“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.
Brock Park sits in southwest Oklahoma City along Pennsylvania Avenue between SW 29 and SW 36.
Brock Creek runs through it, and it has a playground and a walking trail. Brock Drive runs along the west side of the park.
It has been a park since 1909. It was named for, and the land donated by, Sidney L. (Lorenzo) Brock, a pioneer civic leader who left a personal legacy to Oklahoma City that endures today.
Sidney L. Brock was born in 1869 to a family of comfortable means in Missouri. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University and began a career of general merchandising with a partner. He bought his partner out and later sold a successful business to begin raising cattle.
He was a success at that, too, but in 1905 he moved to Oklahoma City and opened Sidney L. Brock Dry Goods Store on Main Street and became a civic leader.
In 1909 he was elected president of the Chamber of Commerce and recognized that Oklahoma City’s manpower, resources and location would be an ideal place for a packing plant. Within months, the chamber, with Brock as a driving force, had convinced Morris & Co., one of the major meatpackers in the country to build a plant in Oklahoma City.
In October 1910 the plant opened with Sidney Brock pressing a button in New York City that started power to the plant in Oklahoma City. The packing plants — another was built soon after — were major Oklahoma City employers for several decades, and housing additions were built on the south side of Oklahoma City, and the streetcar line was extended to transport workers and their families.
It could be said without the vision of the Chamber of Commerce and the leadership of Sidney Brock, the Oklahoma National Stockyards might never have existed, and certainly not on the scale it has achieved.
Sidney Brock only stayed in Oklahoma City until 1915, when he retired, sold his store to the predecessor of John A. Brown’s and moved to Colorado and then to California. He visited often, though, because his daughter and son-in-law and two grandsons lived in Nichols Hills, and the newspaper society writers kept tabs on their activities.
He became an artist, he was a charter member of the Oklahoma Art League, and an Internet search on his name turned up some of his paintings.
When Sidney L. Brock died in 1943 in California, his obituary published in The Oklahoman, March 20, 1943, summed up his life with this statement: “He retired in 1915, and has since lived in Denver, Florida and California, but has always considered Oklahoma City his home.”