Jefferson Park Historic District
The Jefferson Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Jefferson Park Historic District is an early twentieth-century residential neighborhood located approximately two miles north of downtown Oklahoma City, the state capital. It encompasses twenty-six blocks and two small parks and consists of 432 buildings, one structure, and two sites, Sparrow Park and Goodholm Park. Eighty-six of the properties are noncontributing. The Bungalow style is predominant, however, other architectural styles include the Craftsman style, the Tudor Revival style, the Colonial Revival style, and the Prairie School style. The neighborhood is surrounded on three sides by other residential neighborhoods, although the southern boundary — Northwest 23rd Street — is a commercial strip which divides Jefferson Park Historic District from Mesta Park Historic District (National Register, 1982) and Heritage Hills Historic District (NR, 1969). The houses located south of Jefferson Park Historic District and closer to downtown Oklahoma City reflect the styles of the first quarter of the twentieth century, while the houses located north of the Jefferson Park Historic District represent the booming 1920's. The houses adjacent to the northern boundary are included in the Edgemere Park Historic District (NR, 1980). The east side of the Jefferson Park Historic District is bounded by I-235, which was constructed during the 1980's. The easternmost blocks were shortened to accommodate the new highway and a few houses were demolished. These streets are now cul-de-sacs. Although the construction of the highway eliminated some residences, the remaining resources in the Jefferson Park Historic District maintain a high degree of historical and architectural integrity.
The Jefferson Park Historic District is approximately one-quarter of a section in size and includes twenty-six blocks and two small parks. The neighborhood is distinguished by the two parks, Sparrow Park and Goodholm Park, which form a centerpiece for the area. Jefferson Park Historic District is surrounded on two sides by three National Register districts which are also locally zoned historic districts. Directly adjacent on the north side of Jefferson Park Historic District is Edgemere Park Historic District (NR, 1980), a 1920's Tudor Revival neighborhood with lots platted to conform to the existing landscape. On the south, divided from Jefferson Park Historic District by Northwest 23rd Street, are Mesta Park Historic District (NR, 1982) and Heritage Hills Historic District (NR, 1969). The Paseo Neighborhood Historic District [listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004] is located west of Jefferson Park Historic District.
Sparrow Park and Goodholm Park are centrally located within the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Sparrow Park, located toward the northern end of the district, is a curvilinear low-lying space with residential lots platted around the park giving each residence a view. Goodholm Park is located in the center of the neighborhood and is bounded by North Robinson Avenue on the east side. The southern end of the park is immediately adjacent to residential lots and North Harvey Avenue forms the western boundary. Both are owned by the City of Oklahoma City.
North Robinson Avenue is the main north-south thoroughfare through the Jefferson Park Historic District and was originally part of the Oklahoma City trolley route. This route originated in downtown Oklahoma City, two miles south of Jefferson Park. The median, the original location of the trolley rails, is a tree-lined, linear park. The location of the trolley influenced the construction of many of the apartment buildings and four- and eight-plexes which line North Robinson Avenue and spread throughout the neighborhood. Although North Robinson Avenue continued north, the streetcar line and boulevard ended at Northwest 27th Street.
Constructed primarily between 1903 and 1939, Jefferson Park Historic District represents a neighborhood which included a diverse choice of living accommodations. While sixty percent of the remaining structures were built as single-family residences, the remaining forty percent were constructed as rental units. The first documented homes were constructed on the 100 block of Northwest 24th Street and later the 100 blocks of Northwest 25th Street, Northwest 26th Street, and Northwest 27th Street. In addition, early homes were also built along the 2400 blocks of North Hudson Avenue and North Robinson Avenue. The oldest homes in the neighborhood were built circa 1905 with construction picking up after Oklahoma statehood in 1907. The construction boom between 1910 and 1912 provided a few additional buildings in the area; however, between 1914 and 1931 eighty percent of the properties were built. Less then five percent of the remaining contributing properties were built after 1931 and prior to 1940. There are 347 contributing buildings and two contributing sites in the Jefferson Park Historic District.
The Bungalow style dominates this neighborhood and almost fifty percent of the single family residences and some of the duplexes are of frame construction with low-pitched roofs and large front porches with brick piers and tapered wood columns. This style is also characterized by the exposed roof rafters, brackets, and beams. Almost fifteen percent of the properties, both single family homes and apartment houses, are Tudor Revival. This style, particularly popular during the 1920's, is characterized by its steeply pitched roofs and front-facing brick chimneys. The Spanish Eclectic style is quite evident in Jefferson Park Historic District with many of the large apartment buildings constructed using yellow brick, arches, and red clay tile roofs. Other styles represented include Classical Revival (6%), Prairie School (5%), Colonial Revival (4%), National Folk (3%), Art Deco (<2%), Italian Renaissance (2%), Commercial Style (<2%), Renaissance Revival (<1 %), Folk Victorian (<1%), and Moderne (<1%). A large number of garages and garage apartments are located in the Jefferson Park Historic District. Two-story garage apartments, which are located on side streets and highly visible, have been included as either contributing or noncontributing properties. The remaining garages and garage apartments are considered part of the front building resources and are counted as contributing or noncontributing in the district. The boundary lines include only those properties that share the historical characteristics of the neighborhood. The Jefferson Park Historic District's consistency of scale, material, architectural styles, and setback contribute to its delineation as a visually cohesive unit.
The Jefferson Park Historic District is an excellent example of community development and planning and as an example of architectural styles from the first four decades of the twentieth century. Using the natural topography of the land, the developers planned two centrally located parks and platted lots which take advantage of the landscape, rather than rely on the established grid pattern. There were few design restrictions and as a result the neighborhood includes both variety of size and style. Some of the styles represented are large Prairie School style residences, modest Bungalows, Spanish Eclectic, and Colonial Revival houses. Located two miles north of downtown Oklahoma City, Jefferson Park began developing soon after the turn of the century and continued to grow through the 1930's. The streetcar line on Robinson Avenue attracted development of multiple-family units nearby. The initial plat was in 1903, with the amendment for curved streets and parks in 1909. The period of significance begins in 1905, when the oldest extant house was built, and ends in 1939, when over ninety-five percent of the development was complete. Four properties within the boundaries of the Jefferson Park Historic District were built during the 1940's and less than four percent of the properties were built after 1939.
The Jefferson Park Historic District represents the development of Oklahoma City during the early portion of the twentieth century. It was during this time that Oklahoma City was reaching its adolescence with significant growth behind and tremendous evolution yet to come. Oklahoma City's continued expansion was due largely to its varied economic base.
Oklahoma City's founding did not occur slowly, it essentially happened overnight. The city was located in the area known as the Unassigned Lands, where settlement was prohibited. After much lobbying, and several illegal attempts to enter the area had been thwarted by the United States Army, Congress opened the Oklahoma Territory for settlement to non-Native Americans on 22 April 1889. To open the new territory, Congress chose an innovative method of land disbursement, the Land Run.
Before the opening, approximately seven buildings marked the site of the future Oklahoma City, then called Oklahoma Station. These buildings — a train depot, section house, post office building, government building, railroad agent's home, boarding house and an old stockade — were aligned along the Santa Fe Railroad located in the bend of the North Canadian River.
Similar to other nineteenth and twentieth century towns and cities, Oklahoma City matured in a fixed pattern but at an accelerated rate. City evolution naturally radiated outward from the center. The central portion of the town, the first area developed, contained the business district with an adjacent residential neighborhood. As the city grew, the original residential zone began to deteriorate because of the continued expansion of the business section. In deference to the decline of the first residential zone, the working class located their dwellings outside the initial residential area but within short distances of their place of employment. Seeking newer and improved housing, the middle to upper classes further extended the town by creating a strictly residential area toward the outer limits of the working class section. As the city prospered, the upper classes moved to suburban areas lying just outside the incorporated boundaries. Increases in population and employment opportunities soon resulted in the annexation of the suburban zone into the city proper, and so a metropolis was created.
Oklahoma City never experienced the growing pangs of other cities. From its overnight formation, the city matured rapidly. By June 1889, a scant two months after the opening, the town boundaries were set at Seventh Street on the north, Walker Avenue to the west, Seventh Street to the south and the Santa Fe Railway on the east. The total population stood at 4,138 people, with the majority being male. There were 1,603 occupied dwellings with sewers, paved streets and sidewalks yet to come. Of the 1,603 residences, 1,131 residences were frame houses and 472 were constructed of part canvas and tents.
During the 1890's, Oklahoma City grew primarily within the original townsite and to the northeast. However, in 1892 Fairlawn Cemetery was established outside the city limits toward the northwest. By the turn of the century, Oklahoma City was booming with several industries, including two cotton gins, a flour mill, an ice factory and three railroads. The Santa Fe Railway Company was present before the land opening; the Rock Island arrived in the city in 1895; and the Frisco Railroad entered the city in 1898.
Development continued in the ensuing decade, again in a northerly direction. The presence of the railways proved to be a deciding factor in the development of Oklahoma City. The 540 percent increase in city population between 1900 and 1910, from 10,037 to 64,205, is credited largely to the railroads. In 1902, continued city expansion to the north was encouraged by the construction of an electric street railway system.
From 1902 to 1904, a building boom in both public and private construction developed. A good deal of this occurred in the residential additions served by the new streetcar line, although many people continued to walk to work. It was at this time that a discernible movement of single family dwellings away from the Original Townsite and Maywood Addition, which was just northeast of downtown, began. In 1903, most of the settlement was contained in the area between North Tenth Street and roughly South Tenth Street. Most white collar workers lived north of Second Street, while most of the blue collar workers resided south of Second Street.
To accommodate the persistent demand for housing, the city continuously annexed more land. Between 1907 and 1908 twenty-two additions were incorporated into the city, bringing a population of three thousand persons. Among these were the Jefferson Park additions. This expansion thrust the northern city limits beyond Twenty-third Street. Also, combined with relocation of the state capital in 1910 to Oklahoma City, this tremendous growth resulted in another construction boom lasting from 1909 to 1912.
By 1910, the city boasted 11,516 dwellings. Construction was underway in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Between 1900 and 1910, seven of the extant residences in the Jefferson Park district were constructed, some before incorporation into the city limits. During the 1910's, city development slowed but in no way halted. Oklahoma City increased in population only 42 percent, down from the phenomenal 540 percent escalation of the previous decade. Residential development continued, however, as 918 new families moved into Jefferson Park and enduring residents sought newer housing. During this decade, the working class was concentrated around 3rd Street, while the business class resided near 8th Street. Between May 1910 and June 1915, city builders constructed 2,700 dwellings. Although the number of vacant dwellings swelled from 250 in May 1910 to 678 in June 1915, the number of occupied dwellings increased to 2,274 during the same period. Ninety-five percent of the 244 residences built in 1916 were occupied upon completion, with the majority buying their homes instead of renting.
History of Jefferson Park
Jefferson Park was initially settled as a 160-acre homestead. It is the southeast quarter of Section 21, Township 12-North, Range 3-West of the Indian Meridian. Most of the homestead was platted in 1903 as the Jefferson Park Addition, and annexed into the city by 1908. This addition encompassed the southeast, southwest and northwest quarters of the quarter section. In July 1909, the remaining northeast quarter of the homestead was platted as the Second Jefferson Park Addition. The original Jefferson Park Addition was amended twice in 1909 and once in 1924. The 1909 amended plat significantly altered the original pattern of the entire neighborhood and changed the nine blocks bounded by 25th Street, Hudson Avenue, 30th Street and Robinson Avenue. This new plat created the curvilinear streets and blocks characteristic only to Jefferson Park up to that time. The amended plat also established the two parks in the neighborhood, Sparrow and Goodholm. The original neighborhood boundaries extended east to the Santa Fe railroad tracks; however, during the 1980's the construction of the Centennial Expressway required the demolition of many houses located east of Robinson Avenue.
The firm of A. Goodholm and E.F. Sparrow placed a full-page advertisement in the Daily Oklahoman in August of 1909 which described the attributes of the newly platted Jefferson Park:
Happy, high-minded, hopefilled homeseekers — Hundreds of courageous, confident, constructive citizens — city builders — are enthusiastically turned toward Oklahoma City's arche-type residential addition — Jefferson Park.
High-mark humanity's, healthy, harmonious home!
The advertisement included a full plat map illustrating the two neighborhood parks which would be included in the development and which were guaranteed by the Oklahoma City Park Commission to be fully landscaped. The City Council had approved paving for the proposed streets and the street car tracks were fast on their way to being laid through the heart of the neighborhood. Also in August of 1909, a second advertisement, placed by the Snyder Realty Co., described the parks' fortuitous location and rapid improvements.
The real estate company of Goodholm and Sparrow continued to advertise the area throughout the next three years. Notably, the two parks located in Jefferson Park are named after this company. One advertisement of Jefferson Park described the amenities procurable in the tract, including wide paved streets, shade and ornamental trees, two city parks, water, gas, electricity, telephone service, sanitary and storm sewers. It also included "hundreds of artistic homes (and) beautiful stretches of lawn."
Availability and uniqueness of spacious lawns were due to the distinctive neighborhood design of the central portion of Jefferson Park. This atypical configuration followed a pattern of development advocated by Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmstead, and other late nineteenth and early twentieth century American landscape designers, emphasized housing designed around wide and spacious parks, with the result being havens from the hustle and strain of urban life. Jefferson Park, platted in this design early in 1909, was one of the first examples of this belief in Oklahoma City. Similar landscape design also occurred later in the Edgemere Park Historic District (NR, 1980), located directly north of Jefferson Park.
Another 1912 advertisement for Jefferson Park stated "Negroes Can Sign the Guthrie Capital Petition But They Cannot Live in Jefferson Park." Under the overlying discriminatory message of this advertisement, this declaration dealt with two issues. The first referred presumably to the previous political petitions concerning the location of the state capital, moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City in 1910. The second issue alluded to the restrictive covenant prohibiting African-American occupation and ownership of area properties. In Oklahoma City, this type of covenant remained legally viable until 1948.
Most of the real estate advertisements rested upon the amenities of the particular area much more than racial composition. However, it must be noted advertisements of the district was aimed at the middle-class Euro-American buyer.
The electric streetcar service was the Oklahoma Railway Company's car line that extended from the downtown business center along Robinson Avenue. The electric street cars provided an important source of public transportation in all of early-day Oklahoma City. Availability of street cars encouraged expansion of the city to areas away from the downtown business district and created necessary transportation links between work and home. Essentially all of the electric track within Oklahoma City had been laid by 1916.
From their beginnings around 1902, use of Oklahoma City street cars reached their zenith in 1919, carrying a total of 17.5 million passengers, up from the 9.5 million passengers in 1915. Ridership fell in 1924 to just about twelve million due to increased automobile travel. In 1925, the railway company put its first buses into operation, further detracting business from the streetcar system. By 1930, bus service was available throughout the city, including a route north along Walker Avenue, along the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Street car use rose briefly again in 1930 to seventeen million. Obviously the future of public transportation was moving ever closer toward buses exclusively. Street car service continued in Oklahoma City until 1946, when the decision to convert to strictly a bus system forced the sale of assets related to inner-city street car lines.
The Robinson Lane Interurban traveled along Robinson Avenue into Jefferson Park; it originated in downtown and ended at Northwest 27th Street. From this line, connections to traverse the entire city, and nearby towns and cities, were available.
During the 1910's, Jefferson Park had less construction with only eighty-eight, or twenty-three percent, of the extant buildings being constructed. The peak of building activity, however, occurred in the 1920's. It was during this decade, especially the latter half, which Oklahoma City again entered a boom period. City population experienced a tremendous increase, growing by over one-hundred percent in ten years. While residential development continued north toward 39th Street, the 1920's also brought disbursement of the population both east and west. White collar workers continued their northward thrust, with 10th Street functioning as the southern boundary. Blue collar workers resided primarily in the business district and south Oklahoma City.
Valuation of building permits issued in the city increased slowly from about five million dollars in 1920 to eight million dollars in 1924. Permits slumped in 1925 but rebounded admirably to exceed twenty-four million dollars in 1929. The increased development was credited to the city's critical locale. As stated by the 1929 president of the Chamber of Commerce, Ed Overholser, "No city is better situated with respect to variety and volume of resources within its own trade territory." Companies associated with agriculture, utilities and various industries continued to locate in the Oklahoma City area, creating persistent demand for housing.
The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties enabled many to purchase their own homes and attracted more buyers to the city. As a result, much of the "desirable close-in residential property in Oklahoma City" was built up. Furthermore, expanded use of the automobile enabled residents to live farther away from their places of business and yet reach them with more convenience and in less time.
As one of the "close in" residential districts, Jefferson Park flourished. During the 1920's, sixty-two percent of the remaining buildings in Jefferson Park were constructed. One hundred thirty of the total 240 buildings sprang up between 1920 and 1922. Activity stabilized in Jefferson Park with an average of fifteen dwellings being built each year between 1924 and 1928. The neighborhood experienced an upsurge in building activity in 1929 with thirty-five new buildings. This was the last year of significant construction in Jefferson Park.
Although occurring near the end of most of the neighborhoods' development, the establishment of the Spanish Village (NR, 1983, located west of the northwest part of Jefferson Park) enhanced the desirability of the Jefferson Park, Paseo and Central Park neighborhoods by creating easily accessible shopping. Other commercial development also occurred on the periphery streets of the three neighborhoods, concentrating around 23rd Street, and Walker and Western avenues. Some of these enterprises probably developed contemporaneously with or before construction of the Spanish Village. Many of these businesses occupied the older residential structures present before commercialization of the exterior streets.
Probably the greatest economic incentive during the late 1920's and 1930's was the discovery of oil in the Oklahoma City vicinity in 1924 and within the city itself in 1928. Largely due to the presence of oil and its related industries, Oklahoma City could sustain growth during the Great Depression of the 1930's. The city gained about five to ten thousand people each year from a base population of 189,389 in 1930. Oil contributed to another facet of development within the city, apartment houses. The influx of people employed by the flourishing oil and related industrial companies, requiring only a temporary place to live, created an unprecedented demand for apartments. Apartment house construction also received a boost from oil men, and others with money, who viewed apartments as a good, solid investment. Apartment house investors commonly received an "assured" return of fourteen percent on their investment. Usually built of brick, with not more than four stories, apartments routinely consisted of one room, a bath and kitchenette.
During the late 1920's and early 1930's, apartment building in Oklahoma City concentrated north of 23rd Street, around Robinson and Walker avenues, in the midst of the Jefferson Park neighborhood; sixty-six apartment houses remain extant. One well-known Oklahoma City development company involved in apartment house construction was G.A. Nichols Incorporated. Constructing apartment buildings was touted as Nichols' "hobby."
Apartment houses, however, only comprise eighteen percent of the building stock in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Although most of the residences in the districts were single residences, other types of multiple dwellings were also popular. Popular types of multiple dwellings include duplexes and garage apartments. The number of multiple dwellings in Jefferson Park nearly equals the number of apartment houses. Duplexes, four-plexes and apartment houses combined represent forty-five percent of the housing stock in the neighborhood. Eighty-seven percent of the Jefferson Park neighborhood was built before 1930.
Although the oil industry and related developments bolstered city finances, Oklahoma City, of course, did not completely escape the ruthless path of the Great Depression. Due to the harsher impact of the depression on rural and small town residents, Oklahoma City experienced an inundation of new citizens seeking jobs, housing and aid. This naturally contributed to the economic burden of the city. The dust bowls of 1935 and 1936 sent many people scurrying to the greater stability of the city, intensifying the need for affordable housing.
The city's real estate market's great depression, however, seemed to ease by the mid-1930's. This is attributable in part to the upswing in population and the growth in the economy. According to the 1934 Oklahoma City Real Estate Board, one-half of the residential properties vacant in 1933 were occupied the following year. In April 1935, the Real Estate Board declared a shortage of 1,100 housing units necessary to provide adequate shelter for a population the size of Oklahoma City's.
Oklahoma City continued to thrive through the 1940's, with the establishment of Midwest Air Depot, now Tinker Air Force Base, in 1941. The depot, however, spurred residential growth in a new direction — the southeast. Midwest City, located at the depot's front gate, developed quickly between 1941 and 1943. Other residential development continued in that direction with the founding of Del City a few years later.
Limited construction continued in the Jefferson Park neighborhood to the current time. Jefferson Park was essentially fully developed by the end of the 1930's. Only four of the remaining dwellings constructed in Jefferson Park were built in the 1940's. Over the following four decades, merely seventeen buildings were constructed in the Jefferson Park district.
The dwellings in the Jefferson Park neighborhood reflected not only the boom periods of Oklahoma City but also the common appearance of Oklahoma towns and cities. The typical residential architectural style in Oklahoma during the first half of the twentieth century was the Bungalow. With its multiple windows, the Bungalow house was well suited to the humid Oklahoma climate. Forty-nine percent of the extant houses in Jefferson Park Historic District are Bungalows. Houses designed in the Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival styles were also popular. Correspondingly, the second most fashionable style in the neighborhood was Tudor Revival. Other less prevalent architectural styles in the Jefferson Park Historic District included National Folk, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival and Prairie School.
The Jefferson Park neighborhood shared certain characteristics with additional contemporaneous city neighborhoods. Jefferson Park developed primarily during the 1910's and 1920's. The 1920's again proved to be the decade of growth with scant construction occurring afterwards. Historic apartment buildings endowed the Jefferson Park area with a distinct character. The period of significance for the Jefferson Park Historic District neighborhood extends from construction of the first extant residences in 1905 to 1939.
Although the city has since spread far beyond this early district, the Jefferson Park neighborhood represents an important stage in the evolution of Oklahoma City. It was during the first half of the twentieth century, when the neighborhood was developing, that Oklahoma City began its transformation from a Victorian town to a modern metropolis.
Limited demolition with no subsequent construction has occurred. This is due in part to substandard housing, and urban renewal. The largest area affected by demolition is in the east part of the Jefferson Park neighborhood, where construction of the Centennial Expressway in the 1980's eradicated structures on 96 lots located east of Robinson Avenue. In addition, several Jefferson Park buildings, located primarily along Walker Avenue, were demolished.
The Jefferson Park Historic District retains a large degree of integrity. Within Jefferson Park, 349 (80.2 percent) of the 435 documented properties were identified as contributing. Five (1.1 percent) of these were deemed individually eligible.
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† Maryjo Meacham and John R. Calhoun, Planning Department, City of Oklahoma City, Jefferson Park Historic District, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, nomination document, 1995, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.