Celebrating F.L. Stone’s 1906 Panoramic View of Claremore

Celebrating F.L. Stone’s 1906 Panoramic View of Claremore, by Christa Rice, Explore Claremore History

Photo courtesy of Claremore Museum of History

A large black and white reproduction of Fred L. Stone’s panoramic view of Claremore’s main street, looking west from about Cherokee Avenue, dated March 26, 1906, resides, artistically matted and framed, in the conference room at the Claremore Daily Progress headquarters. Yet, the question arises, does the original exist?

Early in the 20th century, itinerant photographers traveled the western wilderness, mystically transferring the exquisite beauty of their wild untamed workshops to black, white, and sepia images that documented the west’s dramatic vistas.

Claremore’s own pioneer photojournalists adeptly exposed scenes of Claremore’s early beginnings.  Men and women such as L. Ida Lawley, W.B. Rice, Atkinson Studio, and John Blair brought Claremore’s unique and powerful history into focus, producing Claremore souvenir postcards, pictures, and booklets over which Claremore history explorers muse.

Fred L. Stone specialized in outdoor photography. “So well-known did his work become that a convention or public gathering of wide proportion felt that it had hardly been in official session unless it was photographed by ‘That Man Stone’” (Chickasha Daily Express,12-14-1914). A century later, Stone’s name has nearly been forgotten, until now.

March 30, 1906, The Claremore Messenger reveals that Fred L. Stone brought his mammoth panoramic camera to Claremore “taking views (photographs).” This minute, nearly overlooked event, hidden within the local clamor of Claremore’s weekly newspaper, has huge historical significance. It was at this photo op that Photographer Stone captured the “F.L. Stone, Claremore, Indian Territory, March 26, 1906,” main street panorama, “la crème de la crème” of Mr. Stone’s work for Claremore historians. Yet, the question remains, does the original exist?

This question was answered when Steve Robinson, Claremore Museum of History (MoH) Board Chairman, discovered a box of photos preserved in the museum’s archives. The tiny 19 ¾ inches wide by 3 inches tall F.L. Stone original was hidden within this box of Claremore treasures.

This photographic masterpiece, shot from a building high above the intersection of Will Rogers Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue, looks south, then pans west completing a semi-circular arc to the north.  Moving from left to right, it depicts Judge Bessey’s Bungalow Bath House (1906), Clem Rogers’s livery stable, J.M. Bayless’s Hotel Sequoyah (1901/2) and Windsor Opera House (1902),  G.W. Eaton’s Wilson and Son’s Hardware building (1902), the wood framed Claremore Progress news printing shop, John Bullette’s home (1896), and dozens more business buildings and residential dwellings.

Though the Wilson & Son’s Hardware building (Sailor Antiques) still remains, many of the structures pictured in Stone’s panorama are only faded photographed memories.

In the panoramic view, a dusting of a late spring snow edges Claremore’s damp, unpaved main street. Men and women, going about the day’s business, ride horses and buggies and walk on foot; the obligatory dog poses in the foreground. Scribed at the lower right-hand edge of the photograph are the words “Claremore I.T. March 26-06. Photo – F.L. Stone.”

A focal point of reference, this epic panorama is the most significant downtown Claremore photo of its time. Depicting the existence of downtown buildings, this dated photo documents the historic buildings that were part of Claremore’s cityscape on and before March 1906.

Sadly, the original photo, mounted on heavy card stock, was cracked in half! Thankfully, Steve Robinson and the Museum of History, recognizing the great value of this artifact, rescue it, restored it, and had the F.L. Stone panorama digitized, bringing this incomparable, iconic downtown Claremore view back to its former glory, making the panorama available for all to study and celebrate.

The MoH found it! The MoH restored it! We couldn’t be MoH excited!

If you enjoyed reading this story and would like to read a longer, more detailed version of F.L. Stone’s panoramic contributions to Oklahoma’s history, please click the link below. https://exploreclaremorehistory.wordpress.com/2019/05/14/that-man-stone-fred-l-stone-photographer-part-1/

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