Preserve America Community:
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, (population 553,500) was founded in April 1889, when in one day more than 6,000 people arrived at the rail station during the Land Run of the Unassigned Lands of Indian Territory. Two additional railroads were added in the 1890s, and the town’s population more than doubled.
Oklahoma became a state in 1907, and the capital was moved to Oklahoma City in 1912. Oil drilling in the city began in 1928. Tinker Air Force Base was established during WWII and continues to be a major source of civilian and military employment.
By 1970 the downtown was in decline, and hundreds of buildings were demolished. In the 1980s the failure of local Penn Square Bank led a national decline of financial and petroleum industries. Following the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, $38 million in federal grant funding was spent on repairs to nearby buildings.
During the past 10 years, Oklahoma City’s downtown area and nearby residential districts (including historic areas) have been experiencing newfound revitalization and redevelopment. Oklahoma’s “Bricktown” warehouse area became a major entertainment district by the late 1990s.
Oklahoma City’s many museums include the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, the Oklahoma State Museum of History, and the Museum of the American Indian.
The Harn Homestead Museum, listed on the National Register, includes seven historic buildings, including a one-room schoolhouse, the first two-story home built in Oklahoma, and a Sears catalog home where Mr. and Mrs. Harn resided. Recently, the landmark Skirvin Hotel, built in 1911, was restored to its original grandeur.
Calvary Baptist Church was the physical and spiritual base for a multi-year sit-in campaign that changed the face of segregation in Oklahoma City. Constructed in 1921 by black architect and church member Russell Benton Bingham, it served as the religious and social center of Oklahoma City’s black community. The sit-ins—or what were then called “sitdowns”—were conceived in 1957 when 26 local high school drama students visited St. Louis, where they ate at integrated lunch counters. Back home and determined to change “Jim Crow” Oklahoma, they met at Calvary with their drama teacher and a NAACP advisor to plan a sit-in campaign. The church is now a featured site on the Civil Rights Movement National Register Travel Itinerary.
For more information
Oklahoma City: www.okc.gov
Convention Center and Visitors Bureau: www.okccvb.org
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary -- Civil Rights Movement: www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/civilrights
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary -- Route 66: www.nps.gov/nr/travel/route66/
Updated October 5, 2009