“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.