History of Oklahoma City
Before the arrival of the first white settlers, the area of present-day Oklahoma City was part of the “unassigned lands,” parts of Indian Territory not assigned to any particular tribe. In 1889, the territory was opened for “The Land Run” (also known as the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889) and Oklahoma City was founded by some 10,000 homesteaders. The population doubled in the following ten years. At the time, the territorial capital was Guthrie. When Oklahoma became a U.S. state in 1907, Oklahoma City was bigger than Guthrie and it was also a commercial hub for the state. It was logical that it soon became the state capital. In the early 20th century, Oklahoma City was an important stop on the famous Route 66.
During the first several decades of the 20th century, Oklahoma City became a major stockyard center, even bigger than Omaha and Chicago. It also became an oil industry center after the discovery of oil in the city area in 1928. After the World War II, the city also became a transportation hub, boosted by the construction of interstate highways. The construction of Tinker Air Force Base provided additional boost.
In the 1970s and 1980s, like in many other large American cities, there was a decline in urban population in Oklahoma City as more and more residents moved to suburbs. The city center was due for a renewal and many old structures were destroyed, however, most of them were never replaced by new ones, and the city was left with many vacant lots, used mostly as parking space. In the 1990s, the city passed a redevelopment package that involved reconstruction of existing structures and construction of several new ones, which resulted in an increase in downtown population.
Probably the most important event in the history of Oklahoma City and an event that shook the entire nation was the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (also known as the Oklahoma City Bombing) in 1995, in which 168 people died, the entire building was destroyed and more than 100 surrounding buildings sustained significant damage. The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum was opened in 2000 at the site of the Murrah Building.
Geography and Climate
Oklahoma City has a very central position within the state, located in the Frontier Country region, along one of the most important corridors to Texas and Mexico. Geographically, the city belongs to the Sandstone Hills region (known for 250 ft. to 400 ft. hills covered in blackjack oak and post oak) and also, partly, to a region called Cross Timbers. The city lies on the North Canadian River (called simply Oklahoma River inside the city limits) which used to flood frequently in the past. The city has three lakes: Lake Hefner, Lake Overholser and Lake Stanley Draper.
Oklahoma City has a humid subtropical climate. The summers are hot and humid and all the other seasons have frequent weather variations, even on daily basis. The severe weather season lasts from march through August. Oklahoma City is one of the most tornado prone cities in the entire USA.
As of 2010 U.S. Census, Oklahoma City has 579,999 inhabitants (a 2011 estimate puts the city population at 591,967). The racial makeup in the city is 56.7% non-Hispanic Whites, 17.2% Hispanics or Latinos, 15.1% African Americans, 4% Asians, 3.5% Native Americans, 0.1% Pacific Islanders, 9.4% some other race and 5.2% two or more races.
In 1999, the median household income in Oklahoma City was $34,947 and the per capita income for the city was $19,098.
Oklahoma City was once a government and energy center but today its economy is much more diversified and based also on healthcare, services, information technology and administration. Some of the major companies in the city include Devon Energy Corporation, Chesapeake Energy Corporation, Devon Energy and Sonic Drive-In.
Other large employers include McKesson Corp, Tinker Air Force Base, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Central Oklahoma, AAA, AT&T, Bank of America, Bank of Oklahoma, The Boeing Company, Xerox, Cox, Farmers Insurance and others. Of course, federal and state government are among the top employers in Oklahoma City.
Culture and Attractions
Major cultural institutions in Oklahoma City include the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Stage Center for the Performing Arts, Civic Center Music Hall, Lyric Theatre, Kirkpatrick Auditorium, Poteet Theatre, Jewel Box Theatre, Science Museum Oklahoma, The museum of Osteology, National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and, of course, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum at the site of the Murrah Building destroyed in the bomb attack of 1995.
The city is also home to the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, the Myriad Botanical Garden with its famous Chrystal Bridge, Mat Hoffman Action Sports Park, Frontier City amusement park and many public parks and gardens in almost every city quadrant.
Notable institutions of higher education in Oklahoma City include Oklahoma City University (formerly the Epworth University), the University of Oklahoma (main campus, OU Medicine and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center), University of Central Oklahoma, Oklahoma City Community College and Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
As of 2008, Oklahoma City is the home of the NBA Oklahoma City Thunder, formerly the Seattle Supersonics. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the NBA New Orleans Hornets relocated to Oklahoma City, temporarily changing name to Oklahoma City Hornets. The team returned to New Orleans for the 2007/2008 season.
Oklahoma City is an important point in the United States Interstate Network, as an intersection of three major highways: I-35, I-40 and I-44. The city has two airports - Will Rogers World Airport and Wiley Post Airport. The city is served by Amtrak on the Heartland Flyer line. It is also served by Greyhound and several other intercity bus companies. The public transit company in Oklahoma City is METRO Transit but it only covers the main street grid.
Oklahoma City is one of the least walkable cities in the United States.