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Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Oklahoma State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA

At noon, the cannon roared, and the hordes of people streamed over the line on wagons and buckboards, horseback, on foot and even on bicycles. Soon, nearly 10,000 people had staked out claims near the Oklahoma Station - what today is Oklahoma City. Claim jumping was common, as were boundary quarrels that led to fights and considerable bloodshed. Tents were thrown up in haphazard fashion, and mass confusion reigned supreme. Congress had made no provision for city government, so leaders had to be chosen to restore order. A provisional government was selected, and elections were held on May 1 to select permanent officials. A month after the Land Run, the Commercial Club was formed, which was later renamed the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber began attracting railroads to Oklahoma City, and the new town was well on its way to economic prosperity. By 1900, the population had doubled.

The first session of the 59th Congress introduced the consideration of the statehood bill. The House of Representatives passed the Omnibus Statehood Bill providing for the admission of two states, one to be composed of the Indian and Oklahoma Territories and the other formed by uniting Arizona and New Mexico Territories. The Senate passed a bill that provided for the admission of Oklahoma and Indian Territory as one state. The question of single statehood for Arizona and New Mexico was left to a vote of the citizens of those territories, and a compromise was finally reached on all issues. Thus amended, the Omnibus Statehood Bill passed both the House and the Senate and became law June 14, 1906.

In Guthrie, Indian Territory, the Constitution and the Prohibition Ordinance were adopted in the general election of September 17, 1907. The saloons had until 11:50 p.m. the night of November 16tn to close. Bartenders placed signs in their windows announcing "all goods sold at cost." A wholesale liquor sign on California Avenue had the corner on sales: "all going at $1.00 a quart." On the morning of November 16, 1907, more than ten thousand residents from Oklahoma City traveled to Guthrie to celebrate the recently won status of statehood. Monday morning, November 18 opened a saloon-less city. Overnight, 560 territorial saloons, 70 in Oklahoma City-with a yearly income of $3.7 million and three thousand employees-closed. Many opened, however, to "all sell soft drinks," among them the Two Johns next door to city hall. For the first time in the history of Oklahoma City, no drunks appeared in police court on Monday morning. Tuesday, however, County Judge Sam Hooker charged a man of "giving a drink of liquor," and was fined 50 dollars and 30 days in jail.

In 1908, Chamber of Commerce President Sidney L. Brock sent letters to northern and eastern meat packing companies giving them statistical information on Oklahoma City's climate. population growth, and potential market area. Thomas E. Wilson, executive vice-president of Morris & Company of Chicago, then came to look at possible sites for a packing plant in Oklahoma City. After a meeting with business leaders Anton Classen, John Shartel, George Stone, and E.K. Gaylord, Wilson was convinced that Oklahoma City would satisfy his company's requests. Wilson set forth several conditions: Morris & Company was to be paid $300,000 as an inducement; the stock yards area would be exempt from taxes for five years, sewer conditions would be extended to the plant area so that the plant's waste could be carried to the North Canadian river bed, streetcar lines were to be extended to the plant, and a railroad belt line was to connect with the four trunk lines in existence.

Chamber Vice-President George Stone helped Brock secure options on 575 acres of land in the area selected by Wilson, and Brock used $25,000 of his own money to purchase options on this land. Several days of festivities connected with Packingtown's opening, beginning with the arrival from Chicago of Morris, Wilson, and their wives. On October 1, 1910, 15,000 people visited Packingtown. As an adjunct to the packing plants, the Morris Company organized the Oklahoma National Stock Yards Company.

Of all the architects that have shaped the skyline of the central business district, none have added more than S.A. (Sol) Layton and W.A. Wells. Sol was born in 1864 in Red Oak, Iowa. He moved to Wyoming with a partner in 1886 and then relocated to Colorado. In 1907, Layton opened an architectural office in Oklahoma City where he lived until his death in 1943. In his various partnerships, Layton was responsible for the design of more than one hundred buildings. He was involved in the concept and design of six hundred commercial structures in the downtown area, including the Baum, Patterson, Mercantile, Braniff, Medical Arts, Skin-in Hotel, and the Oklahoman Building. While he was with partner J.W. Hawk, he constructed the Workman residence in the Linwood Addition.

From 1904 to 1914, William A. Wells resided in Oklahoma City and practiced architecture. Influenced greatly by Louis H. Sullivan, Wells designed several public buildings in the downtown area, as well as numerous residential dwellings. The first structure, designed with partner George Burlinghof, was the Oklahoma County Courthouse, which was razed in 1950. He also designed the old Sears & Roebuck Building, the Carnegie Library, the Terminal Building, and the second and third homes to the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, all now gone. Two of his structures remain in the central business district, the Pioneer Telephone and the Colcord Buildings, both designed with the help of partner Arthur J. Williams.

The firm of Hawk & Parr has changed the architectural shape of downtown since 1905, when James Watson Hawk arrived in Oklahoma City. Josepheus O. Parr moved to Oklahoma City in 1911 and formed a partnership with Hawk in 1914 that continued until Hawk's retirement in 932. Parr practiced until his death in 1940. The Hawk & Parr firm was responsible for many of :he downtown buildings. Those that have not survived are the Biltmore Hotel, the Oklahoma Club, Commerce Exchange Building, and the Farmers National Bank. Examples of their work -rmain, and include the Tradesman's National Bank (built in 1921), the Harbour-Longmier Building (1925), and the Perrine Building (1927). The firm built many private homes as well, such as the 20,000 square-foot home of William T. Hales located at 1240 North Hudson.

For the first time since 1889, the city government would not be controlled by the purse strings or the "black book" of Big Anne Wynn. The population of Oklahoma City was 55,849 in 1907 and vice was the central issue in the city elections. The citizens were bound and determined to clean up the image left during the territorial years. Oklahoma City was a modern metropolis and it flourished until 1918. This prosperity was stimulated in part by the addition of major railroad lines during the previous decade, under the leadership of Henry Overholser and C. G. Jones. The merchants and area farmers held an economic advantage over other cities in the region, making Oklahoma City the wholesale and distribution center of the state.

The building boom of 1910 saw construction permits reach $6,937,675. Housing surged from -2,452 in 1907 to 64,205 in 1910. Because of the expanding streetcar system, residents were leaving the central business district and moving into the suburbs. The boom began to slow by 1913 when new building projects totaled only $174,727. After 1917, war purchases helped the economy moderately and no major buildings would be erected until 1926 when permits soared again to $16,800,000. the largest increase since 1910.

By the end of 1929, Oklahoma City was littered with 161 oil derricks, of which 53 were producing and 15 exceeding 60,000 barrels a day. With oil money flowing, businessmen devoted more funds to commercial construction. Plans to change the skyline were in full swing until the ftock market crashed on what would be known as Black Friday. The Depression would usher in a new era that would change the character of Oklahoma City and her citizens.

Since the turn of the century, there has always been a close connection between amusement and transportation in the United States. While many people enjoyed "getting away," they didn't want to travel far for relaxation. For Oklahoma City residents, most areas of recreation could only be reached by automobile, horse, or streetcar. Since traveling by horse took too long, and most residents couldn't afford an automobile, the streetcar was the ideal method of travel-Realizing the demand for such a transportation service, the streetcar companies invested in amusement and entertainment facilities. The Oklahoma Railway Company operators of the city streetcar system, owned Belle Isle Park and Lake. Their cars carried hundreds of visitors during the summer months to the parks for swimming, boating, dancing, and other park attractions. The park boasted a two mile lake with boating areas and a water theme park. Use of the park for picnicking and boating was free. Belle Isle had competition from other parks that were located closer to the neighborhoods, where a short walk would find you at Shepherd Lake for pony rides, swimming, and refreshments at the Orange Julius stand, or perhaps at Putnam Lake. There were other parks-Dreamland in the 100 block of West Main Street, Elmwood Park in Southtown, Colcord Park, or the zoo at Wheeler Park-but none offered attractions like Belle Isle. By 1910, ~r.e Delmar Gardens had lost its appeal: too many mosquitoes and not enough beer.

At a board meeting on December 24, 1907, Henry Overholser offered to serve as fair secretary tor one more year, without salary, provided the fair board employ an assistant secretary. J. Stites, who had served as the first secretary, said he did not want to stand in the way of such a generous offer and tendered his resignation. Two days later, Overholser hired his new right-hand man, I.S. Mahan. Isaac Shepherd Mahan was born in Lexington, Illinois. In 1907, at the age of 34, he moved to the country's fastest growing metropolis, Oklahoma City, where he entered the real estate business. In June 1908, he began his new career with the State Fair of Oklahoma with a salary of $75 a month. For the next five years, Overholser and Mahan would dominate the affairs of the state fair. If the fair was to grow and prosper, the number and quality of the facilities had to improve.

Pressed by financial need, the board of directors increased the capitalization of stock from 5100,000 to $200,000 in April of 1908. By June, only $53,958 had been paid on all stock subscriptions, including those pledged the previous year. Again, Overholser loaned another 523,000 to the fair association for improvements, bringing his total cash layout to more than 585,000. The total attendance of the 1908 fair was estimated at 100,000, a 25 percent increase over the first fair.

For the next three years, improvements on the fairgrounds began with a new agriculture building. No project received as much comment in the press as the planting of Bermuda grass on the entire grounds.

fn Sunday, March 5, 1911, the Street Railway Employees Union, Local 556, led a strike against :r.e Oklahoma Metropolitan Railway Company. The issue was not higher wages, but union recognition. Motormen were paid $2 per hour for their first year on the job. On March 5lh. ;ar number 60 left the streetcar barn with a non-union conductor and motorman in charge, rut very soon afterwards, the pro-union men advanced on the car and brought it to a standstill. The union then returned the car to the barn and their attempt to organize a union was made against the majority's will. The strike began much like the one that blew up the Los Angeles Times Building.

Charles F. Colcord recalled the event in his autobiography. Everyone in the city was tired of walking and being controlled by imported thugs. Out of the three hundred employees, only 12 - 13 of the workmen had joined the union. Colcord, Judge Keaton, Streeter B. Flynn, Oscar Halsell, Oscar G. Lee, and Roy Stafford of The Oklahoman met with the non-union employees at the streetcar barn on McKinley Avenue while Judge Keaton held a meeting of the citizens along -.vith Mayor Dan Lackey and Sheriff Jack Spain, Colcord, Halsell, and Lee went to the barn to reason with the union, but to no avail. They then called four hundred men from the rosters of riie various city clubs to appear at the courthouse the next morning and bring their guns. The men selected had served in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection. These men were organized into four companies of one hundred men each. The men were stationed around the city, ten men on the roofs of one-story buildings at each of the street corners. While this was going on, Kate Bernard was making an inflammatory speech on Main Street. Colcord sent Dr. Cunningham to arrest her and was then approached by Dan Perry, who asked if he could take her out of the city, in place of her going to jail. Perry was given the okay and Kate o.\ as taken out of the city-

The old riverbed came down the south side of Main Street, crossed onto Hudson, and the crossed the south side of Main just east of Robinson. The river then angled to Grand Avenu about to the corner of Broadway and then east under what is now the old Liberty 1 (BankOne), following east to the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad tracks, into the old warehouse district (Bricktown), and then southeast into the present bed of the river. With that information, one might wonder why the early settlers just didn't move north a few yards to Blue Hill (St. Joseph's Old Cathedral and the A.R Murrah Bomb Site) and start building die future capitol city. Instead, the city fathers decided to re-route the flow of the North Canadian River to what we have today, taking their chances on any flooding in the low areas. They hadn't anticipated a major flood. The North Canadian River bed is primarily sand, so it is quicklv absorbed when the river rises. In 1923, however, this was not the case, as the river crested and flooded the central business district.

On December 4, 1928, oil was discovered on the corner of SE 59th and Bryant. In the 27 days before the great gusher could be capped, it spewed 110,496 barrels of oil. The Oklahoma City Field had been discovered, creating the city's most important financial source and making Oklahoma City the world's newest boom town. Oil continues to be one the most important players in this city's economy.

In and around Oklahoma City, urban drilling has been a fixture of life since the Oklahoma City oil field's discovery. Images of derricks dotting the landscape are permanently etched into the minds of people. Today, they are a disappearing breed. Urban drilling fights dominated The Oklahoman's headlines from the late 1920s throughout the next decade as big oil companies, wildcatters and even state officials rushed to get all the oil out of the ground they could.

Local leaders limited drilling to just one well per city block and excluded large parts of the city from exploration. Yet, many oil operators ignored the restrictions, and the state worked with the city to control violations. In 1935, city voters approved a measure that allowed drilling throughout much of Oklahoma City's east side - an area of about 1,000 acres containing more than 3,000 homes and buildings and a population of about 25,000 people.

While opponents advertised against the vote in the paper, the state's largest oil companies, pushed for approval, saying it would mean $17.7 million in new investment and 8,000 new jobs. Not everywhere was opened to drilling, though, and that concerned Gov. E.W. Marland, himself an oil company founder. Marland worried that companies on private land were drilling under state-owned property to get its oil.

Just across the street north of the Governor's mansion, a well drilled by Barnsdall Oil Co. was producing more than 22,000 barrels of oil and 31 million cubic feet of gas a day. "Oklahoma City authorities have abused the power granted them by the state. They have opened up thickly residential sections to oil development adjacent to state lands ... I do not propose to sit idly by," Marland said then.

So in April 1936, Marland declared martial law, initially pledging to drill five wells on the Capitol's grounds, and staked the location of the first well on state land near NE 23 and Kelley Avenue for movie cameras, with members of the Oklahoma National Guard patrolling the location.

more. . .


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