Controversy over historic downtown building in Ardmore

By: Todd Larkin Email
By: Todd Larkin Email

ARDMORE, Okla. -- One of the oldest buildings in Ardmore survived a fire that destroyed downtown back in 1895, but can it stand up to changes in the works today? Like the old Denison High School south of the Red River, an old downtown Ardmore edifice is quickly becoming a hot button issue for Ardmorites.

The landmark known as ‘the Stag Bar’ was recently out on the 10 most endangered buildings in the state of Oklahoma, but changes are being made to that historic building and some people are furious.

The Stag Bar was built in 1894 and has been a staple of Ardmore ever since. The first owner was a U.S. Marshal. Current owner Gerald Wells is remodeling that same building without city approval, and that could cost him thousands if he doesn’t follow city ordinances. Some Ardmore historians say the Wells have gone way too far.

"This is so disappointing to see. There is so much history, and now there are people out there who want to change that. What is next for our town?" says Ardmore historian Sally Gray.

The Wells say they are doing downtown a great service, and they plan to liven up what they say the city let die years ago. Their plan is to buy property and restore it to its proper facade. Even though Gerald is on the historical board, they say they never thought something like this would go so far.

"We had no idea it would go this far. We are trying to make this area better, and we never thought things would get this out of hand and turn this bad. But it will get worse before it gets better," said Stag Bar owner Saundra Wells.

Historical board members say that these changes could be approved but now they want the wells to repair the building to its original front before they started their renovation. Board member Lynn McIntosh says this all could have been prevented.

"There are rules you have to follow and guidelines. You can’t just go in and start making changes and expect everything to be ok. There will be a punishment, and things need to be returned to the right order," said McIntosh.

Ardmore city officials say Wells will be asked to resign his position on the historical society. But the Wells will continue to remodel and stick with their plan.


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