Five Unexpected Sites to Visit in Claremore

Originally published by the National Trust of Historic Preservation

Located just off the famed Route 66 highway, Will Rogers Boulevard in Claremore, Oklahoma, is home to a coffee shop empowering former women prisoners, a boarding house-turned-bookstore, and a hodgepodge of local boutiques and restaurants.

Named for the Oklahoma native who made it big in Hollywood, the main street in Claremore is also the sight of the historic Will Rogers Hotel, which drew the elite decades ago for its mineral water baths that helped cure people of various ailments.

Here are five places worth seeing in Claremore’s main street and downtown area.

Will Rogers Hotel
524 W. Will Rogers Blvd.

Will Rogers, a staunch Democrat who traveled the world (about as common as a unicorn in today’s Oklahoma), was born on Nov. 4, 1879. This historic hotel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was named for the Oklahoma native.

Dedicated in 1930, the hotel was constructed as a way to create a health resort in the northeastern Oklahoma community. A few decades before, water containing several minerals was discovered in Claremore during oil and gas exploration, and as many as 80 people per day traveled to the bathhouses to use them to help cure certain conditions like rheumatism.

The six-story hotel featuring Spanish-interior design was perfect for guests looking to fix their various ailments. The Will Rogers Hotel closed in 1991 and reopened as an apartment-style retirement community.

Will Rogers Hotel in Claremore, Oklahoma

photo by: Claremore Main Street

The historic WIll Rogers Hotel, now an apartment-style retirement community.

The Belvidere Mansion
121 N. Chickasaw Ave.

Businessman John Melville Bayless built this 9,000-square-foot mansion for his wife and children in 1907, the same year Oklahoma became a state. Tragically, Bayless died from appendicitis before he ever saw the grand home completed. His family, however, lived in the home until 1919. Years later, another family purchased the home and turned it into individual apartments. In the 1990s, the Rogers County Historical Society purchased the property and restored it. Visitors can now tour the home or enjoy lunch in the Belvidere Mansion Tea Room.

She Brews Coffee House, Aug. 2015

photo by: Claremore Main Street

She Brews Coffee House
414 W. Will Rogers Blvd.

This faith-based coffee house located in a historic building gives former women prisoners a chance to learn a new trade and start a new life. Oklahoma continually ranks No. 1 in the nation for the number of women behind bars, so programs like She Brews are critical to helping ex-prisoners get back on their feet.

J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum
330 N. J.M. Davis Blvd.

With more than 13,000 firearms, this museum bills itself as the largest private gun collection in the world. Of those, more than 11,000 belonged to J.M. Davis, a one-time hotel manager in Claremore who slowly grew his collection over the years. In 1965, Davis created a foundation and the foundation leased the gun collection to the state of Oklahoma. (In addition to firearms, the museum also features knives, swords, German steins, and other items.) Davis died in 1973, but he didn’t go far—he’s entombed on the museum grounds close to his beloved collection.

Boarding House Books
300 W. Will Rogers Blvd., Ste. 201

Located in a restored 100-year-old building that was once a boarding house for travelers, this bookstore contains thousands of books in unique locations—some even in a bathtub. The Ward Boarding House is where weary travelers would crash before continuing their journey. Now, it’s home to more than 20,000 new and used books spread across two floors of rooms. The store also holds various events throughout the year, and visitors can also sell or trade books.

Kristi Eaton is a roving journalist, communications strategist and author of the book “The Main Streets of Oklahoma: Okie Stories From Every County.” Visit her website at KristiEaton.com or follow her on Twitter to see photos from her travels.

 @KristiEaton

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