Restoration at Historic Fort Reno
Restoration Projects: Current major financing, obtained by Historic Fort Reno, Inc., a 501(c)(3), is through a prestigious Save America’s Treasures (SAT) Grant of $598,000 from the National Park Service; also, funding from the Oklahoma Centennial Commission. Most of the matching funds have been raised. Progress has been demonstrated (see below) but, as of mid – 2010, there remain several historic structures in need of critical exterior restoration, with interiors scheduled later. In May, 2008 we applied for a second SAT Grant totaling $373,000., but were unsuccessful, and will try again.
- New Visitor Center and Officers Duplex (See below)
- Future Historic Fort Reno Museum
- Fort Reno Commander’s House
- Stable Restoration Project for USDA Research
- Mare Barn Restoration Project for USDA Research
- Historic Buildings Stabilization and Renovation Plans
The Historic Fort Reno Grounds includes 25 buildings of historic significance and the Post Cemetery located 1 mile west of the Old Quadrangle or Parade Grounds. The initial focus of building stabilization and restoration is on the buildings adjacent to or near the Parade Grounds. Those buildings include a 1936 Officer’s Quarters (Bldg 7); 1876 Officer’s Quarters (Bldg 6); 1936 Commander’s House (Bldg 4); 1891 Officer’s Quarters (Bldg 3); 1936 Adjutant’s Quarters (Bldg 12); 1944 Chapel (Bldg 21); two 1934 Cavalry Barracks (Bldgs 19 & 20); 1887 Guardhouse (Bldg 5); 1885 & 1886 Commissary (Bldg 31); Magazine (Bldg 31A); Riding Hall & Stables (Bldgs 24, 38 & 39); 1894 Cakehouse (Bldg 29); 1878 Bakery/Residence (Bldg 2); 1939 Barracks/Hospital (Bldg 1); and 1878 School/Chapel/Residence (Bldg 10). Additional historic structures include the current USDA Shops, firehouse, and NCO and civilian residences in the northwest section commonly known as “Soap Suds Row”.
The following section on completed or in-progress restorations is in chronological order. The section on pending projects is in the order of the building location beginning with the southeast moving north, then west, then south, and then east. All building uses are subject to approval by permit issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Grazinglands Research Laboratory which operates Fort Reno.
Completed or In Progress:
The 1944 German POW-built Fort Reno Chapel, Building No. 21, was the first building to have major repair, in 1997. Repairs were through a vocational education program administered by the Federal Correctional Institute in El Reno (FCI-El Reno). The Chapel public area became available to the Fort Reno Visitor Center in May 1998. Since then several weddings, plays, meetings, and other events have been held in the Chapel and basement, with the use fee payable to the Fort Reno Visitor Center for the Restoration Fund. More repair and restoration, including the roof and large wooden castle-like front doors were completed in March, 2009.
The second building to be rehabilitated, the 1939 Barracks/Hospital, Building No. 1, is the administrative building for the USDA-ARS-GRL. The multi-million dollar project, completed in 1999, made the three story structure more user friendly with an reception area, elevator, enclosed stair wells, state of the art research labs, computer labs, and comfortable offices for the scientists as well as administrators. The USDA-ARS-GRL has provided an office for the Director of the Fort Reno Visitor Center, who is also an officer of Historic Fort Reno, Inc., in Building No. 1.
The 1936 Officer’s Quarters, Building No. 7 (which replaced an 1870s house destroyed by fire in 1931) was selected as the permanent Visitor Center, based on its location as the first building approached upon entering Historic Fort Reno. Stan Gralla Architects of Lexington were selected in December 1997 to prepare the required architectural renderings for stabilization/rehabilitation. The exterior stabilization work began January 1999 by Selmon Enterprises of Norman. Beautiful interior rehabilitation was completed by Selmon, and the new Visitor Center/Museum opened June 3, 2005.
The 1876 Officers Duplex (Building 6) just north of the Visitor Center, underwent exterior restoration completed in January, 2006.
Recent and Continuing Progress:
Exterior restoration of the 1876 Commander’s Quarters (Building 4, remodeled with brick and stucco in 1936) was completed 11/1/07, thanks to our Save America’s Treasures (SAT) Grant, Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma Centennial Commission, the Kerr Foundation, the Williams Companies, the Robert Glenn Rapp Foundation, and numerous individual donors, Historic Fort Reno, Inc members, and Fort Reno events.
Exterior restoration of the 1891 “Victorian” officer’s house (Building 3) ,everyone’s favorite, began with Phase 1, a contract to restore the roof, chimneys, and eaves, plus the cedar shingle siding on the second story and gables, completed in February, 2008.
Phase 2 was the restoration of the 43 windows and 3 doors. Part of the funding was provided by the Oklahoma Centennial Commission. Phase 3, combined in one contract with Phase 2, restored porches, masonry, and guttering, all completed in April, 2008 – except for removing old whitewash from the masonry.
No INTERIORS have been restored as funds are used for restoring and weatherproofing exteriors. There is a joint project of the USDA and Historic Fort Reno, Inc (non-profit) to temporarily weatherproof the windows and doors of the unrestored buildings.
The 1944 Chapel (built by World War II German prisoners of war from the Afrika Korps) has undergone more restoration including replicated front doors and a new roof, completed in March of 2009.
The Fort Reno Commissary (supply storage) Building No. 31, constructed in 1885 and 1886 is a two story building over 230 feet in length dominating the western view of the Parade Grounds. The Fort Reno Commissary Restoration Study Plan was funded in part by a grant from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund for Historic Interiors. Miller Architects of El Reno was selected as the firm to produce the required technical documents. The Restoration Study includes the condition of the existing building; the historic evolution of the building; restoration recommendations; and proposed phasing and preliminary cost estimates. The proposed use of the historic structure is a Museum, with an added elevator and with handicap accessibility from the main level. The Restoration Study also proposes returning the exterior view of the Commissary to its origin.
A historic wading pool located on the eastern edge of the Parade Grounds and across the street from the Commander’s House, is the last restoration project of its type. Miller Architects has been hired and completed the Wading Pool Construction Documents in1999. Historic photographs and fort plats date the wading pool to the early 1900’s. Photographs donated to the Fort Reno Visitor Center by former residents at Fort Reno indicate that the wading pool was a fish pond in the 1930’s.
1876 Officer’s Quarters, Building No. 6, is a duplex of standard military design. The building is suitable for non-public office space on the second level and public space on the main level. A possible revenue generating use of the building is as a Bed and Breakfast. Members of the Oklahoma Bed & Breakfast Association residing in El Reno have been consulted on the possibility of developing a plan for a Fort Reno Bed & Breakfast.
1936 Commander’s Quarters, Building No. 4, is a two story brick and stucco structure with a full basement. The building is suitable for non-public office space on the second level and public space on the main level. A possible revenue generating use of the building is as a Restaurant with private dining rooms in the basement, upper level.
1891 Officer’s Quarters, Building No. 3, has a distinct Victorian appearance. The structure has three above ground levels with the third being a full attic space. In the event the structure were not rehabilitated for a residence for the USDA-ARS-GRL Director, a revenue generating use of the building would be a Bed & Breakfast.
1936 Adjutant’s Office, Building No. 12, is a two story brick and stucco structure. The building is suitable for non-public office space on the second level and public space on the main level. One possible plan for the building is the Agricultural Information Center for the USDA-ARS-GRL.
The two buildings located west of the Chapel, Buildings No. 19 and 20, are erroneously listed in the National Register of Historic Buildings as 1934 Cavalry Barracks. Both structures are the remaining Cavalry Kitchens, and have a “duplex” style. The west structure would make a suitable Fort Reno Luncheonette with the other being transformed into a revenue generating sales area.
More Hopes for the Near Future:
Recent Historic Fort Reno, Inc. Board direction has designated Building No.10 for restoration to its original design. The 1878 one-room school/chapel, located prominently between the Visitor Center and the USDA HQ, had two poorly constructed brick wing add-ons in the 1880s. Then it became quarters for famous Scout and Interpreter Ben Clark and family, extending to as late as 1908, when Clark was temporarily in-charge while the frontier army garrison, including Buffalo Soldiers, was transferred to the New Mexico and Arizona Territories. Then Fort Reno became a U.S. Army Quartermaster Remount Depot, furnishing thousands of horses and mules for World Wars I and II.
The second Guardhouse (1887) off the northwest corner of the parade grounds, is to be restored, a major undertaking, as many buildings were remodeled for employees’ residences in the late 20th Century. It is a “twin” of the completely restored rock Guardhouse at famous late 1860s Fort Supply, about 100 miles northwest of Fort Reno.
DAR Bench Dedication June 30, 2016 at the Visitor’s Center