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A Brief History of Downtown Oklahoma City

History of the Downtown Area of Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is the capital of Oklahoma and has a complex, rich history dating back to the late 1800s. Since then, downtown OKC has experienced huge population booms and physical and economical growth. Museums, historical markers, and antique stores all over the city and surrounding area pay tribute to the rich history of this town.

So next time you are looking for things to do in Bethany Oklahoma, Yukon OK, or any of the districts and surrounding areas, be sure to take the time to learn a little more about the history of this thriving city.

Settling the Land

In the 1820's, the U.S. Government began the forced relocation of Native American tribes to large portions of Oklahoma. The area that was to become the capital, however, remained "Unassigned Territory" which was technically closed to settlement. Pioneers were eager to settle in the area, though, and some began moving onto the land without permission. These settlers were known Boomers and pressured the government into organizing land runs to allow pioneers to legally stake their claims.

The most notable land run was the original one organized in 1889. 50 thousand people lined the boarder on April 22 waiting for the signal to rush in and stake their claims. A few settlers snuck past patrols the night before and became known as Sooners. While they may have acted illegally, they managed to avoid the chaos and bloodshed that was to follow the next day when 10 thousand settlers managed to claim a piece of land for themselves.

Becoming the Capital

Congress didn't provide a governing body, so local leaders were chosen to help establish order. On May 1st, official elections were held to appoint leaders who formed the Commercial Club. This later become the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce which began attracting businesses and railroads to the area, contributing significantly to the town's development.

When Oklahoma gained its statehood in 1907, the capital was a city called Guthrie. A petition began in 1910 to move the capital to Oklahoma City. At this point, the population of OKC had reached 64 thousand and the city was already known as the center of commerce in the state. The petition gained enough signatures to warrant a popular vote which established OKC as the official capital.  

The Oil Boom

OKC's big oil boom began on December 4, 1928 when a deposit was discovered on the corner of SE 59th and Bryant Ave. This marked a surge in growth and development in the OKC area as the oil fields brought money and people to the city which lead to expansions in businesses and residential areas. This also prompted the city to develop trolleys and public transportation systems.

While oil continues to be an important aspect of the city's economy, by 1960 the fields were running low and the once booming society that had sprung up around them began to decline as people moved from the city to more suburban areas.

Of course crime rates have risen with a larger population thus the need for so many downtown OKC criminal attorneys.  You'll also find the courthouse in the downtown area.

The Districts

Various restoration initiatives tried to revitalize Downtown Oklahoma city, but none were successful until the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) plan in 1992 helped develop the 7 districts that make up the downtown area.

For the Bricktown District, this meant the building of the Bricktown Ballpark and the Bricktown Canal in 1993. This helped attract tourists and turn the district into the bustling center for entertainment and culture that it is today.

The Deep Deuce District was a hotspot for African-American culture and Jazz music in the 1940s and 50s, but the area began to decline with the rest of the city in 1960. The MAPS project helped revitalize the area as a historic district and prime residential area.

The Arts District became the focus of artistic and cultural development and is now home to such places as the Civic Center Music Hall and the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.

In the 1920s, Automobile Alley was home to over 50 auto dealers. Today, it's reclaiming its status as a popular place for car enthusiasts to gather with a diverse collection of galleries and residential spaces that use the old buildings in new and innovative ways.

The Business District has seen the most dramatic development with the construction of skyscrapers and up-scale hotels as well as museums and historic markers to pay tribute to the town's past.

The Midtown District is located just north of the business district and is benefiting from the same surge of business and architectural renovations. This district is a great place to find restaurants, event venues, and a thriving nightlife.

Film Row was home to notable companies such as Paramount Pictures, MGM, Universal, Fox, and Warner Brothers in the 1930s. Today, the area has been re-vamped to pay tribute to its historic roots in film making and is home to several business dedicated to film, art, and design.


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