Downtown OKC 1940 – 1949


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1940s.birdseye.jpgBirds Eye View
1941.bus.jpgBus Station
1941.bus2.jpgBus Station
1940s.streetcars.jpgStreet Cars
1940s.usoclub.jpgUSO Club
1940s.musichall.jpgMusic Hall
1940s.kiltie.jpgPark Avenue
1940s.civicarea.jpgCivic Area
1940s.broadway1.jpg 1940s.broadway2.jpg Broadway
1940s.criterion.jpg 1940s.mainlookingwest.jpg Main
1947.centre.jpgCentre Theater


Left: @ 6 o'clock, bottom, old Courthouse; 6 o'clock behind Courthouse, Wards; 10 o'clock, new Courthouse; 1 o'clock, Petroleum Building; 4 o'clock, Harbour Longmire.
Center: 6 o'clock, Union Bus Station; 7 o'clock, old Courthouse; 8 o'clock, Harbour Longmire; 11 o'clock, Perrine; 1 o'clock, Hales; 3 o'clock, Black Hotel.

Right: @ 9 o'clock, Colcord Building; Biltmore Hotel dominiates the center; Commerce Exchange at far right.


Cropped from the center picture, above, the Union Bus Station is seen, bottom center, Northeast Corner of Walker & Grand (Sheridan). A better image appears below.



The Union Bus Station was built in 1941 at the Northeast Corner of Walker & Grand (Sheridan). It remains pretty much the same today.



Street cars were used from the early 1900's until shortly after World War II. See this article at the Okc Metropolitan Library System (you may need to click your refresh button at the target to get the article to load).



Despite the misleading text on this postcard (the "Civic Center" part), the Downtown Guy has solved the mystery (to me) about what to do with this image.

He says, "The club was built during World War II and stood immediately north of the Skirvin Hotel at 208 North Broadway. Once the war ended, it was (cont. ...)
(... cont.) converted to the home of the Service Center Community Chest Council of Social Welfare. That operation either closed or moved on by the mid-1950s, (part of it evolved into what is now United Way) and the last tenant appears to have been the campaign for a 1955 city bond issue. So what happened to it? We know that in the mid 1960s, the property was turned into a cabana and pool for the Skirvin Hotel. The site is vacant now, though some concrete edging still evident there seems to mirror the curved pathway that led to the USO Club." See the Downtown Guy's description .


Although built in 1931, the cars in this image say that it's a 1940s pic. The view looks Southeasterly from Park Avenue.



The 1936 Civic Auditorium, 201 N. Walker (we call it the Civic Center "Music Hall") is directly West of City Hall between Couch Drive and Colcord. Even though the building now has a Walker address, it actually would be fronted by Dewey on the East if Dewey still passed through that block. This is a pic from the 1940s.



This view looks East from the Municipal Building on Park Avenue. I've not yet deciphered the identity of the white building South of the Courthouse, immediately West of the YWCA on the Southeast corner of Hudson & Park Avenue. As to the "Famous Kiltie Band", Vanished Spendor (Vol II), we learn that it was a local girls band and that, "If the [prospect] girl abstained from drink and tobacco, ...

... she had to be able to read mustic and be about the same size as the other girls, so that the uniforms would not have to be altered too often. If she met these qualifications, she was able to join a band which paid nothing, had practice every Saturday night, and also required members to be available for trips. * * * Organized in 1922, * * * [the] Kiltie Band became the grand promoter of Oklahoma City as it traveled for twenty-two years to every large city in the United States and Canada."


This aerial image shows the Civic Area on Park Avenue in the 1940s. In addition to those, Halliburton's is at the right, YWCA is in the center, and the unknown building is at its West.



This view looks North on Robinson from Main.

Left side, bottom to top: Colcord; Hales; small edge of Perrine (now Robinson Renaissance).

Right side, bottom to top: Baum Building, State Theater, American National (gray), 1st National (cream), and the West edge of the Petroleum Builidng.



2 Views of Broadway. The Left looks North from Park Avenue; the Right looks South from 4th Street. Left picture: on left (West) side of street: Medical Arts (100 Park Avenue); Skirvin Tower; Wright Building; and far North, Pioneer and Southwestern Bell. Right picture: on right (West) side of street: Pioneer Building, Wright Building in the center, Skirvin Tower far South.



At left, the Criterion Theater and a busy downtown is shown. At first, the appearance of the couple in the foreground made me think this was a '60s pic. But, on closer look, the 2 people in military uniforms and the movie marquee showing, "Duffy's Tavern", circa 1945 staring Bing Crosby, changed my mind. At right, looking West, the Oil & Gas Building ("Liberty" sign), Hales, Brown's, the Majestic, and Halliburton's. The sign of the Criterion is in the lower left corner.



The Midwest, at 16 N. Harvey, was operated by Warner Bros. Theaters. It had 4 or 5 balconies and seated 1,600-1,700 (reports vary). It closed in 1975. Mor information and pics are in the Movies page.



The Centre Theater was built in 1946-47 at 415 Couch Drive by the venerable  Kansas City Boller Brothers theater architects firm. It seated 1,600.

In 2002, with a $40 million capital infusion, it became the core of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art at the same location.


The YMCA building was built in 1948 on the Northeast Corner of 5th & Robinson. Following the 1995 Murrah Bombing, the building was razed. The building had not been rendered structurally unsound (cont. ...)
(... cont.) by the bombing, but it did suffer substantial superficial damage. I have been advised that the building was one of a handful of International Style buildings remaining in the United States, and, even though civic efforts were made to preserve it, the building's owner apparently considered that a street-level parking lot was a more appropriate use for the property, and the building was unnecessarily destroyed.

From a generous anonymous source comes this greater detail:

It would be historically accurate to state that The City of Oklahoma City was offered the building free of charge by the YMCA, but The City declined because of fear of the cost to abate the asbestos in the building.

After The City declined to accept the building from the YMCA, it was purchased for about thirty thousand dollars. After a year or so of inactivity, the City began putting pressure on the building’s owner him to do something with the property. OKC had spent about $60K to have the building boarded and cleaned up and also was also concerned because of the negative visual impact due to the buildings proximity to the Murrah Memorial.

An investor entered the picture and decided that demolition of the building and construction of a surface parking lot would be a profitable investment. As it turned out, perhaps that was the case. The City recently purchased the parking lot from him at a price that I believe was a profit.

But, earlier, there was quite a bit of media coverage and public controversy surrounding the effort to save the YMCA building. Several members of the architectural and engineering community and others joined in this effort. A redevelopment plan and proforma was developed that demonstrated the economic viability of the building. Three hearings in front of the Urban Design Commission resulted in a denial of the demolition permit based on the same language in the Urban Design Ordinance that kept Bank One from arbitrarily leveling the Gold Dome Bank Building. However, after two hearings before the Board of Adjustment, the UDC decision was reversed and the demolition permit was approved.

Following meetings with the YMCA supporters, a legal defense fund was organized and an appeal was filed in District Court. See the case docket sheet here. But, after spending about $25,000 on legal fees and with litigation costs having no end in sight, the case was voluntarily dismissed, and demolition of the building began in June of 2001.