Photos by Sheri Waldrop
When the “Frisco” railway first ran from Sapulpa to Oklahoma City in 1898, the town of Bristow was founded along with it. Its population reached just over 600 by the 1900s, and peaked at 6,600 in 1930. Per the last census in 2010, Bristow has a proud population of around 4,200 and lies right on America’s Mainstreet Route 66. The Bristow Historical Society, in preparation for the approaching Route 66 Centennial celebrations in 2026, has drafted grand plans to beautify and restore historical landmarks in their town. The Society wants to renovate and preserve four different landmarks along route 66, not only for visitors but for future generations to enjoy and learn from. On the renovation list are the FRISCO train depot and water tower, the Chrysler Plymouth Tower and Town Square, which will receive a statue donated by local David Howard titled “Eagle Catcher” when completed.
The Bristow Train Depot began its service in 1923 and ran until the last passenger train departed in 1967, and the last freight train followed in 1976. Now, the Depot continues to stand strong and has a fully renovated interior, but the depot needs structural work, curb repair, and a paint job. When the Depot was fully operational and in full swing, a water tower was used for steam engines passing through. In 1929, the Frisco Water Tower was erected and held 100,000 gallons of water, servicing steam engines seven minutes quicker than the old water tower – just three to four minutes. Now, the water tower is rusty and dry, and is one of only two remaining Frisco railway water towers. The original emblem is still vaguely visible, but the water tower is in need of fresh paint and for the original logo to be repainted, making it proudly visible once again.
The iconic Chrysler Plymouth tower sign soars 100 foot over Bristow, advertising for the twenty-four-hour Beard Motor Company until the owner tragically passed in an airplane crash in 1959. The sign has been not been lit since then, but the Bristow Historical Society plans to remedy that and have the sign re-lit once again for the first time in decades just in time for the Route 66 centennial.
Last, but not least, the Society hopes to renovate their Town Square that lies directly on Route 66. It was first built to mirror the train depot, and has plaques for visitors to read and learn about Bristow’s first families. The town square has been used for events for years, like farmers markets and live music shows, but unfortunately water has leaked through the roof causing damage to the area. The society has worked with an architect to plan renovations on Town Square, aiming to make it a great gathering place once again for residents and visitors alike. The town square needs a roof patch, with some other renovations and repairs, and when ready will be the new home for the life-size sculpture “Eagle Catcher” donated to the city.
The Bristow Historical Society has asked for ARPA funding from Creek County, and is supported by them, but have to wait until projects like this are being looked at. Currently, Creek County is focusing on sewer and water projects, as that has been prioritized. The society has also been working hard to gather donations and fundraise to preserve their historical landmarks for generations to come. The society says these landmarks are in imminent danger of being lost to time, and desperately need to be protected and preserved.
Linda Trigalet of the historical society says she recognized this is a huge project, but as Bristow local Bill Farha was quoted in a 1949 edition of Tulsa World, “Our Town isn’t very big, but we’re used to doing things in a big way.”