Vintage Downtown Oklahoma City, 1889 - 1977

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“Oklahoma City (sometimes abbreviated as OKC) is the capitol and largest city of the state of Oklahoma in the United States of America. It is the county seat of Oklahoma County. Oklahoma City is the 29th-largest city in the nation, according to a 2003 report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The city's population on July 1, 2003, totaled 523,303 with more than 1.25 million residents in the metro area. Oklahoma City is a large, diverse and growing city, and is the civic and commercial center of the state. It is the largest city in the state and is one of the largest cities in the Great Plains of the United States.”

This pictorial history traces Downtown OKC from the 1889 Land Run through 1977. For an article about "what was here" BEFORE the land run,  click here.  (If the page doesn't load initially, in the target page, press your refresh button.) As of 9/9/2005, 187 images and 89 pages are included.

On the morning of 4/22/1889, Oklahoma City did not exist. At day’s end, its population was about 10,000. By 1910, when it secured the state capital, it was 64,000. In the Urban Renewal “adventures” in the late 1960’s-1970’s, much of the old splendor was razed anticipating a new adventure in its own right, but with Oil Bust, the lofty notions of the Pei Plan were destroyed. Major portions of downtown had been demolished as part of the ”Pei Plan” with no capital to build anew, and downtown became static and stagnant, with little retail and no entertainment offerings at all. The downtown retail and entertainment establishments had been wholly destroyed.

A few (it seems like many to this long-time and enduring resident) years later, two things occurred: (1) Spaghetti Warehouse, a Dallas based eatery, took a chance and opened a restaurant in the pretty much ignored “Warehouse” district on the East side of the railroad which defined the East border of downtown – this area had by then come to be known as “Bricktown”; and, later, (2) The Oklahoma City voters approved a massive downtown revitalization program – Metropolitan Area Planning (MAPS) – in the 1990’s. The “current” downtown Oklahoma City you see in the main pages owes much to both of these developments, both of which continue to sparkle downtown with new developments year by year, sometimes month by month. So, while the 1960s Urban Renewal Plan failed (only resulting in the construction of a few new downtown buildings but, more, the destruction of multiple historic buildings, and, perhaps worse, terminating downtown as a place for anything other than business), items (1) and (2) have succeeded beyond all reasonable expectations in filling that void, a process which continues through this day(8/2005).

These pages show just a few nostalgic pictures, sometimes exaggerated postcard images, of vintage downtown, from the 1889 Land Run through the Urban Renewal phase, ending with the implosion of the Biltmore Hotel, an Oklahoma City landmark, in 1977, the same year in which the Alfred P. Murrah Building was completed.

Additional internet links are present in some of the "vintage" pages, but, in general, I particularly recommend:  Oklahoma City Metropolitan Library System and  Oklahoma County Assessor's Photo Album. Also, for a statehood era vintage history of Oklahoma, see History of the State of Oklahoma by Luther B. Hill, 1908:  Volume I and Volume II.

As to books, I heartily recommend Terry L. Griffith's 3 volume paperback Oklahoma City collection, Arcadia Publishing's "Images of America" (1) Land Run To Statehood; (2) Statehood to 1930; and (3) 1930 To The Millennium. These books are a "must have" for those interested in Oklahoma City history and they are available locally. As well, if you are lucky enough to be able to find them, the 3 volume "Vanished Spendor" published between 1982 (Vol I) and 1985 (Vol III) by Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co, Okc, written and assembled by Jim Edwards, Mitchell Oliphant, and Hal Ottaway (as to Vol III) are all incredibly helpful, not only as to images but, as importantly, as to fact detail. Sad to say, the books are out of print.

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