Edmond Oklahoma

Jim Watson's house was in 424EAST4TH is in Edmond, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City, far enough to have its own identity beyond the metro yet close enough to be an integral part of the Oklahoma City metro area. The first Europeans in the area came through as a result of the Santa Fe railroad laying tracks through the territory in the mid-1880s. Like all towns in Central Oklahoma, Edmond began at 12 noon on April 22, 1889; the Great Oklahoma Land Run. The government had decided to open up Oklahoma Territory to settlers with the promise of free land. All one had to was stake a claim. The government had previously plotted all the claims: lots within designated cities and quarter-mile quadrants outside the towns. Edmond was a water stop on the Santa Fe and was designated by the government surveyors as a 'town'. Edmond was originally named 'Summit' as it was believed that it was the highest point between the Cimarron and North Canadian rivers.

For the run, the townsite committee was considering the name 'Birge City' but when the papers were filed in 1889 at the Land Office in Guthrie (Oklahoma's first capital), someone, no one knows who, had crossed off Birge City and written in 'Edmond'. It was most likely named for Edmond Burdick, a freight agent for the Santa Fe railroad. Edmond became the site of the Oklahoma Territory's first institution of higher learning - the Normal School began classes on November 9, 1891. It is now the University of Central Oklahoma. Edmond grew rapidly: it was a stop on the Santa Fe railroad, it was later on the Interurban rail line running from Oklahoma City to Guthrie, and Route 66 ran right through town, today's Second Street and south on Broadway.

Edmond used to be a "Sundown town" or "Sunset town" - local law required any non-white person, including Blacks, AmerIndians, and Hispanics to be out of town before sunset. According to historian Christopher Lehman: By ordinance, the city of Edmond, Oklahoma, prohibited Blacks from the city limits for generations. The 1940 postcard for the Royce Café proudly emblazoned "A Good Place to Live. 6,000 Live Citizens. No Negroes" as an attraction for prospective residents. No Negro attended school in Edmond until 1974, and no Negro family lived there until 1976.

All the food at the Royce was "supervised by women."

As of 2015, Edmond has grown from 6,000 to 85,000 citizens. Today, there is a Muslim Mosque, a Mormon Church, a Witness Meeting Hall; and numerous Hispanics, Asians, and Negroes living in the city.

Capital View addition

The second major housing development in early Edmond was south of Second Street, between town and the college. It was originally the site of the Clegern family farm, bounded by Second Street, Ninth street, Boulevard, and Rankin. Their farmhouse stood near the corner of Second Street and Jackson Street. The barn and a pond stretched south to what is now 4th Street. In the 1920s, the Clegerns built a new house on what is now Fifth Street, east of Rankin. They sold their farm and divided it into housing lots, first in 1917, and again in 1921 - the former Clegern farmstead became the Capital View Addition. Lots were typically 25' wide and 140' deep, although new owners bought 2 or more lots. The developer built the Clegern School on Jackson and 5th and a roundabout at 4th and University (then called College). The roundabout was removed and paved over later but reconstructed in about 2008 with a smaller diameter to accommodate today's larger trucks. Across Rankin (where the apartment complex is now) was a pioneer Edmond cemetery (graves were later moved to GraceLawn Cemetery on Danforth and Boulevard).

Above: the original lamppost in the roundabout circle at 4th and University (named College then). Below: Reconstructed version.

When Watson decided to buy a house, the Capital View naberhood was the only one considered: it is close to the campus (Watson sometimes walked to work), has houses with character, the trees are larger and more mature, and the location put Watson close to work, shopping, and highway access.

424EAST4TH is actually two city lots - lots 4 and 5. They remained vacant for 30 years. It is not known who owned these two lots during that time. In 1951, the owners contracted to design and build a house on the lots. The original house was designed by Richard Henley, an Oklahoma City architect. Construction was completed in 1952 in the typical brick ranch style. The most intriguing exterior architectural feature was the brick planter running along the front of the house. Jim Watson saw the house at 424EAST4TH and within minutes saw the possibilities for transformation from a cluttered space to one of openness. Watson was seeking the openness of a loft type space with a bit of industrial feel yet in a residential naberhood. The interior of the house was completely remodeled during the summer of 1995 by Watson. An office addition was designed by Watson and built during the summer of 2000; the new kitchen was designed and built during the summer of 2002. A new driveway with parking pad was designed and poured in winter 2004. The bathroom was enlarged and remodeled in spring 2004.

Route 66
The Mother Road came east/west along Second Street and north/south along Broadway to OKC. The Royce Cafe stone building is still there (now it houses offices).

1934 & 1962:

The Wide-A-Wake, a landmark on Route 66, was always open. Tastee-Freez at 8th Street & Broadway.
Below: Postcard, "Camp Dixie for rest: It's the very best" Edmond, Okla. This was where the drive from 2nd St to the Union is now. To the east of the Camp Dixie was a Dairy Queen, about where the Bronco statue is today.

Below: Stephenson Park and the former WPA Armory, now the Edmond Museum. The Edmond Swimming pool:

Above right: Former Boulevard Supermarket, now the Boulevard Steakhouse.

Fink Park: built 1926 along Route 66

Above: 1971 and 2010. Below: Park bridges, probly built in the 1920s?

Below: Likely site of a croquet field:

Below: Creek retaining wall, a WPA construction?

Below: Potential early camping sites:

'Lover's Rock' 1915 (students from an art class having a picnic). 1918 (before it was declared a city park in 1926). 2017:

Below: Entrance sign to the park, 1930; and 1964 with an arch of cedar:

Above: Picnic table likely built as a WPA project. Below: WPA-era tables from other area city parks:

Below: Maybe the original Pavilion (the caption just places it "in a city park"). The slope down makes this location likely for the original set of steps (now it's an ADA-compliant ramp.

The hike & bike trail

The City of Edmond Parks Dept built a hike/bike trail that starts at Fink Park and winds along a creek, behind Target and Lowe's (and close to Starbucks) and over to Hafer Park. I walked the dogs there several times a week.

Aerial view from 1971

Photo from the Archives & Special Collections, Max Chambers Library, University of Central Oklahoma

We celebrate Litter Day every week

The trash truck in our naberhood regularly disperses trash on the street as the robotic arms lift the green bins, turn them over, and hope the contents make it into the truck opening on the roof. But, the Oklahoma wind rarely cooperates with that intent. So, we have embraced it by renaming Trash Day as Litter Day.

The grave of aviator Wiley Post

Wiley Post was one of this country's aviation pioneers - he began his career in the early 1920s as a barnstorming pilot, often performing as a parachute jumper. Some of his highlights:
• An aerial racer in the early 1930s, winning the Bendix Trophy while flying in his plane "Winnie Mae".
• The first person to fly solo around the world. 1931: 8 days, 16 hours. 1933: 7 Days, 19 hours.
• He pioneered a number of aviation inventions, including the automatic pilot.
• Helped develop the first high-altitude pressure suits, on display at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.
• Good friends with humorist and entertainer Will Rogers, who decided to accompany Post on a flight to Alaska. On August 15, 1935, a few miles from Port Barrow, Alaska they became lost in bad weather and landed in a lagoon to ask directions. The engine quit when they tried to take off again and the plane plunged into the lagoon and both Wiley Post and Will Rogers died instantly.
Wiley Post is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, just a few miles from my house in Edmond. I had searched for his grave before, but it wasn't until this historical marker was put up that I finally found it.