Alex Ewald, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Twenty years ago, the metal facade covering downtown Enid’s brick buildings started to come off, thanks to the efforts of the nonprofit Main Street Enid.
Throughout 1995, workers standing on scaffolding removed the modern metal facades from buildings from Washington to Grand built in the the first decade of the 1900s.
As they toiled away and the bricks hidden underneath revealed themselves, downtown Enid readopted its turn-of-the-century face.
This ongoing saga of photos and stories can be seen online each Monday on Main Street Enid’s website, in “Celebrating Main Street Enid: 20 Years in 20 Weeks,” highlighting the nonprofit’s most notable accomplishments and milestones.
Today begins the second week of the program’s 20, focusing on the year 1995.
During Main Street’s 20 years of existence, downtown Enid has seen more than $35.5 million privately reinvested by individuals and businesses to improve the area. The city of Enid also has spent $9 million on downtown revitalization.
Main Street Enid’s former director, Lindy Chambers, remembered when these initial facade efforts proved a catalyst for more downtown improvements.
“I think the architecture is a backdrop to the businesses that are going to have to prove themselves,” she said.
Main Street Enid’s current director, Kelly Tompkins, hopes the program encourages future facade renovations and improvements.
“It’s to let people know what an organization like Main Street Enid can do and to thank people for all the work they’ve done over the years. So, hopefully, people see the variety of things that have been accomplished downtown,” Tompkins said. “Downtowns are what make each city special and unique. It is the heart of our city.”
In the program’s 20th week on May 31, Main Street will host an anniversary bash in the Hiland Tower lobby, 302 N. Independence.
A premier program
Main Street Enid’s projects involve beautification, business recruitments and promotional campaigns for the city.
In its earlier days in the’90s, the nonprofit focused much of its efforts on removing buildings’ metal facades and uncovering the bricks, as well as improving streetscapes, Tompkins said. It also was involved in the creation of Adventure Quest, David Allen Memorial Ballpark and Enid Symphony Center.
Main Street Enid’s biggest annual events include the Enid Lights Up the Plains holiday-lighting festival in November, the Jazz Stroll music festival in May, and Oktoberfest. The organization spent about $31,000 on its annual events in 2013, an increase from $24,000 in 2012, Tompkins said.
Main Street spent about $5,000 on monthly First Fridays, during which businesses and restaurants stay open later and live music is performed all over downtown.
Main Street has more than 175 business partners, Tompkins said.
Enid became an official Main Street city in 1994, when development had refocused attention away from Enid’s fading downtown and toward strip mall areas, Chambers said.
The organization is part of the National Main Street Center in Washington, D.C., and the Oklahoma State Department’s Main Street Program.
Since then, Enid’s nonprofit has been recognized on local, state and national levels as a premier Main Street program.
A new creative space
Formerly the Creative Arts Enid building, 217 N. Washington, the 2,200-square-foot warehouse that serves as Main Street’s new office has a lot going on inside.
Wooden school doors, donated by Five80 Coffeehouse and originally from now-demolished Garfield Elementary, have been connected at the hinges into a makeshift folding-screen wall divider.
A black curtain serves as a wall fencing off a back quadrant of the warehouse, forming a studio area for Tompkins’ husband, Ty, to film videos independently and for the nonprofit.
Across from Tompkins’ office area is, notably, an 8-by-8-foot chess set, with pieces reaching 21⁄2 feet tall. The game is set out on sidewalks for First Fridays, along with a lavender upright piano painted by Waller Middle School art students.
“It’s a real creative space,” Tompkins said Friday from her glass-covered desk, upholstered with a floral fabric. “I want to move all that stuff and turn it into a historic gallery area.”
With its new location, Main Street now can have its own events, training, space for event preparation, meetings and even “pop-up shops” for trial business ideas, Tompkins said.
“It opens up a lot of possibilities,” she said of the building.
In the back, volunteer Mike Marshall marked slides of photos from 20th-century downtown Enid with a projector for a website about the area.
Tompkins also has plans for a Junior Main Street program to get Enid youth involved and empowered. Students and those under 18 will get to choose and carry out a project.
And, of course, there still are more metal building facades to uncover downtown.
For more information about Main Street Enid’s “20 Years in 20 Weeks” or its projects, events and ways to get involved, call 234-1052, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit mainstreetenid.org.