EDMOND — Barry Rice didn't exactly uncover one of history's mysteries when he tore away the front addition of a shabby building he'd just bought in downtown Edmond.
It was no mystery to Rice, a lifelong Edmond resident, and it probably was no secret to a few others who noticed the old hipped roof behind the not-quite-as-old addition with its flat top and midcentury urban office look fronting First Street east of Broadway.
The back part — under the hipped roof — used to be Edmond's interurban station, circa 1920s.
What was surprising to Rice was how much of the original structure had remained hidden by the front addition for so long.
Early mass transit
Oklahoma Railway Co., a combination of turn-of-the-20th-century startups, operated the interurban electric trolley car system from a terminal in Oklahoma City. From around the teens until just after World War II and the auto boom, rail cars carried people and freight to numerous stops along 74 miles of track.
Lines extended to El Reno and from Norman to Guthrie, where the system connected with the Fort Smith & Western Railway connecting to points east. In Edmond, the light rail cars stopped at a depot at 9 E First St.
Rice bought the place, most recently a dentist's office, with what he considers a historical jewel inside, earlier this year.
“I didn't really know what I was going to do with it,” said Rice, a probate and estate planning attorney whose family has practiced law downtown since 1906. “The building itself was in pretty bad shape, so I looked at it and I decided it would just be too cost-prohibitive to restore or remodel.
“I decided, after getting into the building and tearing out some walls — I realized that there was enough of the interurban station, that that was my best bet: to save the interurban station and tear down the rest of the building.”
He first thought of incorporating the remains of the interurban depot into an office building for lease. Rice already has a 2,000-square-foot building for lease next door at 9 E First, and leases nearby space to Italian Jim's Restaurant and Bella Forte Glass Studio at 13 S Broadway, Paint Your Art Out at 10 S Broadway and Vin Dolce-The Wine Bar at 16 S Broadway.
“But I think I'll leave it as an open-air pavilion. I want to landscape out in front, with some public art,” he said, and paint a mural of a trolley car on the side of the building he has for lease next door.
The depot pavilion might be leased along with the building, as an unusual entry way with a historical twist, depending on the tenant, but he isn't sure. In any case, Rice said he's moving along with the work, making sure to respect and maintain the historical integrity of the depot building.
“I've been doing a lot of the work myself. I actually did all the tractor work. I've got a good group of guys who are helping me — they're very careful in removing the brick from the old (bricked-in) windows. I'm going to probably have to go to Dallas to find some timbers that will match the original rafters because they're certainly not the same dimensional lumber we see in construction today.”
Rice, whose law office is in a group of buildings at 17 E First, paid $160,000 for the 1,676-square-foot building at 9 E First — since mostly demolished — county records show. He did not volunteer what he has spent so far, but said he's spent more already than he thought he would.
“But if I don't have to build it as an office building or retail, then I can save a lot of money — and it will enhance downtown, and it will enhance my office complex here,” he said. “I hope to have it lit up by Christmas.”