“Nesting in the miniature valley that extends from Twentieth and Twenty-second streets, and along the line of North Broadway, a pretty little plat of ground that has come into the ownership of Oklahoma City …”
“It was on this ground that the ‘eighty-niners’ had their first picnic. In its rough state, with the streets yet projected, the grove (of oak trees) that is about to be transformed into a city park was the scene of an old fashioned picnic. A well of pure water was an attraction that would be even more appreciated in these days, if it had not dried up. That well was dug by the early boomers.”
This description was in The Oklahoman Feb. 19, 1911.
Today that “pretty little plat of ground” is an island of grass, a few trees and a fire station.
Capt. John F. Winans homesteaded, farmed, developed and donated the land for the park that carries his name.
From his obituary published in The Oklahoman Jan. 31, 1935, we get a colorful picture of Winans, who was 93 at the time of his death.
“Death ended a career which, in Oklahoma, began with Winans plowing and harvesting crops from a frontier farm located in what is now an exclusive residential district — Winans addition. The addition extends from Northwest Sixteenth to Twenty-Third street and from Santa Fe to Walker Avenue.
“The neighbors of Capt. John F. Winans, 115 Northwest Seventeenth Street, never got used to seeing the 93-year-old man run around the block every morning. He attributed his long life … to regular exercise. That and two vegetarian meals a day and abstinence from coffee, tea, milk, liquor and tobacco.”
“The lawn he mowed was once part of his farm — a frontier farm that he tilled at the same time George H. Harn was plowing an adjoining one in what is now the Harn tract, on the other side of the Santa Fe tracks.”
Winans’ plan was to plant a fruit farm on his property, but Oklahoma City was growing northward fast, and houses were taking the place of farmland.
He donated the park land in 1911 and was said to enjoy watching the children at play.
Since the 1920s and ’30s, there had been lighted tennis courts, a playground with swings and a wading pool with bathhouse.
There is a sign that proclaims the land as Winans Park to the river of traffic on Broadway flowing mindlessly around it.
The wading pool and the tennis courts have all disappeared and the city rounded the corners, taking some of the land, to make the street a little less treacherous for speeding automobiles.
The first fire station was built in the park in 1951, and in 1993, it was demolished and a new station was built on the same site.
There is nothing in the way of recreation, but if you venture across busy Broadway or speed around it, the little park still remains, a silent tribute to a generous Oklahoma pioneer and the rich history of Oklahoma City.
Pick up a newspaper, check online or listen to the television, and it seems all you hear is about the heat and whether or not Oklahoma City will break the 1936 high temperature record of 113.1 degrees.
This observation appeared 75 years ago Sunday, Aug. 16, 1936, on Page 1 of The Oklahoman. It recaps the week of heat that included the record-setting 113.1 degree high temperature.
Fear is the papa and mama of invention. We have been very scared the last two weeks because the human body is 90 percent water and we have been evaporating at a rapid rate.
Harry Wahlgren, with the two hottest weeks on record, until a few days ago had us believing he was drying us like peaches on a smoke house roof. He had us wondering how long it would be until we dried up completely and blew into Arkansas, just so many irritants to hay fever victims.
It’s got to be admitted that Harry’s first few blows brought out our creative impulses. The humblest became scientific. We reasoned that if we were drying up at twice our weight a day we would have to drink three times our weight in water to hold our own.
That was elemental, but as soon as we were waterlogged it became clear that other modern means would have to adopted to cut down the evaporation. We quit all work to apply ourselves to this problem.
Primitive souls hauled in tubs of ice and sat opposite electric fans. Stone age men hung wet towels in the windows. Reactionaries tried gin highballs. The best minds among us evaporated a lot of rigging up air coolers. They sought boxes of wet excelsior, ran water through them and fanned the air on their heaving bosoms.
Some made gadgets out of fishing reels, bicycle pumps, flannel underwear and electric fans. Some lay under water sprinklers. Others floundered in tepid swimming pools.
It looked like it would all be in vain. We were losing ground. Wahlgren was pouring it on.
The worse day was the day we broke the record. Panting from inventing we learned that on August 10 we had been hotter than ever an Oklahoma Cityan had been before. That made us kinda proud. It set us out as hardy people.
Sleeping through that night under the cool off a mere 81 degrees that was long in coming we found we could take it for certain.
The next day we weren’t even impressed when Harry raised the ante to 113 degrees. Then when the temperature began to fall a two and three degrees at a clip we gave Wahlgren the horse laugh. We drove out Classen in the heat of the day to mock him.
We even went back to work. We forgot about our gadgets to keep cool. We forgot even to remember we were hot. We have proved that hearty Oklahomans can sweat and live. Not only sweat and live, but sweat and get the job done, sweat and even have fun. We have proved we’re tougher even than rag weeds.
Hang in there! In 1936 the rains and cooler temperatures finally came in September.
Note: Harry Walgren was the head of the U.S. Weather Bureau branch on Classen Boulevard in what are now law offices
Summer can’t be over!
It’s still too hot and August has just begun.
When I was growing up, back to school always meant summer was over and cooler temperatures were soon to come.
School didn’t start until after Labor Day (and Oklahoma City is starting Monday).
I don’t remember it ever being too hot to learn or play at recess and I know we didn’t have air conditioning at my school, Traub Elementary School in Midwest City.
Now most mornings, I pass Emerson School on the corner of NW 7th and Walker.
I love to see the old school. It looks just like what a school should look like.
One built to last the ages, while educating students and preparing them for the world.
I love the stone lion holding a tablet on the roof. It looks like he’s watching over his students while keeping an eye on Oklahoma City.
There has been an Emerson School on this corner since 1895. The building has changed.
The first one burned and in 1907 brick building was built. It has been extensively remodeled over the years and little, if any remains of the original buildings.
The students have changed too, from elementary to high school students, but the location and mission to teach has remained the same.
In 1905, Emerson was one of the highest points in Oklahoma City (it sits on a hill and is three stories high). An unknown photographer turned his camera southeast towards downtown and took a picture of history.
It shows mostly houses, a downtown business district of buildings that look to be no higher than five or six stories, churches and industrial buildings with smoke stacks sharing their dark smoke.
In 1997, one hundred and one years later, Oklahoman photographer Jim Argo, took a photo from the roof of Emerson looking south towards downtown.
Side by side they show the progress of Oklahoma City over the years and now with the ongoing construction of the Devon Tower, downtown’s skyline is changing once again.
Emerson, named for poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, has been there all these years sitting on its hill, preparing students to go out into the world and we hope it will continue for another hundred years.
Imagine what the skyline might look like then!