Historic Route 66 rolls out under your tires like a ribbon through time. It stretches from Chicago to Los Angeles and is known as the Main Street of America. Drive any stretch of the old road and you’ll no doubt understand that old saying “the journey is the destination.”
A trip to the town of Arcadia is destination enough for travelers from near and far. With the rising business and residential growth in the area, coupled with the town’s characteristic peace and tranquility; more and more Oklahomans are calling Arcadia home.
Route 66 is an essential part of Arcadia but long before the road, there was a railroad. An enterprising young cattle farmer by the name of William Odor used the presence of the railroad on his property to his advantage when he donated 80 acres of land for a town and built a railway station that required trains to stop. This allowed him to ship his cattle directly east thus, officially beginning Arcadia in 1902.
Unfortunately, a fire destroyed most all of downtown and it was never rebuilt, though a few buildings were left standing. One structure left standing was a giant round red barn built by Odor in 1898. The barn was fully functioning and became a large part of Arcadia’s community with the inclusion of a second story dance floor used for social gatherings. When the barn began to deteriorate with age, locals joined together to make the barn what it once was.
One of those volunteers was Sam Gillaspy, known locally as “Mister Sam.” Gillaspy has lived in Arcadia his entire life. “I’m the storyteller out here,” he says. Gillaspy provides visitors to the round barn with a colorful glimpse into Arcadia’s past and makes the visit truly memorable. As for the location, Gillaspy says “I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I could go anywhere I want but right here is it.”
Now with the construction of an innovative and iconic soda shop, diner, and gas station known as Pops, Arcadia has the added attraction of something new that still manages to call to mind a bit of the past.
Opened in August 2007, the increasingly popular stop on Route 66 boasts an inventory of the largest retail collection of sodas in North America and has close to 8,000 soda bottles that line their walls. The decor immediately astounds visitors with the color and multitude of soda bottles.
Pops’ location is as integrated into their existence as their stock of sodas. Designed by Rand Elliot, the architect responsible for the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Pops is infused with tributes to their famous street address. The giant pop bottle sculpture out front stands 66 feet high. The location sits 66 degrees from the highway and there are 66 Oklahoma Red Bud trees out back.
“For us to be here in this exact location, it wouldn’t have worked any other place,” says Pops’ General Manager Marty Doepke.
He says he is not surprised to see the residential growth that is taking place in Arcadia due to the town’s beauty and wide open land. “We like being able to bring people out to Arcadia, kind of get them away from the hustle and bustle of the city. That’s kind of the charm to it, to be out here on your own like you’ve made a little discovery, had a little adventure out here. That’s what Pops is.”
And that’s what Arcadia is too, a discovery. “Due to its proximity to major urban areas, Arcadia offers a lifestyle that is close to shopping, entertainment, employment and social activities yet far enough away to perpetuate the rural, small community lifestyle that is so desirable,” says Mayor of Arcadia, Marilyn Murrell.
She explains that the town has seen “phenomenal growth” in the past five years and that most of the land being developed is within Edmond City limits and surrounds Arcadia.
“Arcadia established some good zoning regulations which establish a commercial district, primarily along Highway 66,” says Murrell. Also in the works is a plan for municipal water and sewer systems that will draw development.
What seems to be clear is that Arcadia is a town with a future that still treasures its past.