions.
To say that Jardot is one of the original builders is an understatement. He is best known for the Grand Opera House; but, through his brick factory located in his original plot with a western boundary of Western Road that ran from 12th to 19th and an eastern boundary halfway in between Washington and Western, Jardot’s presence touched many of Stillwater’s early downtown structures. His handiwork can still be seen on Main Street and in the bricks that make up 9th Avenue that, fittingly, passes by the Opera House’s location (now the Antique Mall).
Not that 12th has been a ghost town, but as Stillwater expanded west and north, southerly movement was minimal throughout the twentieth century. Washington School, located at 619 W. 12th, closed for business with integration in 1956. The structure remains but its activities are limited. Across the street one can find summer amusements in the form of a the Southern Woods Park Splash Pad at 12th and Ramsey. Two small softball fields continue our trek west with one now known as Stillwaggin’ Dog Park.
At one time, driving down Washington, one of the town’s main arteries running north and south, then heading west on 12th toward Jardot’s original town site meant you had reached the southern edge of town. Twelfth, not unlike Lakeview that crosses Boomer Lake, was once a two-lane adventure. Long before housing additions filled in the southwestern landscape there was no reason to frequent 12th heading west unless you were driving home or to visit a friend, perhaps.
How times have changed thanks in part to medicine. Stillwater Medical Center is fast becoming a hub for north central Oklahoma, continuing construction at its main facility on 6th Avenue, but also a Plaza Lab at 1201 S. Adams along 12th. Another longtime Stillwater resident, Central Drug, now calls 12th home. Opened in 1932 on South Main downtown, the drugstore moved into a new facility at 1220 W. 12th recently and joins the continuing expansion of 12th and Western which also includes a nursing home, Fountain Square and its martial arts gym, a sushi house, a place to stop for coffee, drop off your clothes at the cleaners, or get your pet checked out at a veterinarian. Halfway in-between 12th and 19th on Western, Stillwater Creek quietly runs west into Babcock Park, yet another expanding area with multiple baseball and softball fields used for all things outdoors.
It is no secret that Stillwater’s southern region has not experienced the growth of others. There is not necessarily a tag of “Old Town,” but the architectural differences – and building date – from around 9th moving south show homes and structures built long before the 1980s. Early builders and city planners attempted to connect Main Street and the rising Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical campus, meaning early expansion moved west and north. Almost 100 years later that movement, regarding commerce, moved north and east, especially Perkins Road, which, like 12th was once considered the edge of the Stillwater community. Robert Lowry, another of Stillwater’s founders, had his first land on a section between 6th and 12th on Perkins Road, south of the major growth of the community. However, as space becomes more and more limited within the city’s confines it would not be a surprise to see a few new structures in the coming years within Lowry’s old section.
That is not the case with Jardot’s old stomping grounds. A quick drive down the spacious four lanes of 12th and it is evident from the medical facilities, housing additions, drug stores, doctors’ offices, et all, that a once quiet area of town will soon be in need of a few extra traffic lights. In other words, it is just another brick in the wall of Stillwater’s continued growth in all directions.