The history of Bricktown

What was once a warehouse neighborhood, and the original site of the city, has been restored becoming the destination for Oklahomans looking for fun and entertainment. 

Wednesday, January 16th 2008, 5:39 pm

By: News 9

What was once a warehouse neighborhood, and the original site of the city, has been restored becoming the destination for Oklahomans looking for fun and entertainment.  Bricktown is the place to be!  With restaurants, nightclubs, shopping, sports facilities and a canal, Bricktown is Oklahoma's Entertainment District.

Bricktown is the historic crossroads of commerce in Oklahoma City.  Four railroad companies, the Santa Fe, Rock Island, the Frisco and the Katy, chugged into Oklahoma City spurring economic development in the area.  The railroad shipped cotton, wheat, fruit, corn, cattle, horses and mules across the nation, helping to boost the farming industry in the state.  After the discovery of the Oklahoma City Field, in 1928, oil was added to the list of export. 

Besides shipping out Oklahoma goods the rails also brought in goods which helped our farmers like farm equipment and machinery.  Cars were added to the import list especially after Henry Ford opened his assembly plant in Oklahoma City.

As money began flowing into the city warehouses began springing up across town.  The first building boom began in 1898 and lasted until 1903.  With embellished doorways and arched windows these buildings were more ornate than a normal warehouse.  The second wave of warehouse construction in Bricktown lasted from 1903 until 1911, followed by a third generation of buildings which looked more like the warehouses we see today, big, tall buildings with long rows of windows and graphic signs.  While the styles of the buildings changed from 1898 to 1930 they all had one thing in common, the red brick.

Bricktown was more than an economic crossroads.  It also became a battleground for civil rights in the state in the early 20th century.  The Oklahoma Land Run attracted African-Americans looking for a new start.  They settled in Sandtown located to the east of the Santa Fe tracks, and by 1910 more than 7,000 African-Americans called Oklahoma City home, mostly on the Eastside of the city.

By 1915 the black community had grown and expanded into formerly white neighborhoods.  To stop the integration of the African-American and white communities the Oklahoma City Council passed a segregation ordinance.  The regulation prevented African-Americans from buying or moving into homes north of Second Street. In 1916 that ordinance was declared unconstitutional, but in reality segregation kept the boundary intact, making Second Street a symbolic line in the sand in the fight of racial equality.

The battle for civil rights got a boost in 1915 when Roscoe Dunjee founded the "Black Dispatch," the first black newspaper in Oklahoma City.  From his Bricktown offices Dunjee and others formed the first local branch of the NAACP, slowly but surely putting an end to segregation.

During this struggle for equality, Frederick Douglass High School, an all-black school, thrived becoming one of the leading schools in the region.  The school, which boasts a list of civil rights leaders including J. A. Brazelton, founder of the Oklahoma Association of Negro Teachers and Dr. Frederick Moon, a well-known educator and civil rights advocate, called Bricktown home until 1934 when it moved to its current location on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in the Eastside.

The Bricktown boom began to quiet following the move of Frederick Douglass High School.  It was a decline that would last five decades.  The decline of Bricktown can be contributed to many factors.  First, the Great Depression put an end to new construction in the area, following World War II suburban sprawl and development moved away from the once thriving commercial center and by the 1980s Bricktown, once the crossroads of commerce had become a ghost town of abandoned buildings, however the area was prime for new development it just needed a push. 

That push came in the 80s when developer Neal Horton saw potential in the aging warehouse district.  With a plan and backed by investors, Horton came up with a name for the area, Bricktown.  But the brakes were put on Bricktown in 1982 due to the oil and banking crash.  However, the seeds had been planted and other investors, like Jim Brewer, took the reins investing in the area.  The Spaghetti Warehouse and other businesses slowly began moving into Bricktown beginning the revitalization.  In 1993, Oklahoma City voters approved the Metropolitan Area Projects.  The MAPS program added new attractions to Bricktown including the canal and riverwalk, resurrecting the historic crossroads of commerce.

Now, Bricktown is the place to be in Oklahoma City.  With turn of the century charm Oklahomans can stroll along the pedestrian canal, enjoy live music, cheer on their favorite sports team, sit down for some fine dining or dance the night away. 

Information provided by the Bricktown Association


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