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Jack Finds History at Oklahoma City's Farmers Public Market PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jack Money   
Wednesday, 04 November 2009 04:02



Jack Money recently enjoyed a guided tour of Oklahoma City's historic Farmers Public Market - a tour provided by proud owner Burt McAnally. What he discovered may surprise many - and provide a lot of clues as to what was once the place to buy fresh produce, meat, baked goods and other treats.


In this latest addition to OKC History's attic, Jack tells the story of his tour with Burt McAnally:


Nearly 80 years to the date after John J. Harden built the Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market, a surprised Burt McAnally discovered a hidden plethora of historical treasures remaining inside the building.

Burt and his wife, Jody, bought the property in 2002, intending to restore the old building to its original configuration and use. In 2005, the couple turned their attention to the downstairs of the main building - the old public market. Antique vendors still operating there were moved to the smaller, fan-shaped adjacent building to make room for workers who would be renovating the old building's fire suppression system. Then, workers began taking down old drywall and board that had been put up decades earlier, when the space had been turned into an antiques mall.

Burt McAnally shows the door to the Standard Meat locker. Standard Meat Company is believed to have been one of the original tenants in the farmer's market.

"And we discovered things like this on this wall over here: A painted sign for Standard Meat Company," Burt McAnally says. "Well, Standard Meat Company was one of the original tenants in the farmer's market. They had a meat market here. And if you look, the two original doors that led to their coolers are still here.

"Even the coolers were intact when we bought the building. But we had to take them out to make room for our elevator and some storage space."


Another treasure - something Burt McAnally spied when he walked through the building the first time -appeared to have been a build out that made him think of Holland. "When did they build this out? Well, it turns out it was original. It was the Old Dutch Oven Bakery - again, one of the original tenants in the building."

The Old Dutch Oven Bakery facade appears today much as it probably looked about 80 years ago.

On the room's opposite walls one can still see what appears to be the front porch of a Victorian cottage. This, Burt McAnally says, was the entrance to Jane's Candy Kitchen. " This was Jane Harden's candy shop, and she was John J. Harden's daughter."

Jane's Candy Kitchen occupied a spot on the south wall of the market.  

McAnally then asks me, "Do you know who that was?" "Well," I respond, "the name certainly is familiar to me, but I can't recall why." "The average Joe in Oklahoma City's never heard of him," McAnally notes. "But he is the man who developed Crestwood, Linwood,  Edgemere, paved all the roads in OKC and a lot of the highways in Oklahoma.

"He owned all the cemeteries in town at one time," he added, noting that Harden even was able to swing a good deal with city leaders to keep out competition when he built the Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market to provide a place outside of downtown where farmers could sell their wares.

This door, on the building's east side, was the center entrance to the market on the ground floor. 

The building had a unique design. Four entrances on its south side led to the upstairs event center. Three doors on the building's east side provided access to the market on the bottom floor. Harden, Burt McAnally notes, used cutting edge designs for the project, and built it to last.


Today, when looking at the building's south side, a narrow, gray metal door nearly is invisible. Mounted above the door is a metal sign, noting it leads to the meeting hall of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local No. 993 - upstairs two flights. The entrance isn't used today - not even as a fire escape, Burt McAnally notes. The reason? The stairs are too steep.


"The code for the steepness of stairs might have changed in 81 years or so," he says. So, why are they there? "A stipulation from the city when the market was built was that a meeting room for the farmers would be required," he says. "So our bride's room upstairs is where the farmers originally met. As the market waned in popularity, the meeting room was no longer required. So it became the union hall for Amalgamated Transit Union Workers Local 993, the group that represented Oklahoma City's street car conductors.

"The room was used as their union hall up until about 1982, I think." There are other unique items in the building as well, such as a wall clock and bell on the south wall of the public market that are original and still work. So are the old fans that still hang from its ceiling. More than half of those remain operational, Burt McAnally says.



Burt and Jody McAnally take the building's history seriously. They often encounter visitors to the building wanting to share the memories they have from when they were there, such as one woman who talked about dancing with the University of Oklahoma's Outland Trophy winner in the early 1950s, and another woman -- a close friend of Burt McAnally's -- who relayed how she learned to skate in the event center when her grandmother, Minnie Hall, held skating sessions there during the 1930s. "Our vision for this property is one of restoration, not renovation," Burt McAnally says.

Original ticket windows for the events center still remain in the building.



Last Updated on Thursday, 19 November 2009 04:35