*Partially Field Checked*
The direct route between Lawton and Ardmore is an interesting segment of highway, containing long stretches of road still on the original alignment as well as substantial portions of driveable bypassed alignment. However, one thing it does not contain any longer is the route number we are using to designate this segment; indeed, this stretch of road has not been designated as a through route by the use of a single highway number since 1931. Nevertheless, the number we are using for this segment of road is in fact the number it was designated by in the original 1925 Oklahoma highway scheme, Route 29. We have chosen to describe it as such because this allows us a very rare opportunity to detail the entire length of one of the original state highways, and the modern discontinuous numbers would confuse the issue. For the record, however, the following describes portions of the old alignments of modern SH 7, SH 76, and US 70. All of the routings described were originally commissioned as part of Route 29, then renumbered over the years to their current designations.
We begin this highway segment at the original western terminus of Route 29, a junction with original Route 8 which, at the time, traveled through Lawton on what is now Fort Sill Boulevard. As we head east on C Avenue, we pass various businesses and, on the north side of the road, an impressive old school. We continue through the expanded business district of modern Lawton until we reach a modern obstacle to our traveling Route 29's original path; while the map above shows the actual path of old Route 29, the presence of Lawton's Central Mall forces us to circle one block further east around the structure and its parking lots before rejoining the old path on 2nd St at F Ave. Almost immediately the highway crosses the former Frisco tracks utilizing an underpass that is clearly of quite modern construction, but the simple fact of its existence means there was likely once an older style underpass at this location to facilitate uninterrupted traffic on both highway and railroad. Eventually, the old route turns east to head out of town, crossing the old Rock Island tracks at a grade level crossing, then passing under I-44 and picking up the first of its modern numbers, SH 7. The road becomes a divided four lane highway, with the eastbound lanes being the original lanes and the westbound lanes a later addition.
As we continue east, the shoulders of the road disappear and the road becomes asphalt overlaid original pavement. The highway crosses several narrow old culverts as it makes its way along the section line toward the tiny crossroads town of Pumpkin Center, whose existence is denoted only by a gas station at the highway junction. Shortly thereafter, the highway jogs slightly south as the westbound lanes move onto the original alignment to cross the Beaver Creek bridge. As of our last visit, the classic two span pony truss bridge was still carrying the westbound traffic on this arterial, but we believe it may have fallen victim to the ODOT vendetta against truss bridges recently even though it had no posted weight limit. In any case, shortly after crossing the creek, the lanes realign to their previous orientation, with the eastbound lanes returning to the original alignment. We are unsure as to why the lanes made this short jog, but we believe it must have had to do with the construction sequence of the new bridge when the roadway was four laned. Whatever the cause, it certainly makes for an interesting experience as one clearly sees the original straight character of the road as they are forced to jog south, then north again.
After the jog to cross the Beaver Creek bridge, we continue east on the old alignment along the section line. Shoulders have been added at some point, but it appears that the original Bates standard concrete may still exist at some locations under multiple asphalt overlays.
As we continue east on the old alignment, we cross several small old stringer bridges which have been recently redecked with fresh concrete and guardrails, but are still the original 1930s structures underneath. Eventually, we reach US 81, where old Route 29 turns south with SH 7 to join the federal route for the journey into Duncan using a modern version of a classic Oklahoma Wye interchange. After approximately one mile on the divided four lane road, a section of the old two lane alignment that has been left as an access road is visible, and shortly thereafter, on the grounds of a golf course west of the highway, a most peculiar object catches the eye. As the highway crosses Stage Stand Creek, a glance to the west will reveal a foot bridge on the golf course grounds that crosses the same creek, whose existence is perhaps not that unusual, but whose construction is. The bridge appears to be composed of one side of a highway standard Parker pony truss with a light Pratt truss style handrail on the other side. We have not yet had a chance to examine the bridge up close, but it would not surprise us to find that this rather unique foot bridge is made up of one half of the highway bridge that used to stand at this spot on the old two lane alignment. As the highway continues south toward Duncan, bypassed two lane alignment that remains as access road is visible at a few locations.
Route 29 continues along the modern four lane US 81 as it enters Duncan, beginning to pass more and more businesses as is typical for highways entering towns. Little historic highway flavor remains, but it is gratifying to see how classic style highways remain as major arteries through many towns. We leave US 81 behind when Route 29 turns east to pass through downtown Duncan, traveling along a street perpendicular to the railroad, as the streets in so many town centers have been aligned. As we pass through downtown, we cross the old Rock Island tracks and continue east before angling south on our way out of town. While this is the alignment the highway took during the classic period, there also exists an early bypass route which has now been bypassed itself. If a traveler wishes to sample the early bypass routing, they can continue south on US 81 past the turnoff into downtown until they reach Bois D'arc Ave, where they can turn east onto what eventually becomes asphalt overlaid Bates pavement. This bypass route rejoins the original city route at the east edge of Duncan, just as the modern bypass for SH 7 turns away. At this point, Route 29 continues east out of town beginning a lengthy stretch of bypassed old alignment, which appears to be largely asphalt overlaid Bates pavement. As the road travels east, it crosses several culverts that originally had concrete "fence" style guardrails which have unfortunately been replaced with later style steel rails.
The old highway continues east along the gently rolling hills, crossing multiple culverts that have had their original "fence" guardrails removed. The road is asphalt in fairly good shape, but it is difficult to tell what if any type of old pavement lies beneath. Eventually, the road bends south and begins a gently curving path that takes the road two miles south before turning east again.
After a few small undulations to avoid terrain features, old Route 29 continues east along the section line toward the town of Velma. As it enters town, the road curves south to pass through the business district, then curves back east just before reaching modern SH 7, which has finally found its way back near the old route. The old highway aligns onto the section line, forcing the modern bypass to the south; the old road then continues its path to the east along the rolling hills.
After a final few miles by itself on the section line, old Route 29 is forced to rejoin the modern SH 7 for the run into Ratliff City as the modern highway moves back onto the old alignment. The highway junction in the crossroads town has been significantly reconstructed, but remnants of the old north-south highway pavement can be seen on the northwest and southwest corners of the new intersection. At the junction, old Route 29 turns south onto modern SH 76 to begin its run south toward Healdton. Before long, the new four lane roadway meanders back onto the section line, rejoining the historic alignment of the highway. Shortly thereafter, the roadway drops to two lanes with shoulders, but it has been completely reconstructed, destroying any traces of the old pavement though the road remains on the original alignment.
As the road begins curving to the east, several possible remnants of the old pavement are visible to the west of the reconstructed roadway as it slices diagonally over to the next section line. Also at this location, we find an opportunity for further research, as we believe the section roads marked on the map above may have been the original unpaved routing of Route 29 as it doglegged the one mile east before the paved alignment was built cutting the corner. The roads in question appear to be gravel still today, which makes verification extremely difficult, but we find this scenario quite likely and definitely worthy of exploration. After the eastern jog, the highway continues south, briefly going to four lanes through the town of Fox, then dropping back to two and finally losing the later style wide shoulders just after SH 53 joins the road. The pavement going south from that point is relatively fresh asphalt, so it is difficult to determine what lies beneath it, but the very small shoulders give the road much more of a classic highway feel as we travel further south.
Old Route 29 continues south on SH 76, traveling easily along the section line on the relatively narrow pavement. At this point, we are traveling through one of Oklahoma's most productive oil fields from the early 20th century, the Healdton field, which gave birth to many of the towns in this region. Shortly after SH 53 departs to the west, the highway sprouts shoulders and begins curving slightly east; if one looks alongside, the reason is evident. A small bridge over an unnamed creek has been recently replaced, and the roadway was realigned slightly east of its original path in the process. The roadway soon rejoins the original alignment and the shoulders disappear again as the highway returns to the section line.
The highway continues along the section line following the original paved alignment into Healdton, with the overlaid old pavement giving way to reconstructed and widened newer paving just before entering town. The road turns east and passes through the center of town as it jogs one mile over before turning again to continue further south. The pavement has been completely reconstructed, obliterating any original infrastructure, but the highway still follows its original alignment.
After passing through more of the Healdton oil field on the reconstructed pavement, old Route 29 joins with US 70 at a reprofiled interchange. Since US 70 has been four-laned from this point into Ardmore, the intersection has been heavily reprofiled, but evidence remains that this was once the site of a classic Oklahoma wye interchange. Shortly after turning east onto US 70, the eastbound lanes show the classic signs that they are the original two lane highway, rising and falling with the terrain much more than the added westbound lanes as well as lacking shoulders. In fact, these original lanes are actually the original Bates standard pavement overlaid with asphalt, as shown by the obvious center cracks, edge cracks, and expansion joints in the asphalt. The Bates pavement comes and goes, but the eastbound lanes remain on the original alignment until just before Wilson, where the old highway drops off the modern four lane to follow a brief stretch of original alignment past some businesses and the turnoff toward Wilson proper. After just under a mile, we are forced to rejoin the modern four lane as it moves back onto the original alignment, the eastbound lanes again the original two lane road with overlaid Bates pavement appearing in places. As the road bends north to cross Walnut Creek, a remnant of the original highway leading to the no longer standing old bridge can be seen, and on the other side of the creek, a short loop of the old highway can be easily accessed just south of the modern four lane. After this short diversion, the modern four lane rejoins the original alignment as it continues east.
Old Route 29 remains on US 70 as we continue along the section line toward Lone Grove, with the eastbound lanes of the four lane still on the original overlaid pavement. The road gently rises and falls with the terrain as it makes its way through yet more of the oil field, at one point crossing an old stringer bridge that has had its "fence" style guardrails replaced. As the road enters Lone Grove, the roadway becomes four lane undivided and the old pavement disappears.
After passing through Lone Grove, the highway becomes four lane divided again, but now the westbound lanes are the original two lane alignment. The pavement has been completely reconstructed in most places, but the westbound lanes are clearly on the original path along the actual section line. After passing under the interstate upon entering Ardmore, the highway continues east on the section line before bending slightly north, at which point old Route 29 turns off the modern highway and follows McLish St for the last few blocks to our chosen endpoint for this highway segment. If one examines an aerial view of the area, it becomes clear that McLish St lies on the section line and thus lines up precisely with the westbound lanes of the four lane highway entering Ardmore; the road is not particularly wide at present, but it lies on quite a wide right of way, as evidenced by the placement of the sidewalks. Our chosen endpoint for this highway segment is the historic eastern terminus of original Route 29, a junction with US 77, which was original Route 4.
The above described route is a rarity, an opportunity to drive the entirety of one of the original numbered Oklahoma state highways. Its original number may have only lasted six years, but it nevertheless was one of the original routes chosen by the highway commission to carry travelers across the young state and as such is worthy of our consideration. There are very few examples of the original 1925 highways that still exist in a driveable state for their entire length, so we felt that this opportunity for documentation and exploration was too good to pass up, even though the original number no longer exists. No matter the numbering used, this segment of highway is laudable for containing so much modern highway still on its original alignment as well as the long stretches of bypassed driveable alignment. We hope you enjoyed this comprehensive look at the original Route 29. Thanks for reading.
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Base Map Data Copyright DeLorme USA, http://www.delorme.com
State Highway Shields created by Ken Parker of Oklahoma Bridge & Highways Group.