Downtown OKC 1950 – 1969

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1951.library.jpgLibrary
1950s.parkavenue.jpgPark Avenue
1957.parkavenue.jpgPark Avenue
1950s.harvey&main.jpgHarvey & Main
1950s.main&robinson.jpgMain & Robinson
1950s.criterion.jpgCriterion Theater
1960s.main.jpgMain Street
1960s.main&harvey.jpgMain & Harvey
1960s.browns.jpgBrowns
1960s.rothschilds.jpgRothschilds
1950s.hudsonhotel.jpgHudson Hotel
1950s.sheridan&walker.jpgSheridan & Walker
biltmore.jpgHudson & California
1950s.robinson&main.jpgRobinson & Main
1953.robinsontheaters.jpgHarber & State
1953.harber.jpgHarber Theater
1953.state.jpgState Theater
1960s.cooper.jpgCooper Cinerama
1960s.midwest.jpgMidwest Theater
1972.midwest.jpgMidwest Theater
1950s.broadway&main.jpgBroadway & Main
1950s.broadwaynight.jpgBroadway at Night
1950s.broadwaynorth.jpgBroadway
1954.broadwaynorth.jpgBroadway
1958.oge.jpgOG&E Expansion
1950s.civilrights.jpgCivil Rights
calvary.jpgCalvary Baptist
sitins.gif1958-1961 Civil Rights
sitins.gif1958-1961 Civil Rights
sitins.gif1958-1961 Civil Rights

LIBRARY

In 1951, this library replaced the earlier Carnegie Library at the Northeast corner of Northwest 3rd (now McGee) & Robinson.

With the 2005 opening of the Norick Library & Learning Center, this building became and remains vacant.

1951.library.jpg

PARK AVENUE

This shows Park Avenue looking East in the late 1940s or more likely the early 1950s. Note that the "unknown" building mentioned in the 1940s is now gone and the West wall of the YWCA is visible.

1950s.parkavenue.jpg

PARK AVENUE

Similar to the above, but this shows the 1957 Fidelity Bank Building (now Park Harvey Center) immediately East of the County Courthouse.

1957.parkavenue.jpg

MAIN STREET

Main Street looking East from Harvey; images from this era show that downtown was once THE place to shop!

At left, the Hales Building and John A. Browns.

At right and furthest away, the Huckins and, closer, American National (light color).

1950s.harvey&main.jpg

MAIN STREET

Main Street looking West from a little West of Robinson.

No more street cars exit, only buses.

At the left, the edge of the American National Building.

At the right, Browns, Hales, and the Oil & Gas Building (orginally, the Lee).

1950s.main&robinson.jpg

MAIN STREET

Main Street looking West from Broadway; the Criterion's markee reads, "The Big Lift", a Montgomery Clift movie made in 1950. A larger view of this image is at this website.

At left in the background, the Hales Building is seen.

1950s.criterion.jpg

MAIN STREET

Main Street, looking East from Harvey.

There's nothing particularly remarkable about this picture, except that it shows some shops you might like to recall from the 1960s.

1960s.main.jpg

MAIN STREET

Main Street looking East from Harvey.

I've fudged a little since the Liberty Tower wasn't finished until 1971. But, since the 1977 page is intended to mark the end of an era, I've stuck this pic here. Even with the new Liberty Tower (see that the neon sign on the OLD one is still present), the image is more like the '60s than what would come to pass in the '70s.

1960s.main&harvey.jpg

JOHN A. BROWN

The great John A. Brown Department Store on Main Street - but it could also be entered on Park Avenue.

1960s.browns.jpg

ROTHSCHILDS
HUDSON HOTEL

These 2 images are from Terry L. Griffith's Images of America: Oklahoma City, 1930 To The Millennium.

Rothschilds. Originally the 1910 or 1911 Mellon Building, the fine Rothschild's clothing store was the last tenant in this venerable building.

1960s.rothschilds.jpg1950s.hudsonhotel.jpg
Hudson Hotel. It was built in the early 1930s at the NE corner of Grand & Hudson. According to Griffith, "[t]he Hudson was known as the 'Salesman's Home.'"

SHERIDAN

Sheridan looking East from West of Walker. Left: Hotel Black. Its basement club was one of the places raided by State Safety Commissioner Joe Cannon in the late 50s in Governor J. Howard Edmondson's plan to "dry up" bootleg liquor in Oklahoma. The campaign led to the repeal of prohibition in 1959. Right: Biltmore and Sears.

1950s.sheridan&walker.jpg

HUDSON & CALIFORNIA

This picture was taken at Hudson & California, looking Northeast. Left to right: Terminal Building (red with white trim); Liberty Bank (originally Ramsey Tower); 1st National Bank; in front of that, the Perrine Building (now Robinson Renaissance); Sears (the white building in the center); Biltmore Hotel; and, far right, the Commerce Exchange Building.

1960s.biltmore.jpg

ROBINSON

Robinson, looking South from just North of Main.

Left: American National; State Theater; Baum Building.

Right, in the foreground: Hales Building (with the Florsheim sign); further away: Colcord Building.

1950s.robinson&main.jpg

ROBINSON THEATERS

This image from the wonderful Vanished Spendor series, Vol III by Jim Edwards, Mitchell Oliphant, and Hal Ottaway (Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co, Okc, 1985) shows the relative location of the Harber & State Theaters looking North on Robinson.

1953.robinsontheaters.jpg

HARBER THEATER

Cropped from the same picture identified above, this shows a closer view of the Harber Theater (formerly Victory Theater, later the Cooper, 1915-1975), at 19 N. Robinson. The Hales Building is in the background.

1953.harber.jpg

STATE THEATER

Also cropped from the same Vanished Spendor, Vol III picture identified above, this shows a closer view of the State Theater built in the 1930s (I think) and demolished in 1975 or so. It seated 800.

1953.state.jpg

COOPER CINERAMA

In 1960 the remodeled Harber became the Cooper Cinerama Theater, seating 1,200. It closed in 1975. The Colcord Building is at the left.

1960s.cooper.jpg

MIDWEST THEATER

The Midwest Theatre (1930-1975) was operated by Warner Bros. Theaters. Located at 16 N. Harvey, it had 4 or 5 balconies and seated 1,600-1,700 (reports vary). More information and images are in the Movies/Cinema page.

1960s.midwest.jpg1972.midwest.jpg

BROADWAY

Broadway looking North a little South of Main.

Left to right: City National Bank (now City Center) and edges of Medical Arts (now 100 Park Avenue Building), Skirvin Tower, and Southwestern Bell buildings.

At right, top to bottom, Skirvin Hotel, Insurance Building, and the Huckins Hotel.

1950s.broadway&main.jpg

BROADWAY

Broadway looking South from Couch Drive.

Left to right: Skirvin; Insurance Building; Huckins; Herskowitz; in the center "jog" with the Phillips 66 sign, the 1902 Culbertson Building where Cox Convention Center now sits; at its right, City National sign (now City Center); and Skirvin Tower (now 101 Park Avenue Building).

1950s.broadwaynight.jpg

BROADWAY

Broadway looking North from Sheridan.

Left side: Wells-Roberts Hotel; City National Bank (now City Center Building).

Right side: very top (crown) of Skirvin Hotel; Insurance Building; Huckins Hotel & Annex; Campbell Building; Wells Fargo; and Herskowitz Building.

1950s.broadwaynorth.jpg

BROADWAY

Similar to the above, Broadway looking North from Sheridan.

Left side: Wells-Roberts Hotel; City National Bank (now City Center Building).

Right side: West edge of Skirvin Hotel; Insurance Building; Huckins Hotel & Annex; Campbell Building; and Wells Fargo.

1954.broadwaynorth.jpg

OG&E EXPANSION

In 1958, 6 floors were added to 1928's original building at 321 N. Harvey.

In 1957, the building at the far right, Fidelity Bank (now Park Harvey Center), was constructed.

1958.oge.jpg


THE 1958 - 1961 DOWNTOWN CIVIL RIGHTS SIT-INS & MARCHES

SEGREGATION

Black Americans had long been treated badly by White Americans. This image isn't from the 50s or 60s, and was taken in 1939, but it demonstrates well enough the racial inequity that persisted into these decades.

But, in 1958, that would start to change in downtown Oklahoma City.

1950s.civilrights.jpg

Downtown Civil Rights Sit-Ins began in earnest in 1958, discussed below. I thank John Proctor of Oklahoma City for furnishing the still shots from a 1984 television video in what appears to be John A. Brown's in 1958 or 1959. I've reassembled the shots into a small flash file.

Click on the button to begin the short flash file -- right-click on the image for other options.


The movement continued into the early 1960s. The image shown here is from a 1961 Civil Rights March in which actor Charlton Heston participated. Mr. Proctor also furnished advised of an excellent PDF article this describes the period very nicely ... click here to open the PDF file.

John also provided this link to an article at OU's website which shows an excellent Oklahoman picture of a 1958 sit-in at Katz Drug.


CALVARY BAPTIST CHURCH

Calvary Baptist Church in Deep Deuce, 300 N. Walnut. Many of the sit-in activities and marches began from here.

In my Oklahoma City history blog, I've written more extensively about Deep Deuce, its origins and why it existed. See Deep Deuce Prologue for that article.

Here's a link which describes this church's involvment..

calvarybaptist.jpg

MORE ON CIVIL RIGHTS

If you have non-copyrighted images to contribute from this era, please send me them by e-mail if you're willing to let me post them.

The Daily Oklahoman once maintained an archive of pics of this era, but it apparently no longer exists. See the Notes, below.

Click here for an excellent article by Prof. Quintard Taylor, Jr., quoting Clara Luper and Jimmie Lewis Franklin.

civilrights.gif

Notes About These Decades

Although new buildings were added during these two decades, many are not shown here since they are already in the "current" map, e.g., Regency Tower Apartments (1966), the Federal Court Building, Oklahoma County Office Building (1967), and others. The images here are mainly for remembering times gone by. These years embrace the last years that beautiful (even ugly) movie theaters & major retail attractions existed downtown. The Urban Renewal Pei Plan may have been wonderfully conceived, but it did not contemplate the general economic downturn which in fact occured with the 1986 "Oil Bust" and its attendant consequences. Major (even 1st National, the state's largest bank) and minor banks closed. The former downtown entertainment and retail industry, razed as part of the urban renewal plan, were gone and would not be replaced as was contemplated, and the grandiose Pei Plan concept came to a screeching halt. While several beautiful building projects did occur in the 1970s & 1980s (e.g., Myriad Convention Center, Myriad Gardens, Liberty Bank, McGee Center, Kerr Park, Corporate Plaza, Leadership Square), it would not be until the 1990s MAPS projects and the Bricktown renewal that downtown would once again become a "people place" - an attraction to those who didn't work downtown. All of that is shown in the "current" pictures of downtown, accessed through the current downtown map.

The 1958 Downtown Sitins - the 1961 Downtown Marches. Of great importance to Oklahoma City and beyond were some of the nation's 1st Civil Right's Sit-ins, beginning at the downtown Katz Drug Store, spreading to Anna Maude Cafeteria and beyond, with downtown marches including E. Melvin Porter, Carlton Heston (1961), and many others. The Daily Oklahoman declined my request to use its images, so I'm still looking for more to include for this momentous series of events which would come to sweep the country. Space has been reserved (and will be added as needed) for later pics, above. Earlier, I linked to the Oklahoman's pictures but that link is now bad and as far as I can tell those important images are no longer available to everyone on the internet for all to see (to the very great discredit of the Daily Oklahoman and its owners, the Gaylord Family, in my opinion). If I learn differently, I'll post a new link, with my apologies. In the meantime, I'm still looking for pics of this very important period in Downtown Oklahoma City.

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