Oklahoma City has packed a whole lot of history into its 125 years 


click to enlarge John Vasquez and Raymond Melton admire a 1910 Oklahoma City fire engine parked in front of City Hall for the city's 25th birthday celebration. Photo/Shannon Cornman - SHANNON CORNMAN
  • Shannon Cornman
  • John Vasquez and Raymond Melton admire a 1910 Oklahoma City fire engine parked in front of City Hall for the city's 25th birthday celebration. Photo/Shannon Cornman

As American cities go, 125 years is on the young side.

Oklahoma City’s birthday celebration last week could be considered a Sweet 16 as the state’s capital city celebrated its 125th birthday.

OKC may be young, but it has packed a lot into more than a century of existence.

“When you look back at our city’s history, it seems we are always in the best of times or the worst of times,” said Mayor Mick Cornett on the city’s birthday on April 22.

“But you look at where we are now, and I think we are really going to thrive in the future.”

Depressions, droughts and terrorism have challenged OKC over the past 125 years, but Cornett said all those factors have made for a strong city that can weather future storms.

Almost overnight on April 22, 1889, the Oklahoma Land Rush transformed open prairie to a tent city of nearly 5,000 people.

Today, it is home to nearly 600,000 residents, making it the nation’s 29th largest city.

City officials present and past were on hand for a daylong birthday celebration last week at City Hall. Even William L. Couch, the city’s first mayor, was on hand — played by an actor.

Former mayors Andrew Coates and Ronald Norick also were present for the event and took a few moments to reflect on the history they helped create.

“What’s really nice about our 125th is I get to see a lot of my old colleagues,” said Norick, who served as mayor from 1987 to 1998.

“I enjoyed tremendously my service with the city, it was really a lot of fun. Trust me; when you are through with your service, you will look back on it as a wonderful experience.”

The birthday celebration also included tours of City Hall and Civic Center Music Hall.

A standing-room-only crowd also filled the council chambers to hear a presentation on the history of OKC.

“History is made by the decisions people make when they walk onto that stage of history,” said Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

“I really believe that in this 125 years since the Land Run, we’ve been dealing with challenges with opportunities. We still have many challenges ... and many opportunities.”

The city’s birthday celebration was a chance for citizens to get a closer look at OKC’s history.

But city officials said they also came away from the event with a deeper appreciation of the town.

“I’ve been working in City Hall for many years now,” said Kristy Yager, the city’s public information officer.

“But it wasn’t until we put the tour together that I learned more about City Hall. I have always appreciated this building greatly. Every time I walk in, I feel grateful to serve citizens, but to learn more about the building has been very eye-opening to me.”

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