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Notes on the Geography of Oklahoma: Oklahoma City: Almost Dallas

Tired of so much history?  Want to see something shiny new?  Best place to look: the far north side of the city. 

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Welcome to Quail Creek, a subdivision that covers about 1,500 acres--two sections plus half of two others. It was the work of John Johnston, general partner of Quail Creek Development Company.

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The first section of the development. Watch the churn! The northeast quarter of Section 13 had been patented to F.R. Scobie in 1895. It sold for $800 in 1901 and sold again in 1924, '27, '31, and '32. By then, the land was up to $30,000. The southeast quarter had been patented to Pat Maring in 1896. It sold for $6,600 in 1909 and sold again in 1917, and yet again the same year, this time for $5,000--in 1918, for $6,000, in 1921, and--heads up!--in 1927 to Patty Johnston for $11,000. She held the land for more than 30 years before selling the whole east half of the section to her husband John in 1959 for $750,000. Meanwhile, the northwest quarter had been patented in 1898 to Joseph Gleason, who sold it ten years later for $4,000. The buyer held it until 1959, when the land sold twice--the second time to none other than Pauline Johnston. Price: $135,000. The southwest quarter, finally, was patented in 1905 and sold in 1920, in 1924 (for $5,000), in 1959 (for $225,000) and again in 1959, for the same amount, to the same Pauline Johnston. The whole section, in other words, came to the Johnstons for about 1.1 million.

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Quail Creek Golf and Country Club, 1962. The golf course lies across Section 13 like a giant letter "C", big enough to run through the centers of all four quarter-sections. The surrounding tracts were developed one at a time, each platted separately.

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In the northeast quarter, just upstream from the golf course, a dam created this lake.

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One of the lakeshore houses, apparently designed by somebody obsesses with stock indices. At 3105 Brush Creek, it was built in 1974, was sold in 1996 for $200,000, and was sold again in 2006 for $649,000. The lancet windows add a touch of Gothic mystery.

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Don't hurt yourself opening the front door! The inside, one might guess, has a movie screen on which a fierce guardian demands to know the reason for your presence.

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3309 Oak Hollow, with 2,600 square feet, was built in 1966 and sold in 2005 for $240,000.

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Jobs and shopping centers moved out to be near Quail Springs. Here we have some of both. On the left: 50 Penn Place, built in 1974 and sold in 2004 for $23 million to a Dallas-based partnership. On the right is Penn Square Mall, which opened in 1959 and boasted--pace yourself--the world's biggest Montgomery Wards. It became a Dillards, as did another ex-anchor in the mall, John Brown. Unusual, no, to have two department stores of the same name in the same mall at the same time?

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The stuff of legend, this is the former Penn Square Bank Tower, completed in 1984 at 1601 Northwest Expressway. This was the bank whose failure richocheted through and beyond Oklahoma. The building itself survived and is now occupied by a local bank started in 2004. One sign of its changing fortunes: the building sold in 1998 for $31 million. Four years later it sold for $21 million.

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The 1991 crystal tower of OPUBCO, the Oklahoma Publishing Company, publisher of the renowned Daily Oklahoman.

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Want to design banks? It's a great life. You start with some culverts, stand them upright, and load them with starter-grade Greek temples.

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Or try a Gothic Hall with a Renaissance clock tower.

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What's bets that passersby aren't the least bit amused by a new development offering a "grand tradition"?

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In the year of our Lord 2005, grand tradition turns out to be a blend of parking lots, apartment blocks, and a budget version of the Pazzi Chapel.

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But there's more on offer--something newer still. We're across the road from it, just to remind you of what this place looked like in the "Before" photo. Edge of the prairie, in other words.

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"Before" on the right; "After" on the left.

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I'd like to show you what's here, but, sorry, this is an exclusive community called Gaillardia, a play on the name Gaylord, which in fact is a corruption of Gaillardia. The Gaylords, whose fortune began with The Daily Oklahoman, were behind this eponymous development, though they've since sold out and moved on.

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Plat of one corner of the development. Want to watch the real-estate churn again? OK. We're looking at Section 10, Township 13 North, Range 4 West, Indian Meridian. The northeast quarter was homesteaded by Walter Sitlington, who received a patent in 1897 and whose son held the land until 1991, when he signed a memorandum of agreement to option it to OPUBCO, the Oklahoma Publishing Company. The agreement covered the northwest quarter, too, because it had been patented to James Ingal in 1895 but sold in 1898 to Sylvester McKee for $800, again in 1901 for $1,600, and finally to Walter Sitlington in 1919 for $6,000. The option was apparently exercised, because the land was willed by Sitlington to the Oklahoma State University Foundation, which sold it to OPUBCO. The southeast quarter was meanwhile patented to Thomas Meeker, who went on to acquire the southwest quarter, which had been patented in 1900 to Sue Profitt and sold in 1901 for $2,950, again that year for $3,500, in 1905 for $5000, again in 1905 (and again for $5000), in 1907 for $6,000, and finally in 1916 to Meeker. The whole south half was inherited by Naomi Meeker Roberts of New York City, who sold it in 1973 to the Midland Building Company, which in 1979 sold it to OPUBCO for $1,430,000.

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Failing to gain entry, we'll stand across the moat and gaze wistfully.

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The pyramid in the distance is the Gaillardia Country Club, which opened in 1998 but was sold by OPUBCO in 2002 for $9,000,000.

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Land to burn.

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A building takes shape.

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Blue-suit glass for Hertz Corporate Offices, built in 2001 and worth about $18 million.

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Cingular (later, AT&T) regional office.

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Memorial Associates owns this building built in 2001 and leased by the FBI after the destruction of the Murrah Federal Building.

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Other institutions are here in force, too, including the Methodists, whose take on spiritual matters (here at the Church of the Servant) appears to have evolved from the time of John Wesley.

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Another megachurch. Guess the denomination. Sorry, you're wrong.

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E Pluribus Unum, if we're lucky. Novus Ordo Seclorum, for sure.

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The Crossings Community Church, which declares that the Bible is the "perfect, inerrant, and inspired Word of God."

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More than the church (here on the left), Crossings includes ministries for children and adults, as well as a gym.

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Meanwhile, housing additions continue to evolve. Here's the plat of the Acropolis of Quail Creek, from 1970.

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Here's May Avenue and, on the other side, Acropolis, deep in the Grecian mode.

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On either side there are more rowhouses.

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Fast forward 30 years to Edinburgh, a development also off May but a couple of miles north of Acropolis. At the base of the plat is a blank area for a central park.

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It's hard to get a good view, because we're in the land of gated communities now.

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Still, you get a sense of opulent landscaping, as well as subdivision signage to die for.

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Ha! We've finagled our way inside and are standing on the central green, which says a lot about the American fondness for gardens, or in some cases merely the American fondness for the status associated with gardens.

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Closer to the houses, the view is less verdant.

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The same builder, Bill Roberts, apparently had some of that font leftover and put it to work farther north on May.

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There are offices here, as well as homes. The designer must be a fan of BBC television.

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Such contrived charm is surprisingly cheap: you're looking at 18,000 square feet of office space valued at about $2 million.

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Another of the offices at Muirfield Village.

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Want to see what a "luxury villa" looks like?

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Luxury villa under construction.

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Nest step: stone facing.

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Finito!

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Another view. Prices? A house of 3,500 square feet was worth about $530,000 in 2005.

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When stone runs out, brick is laid in busy patterns.

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Don't give up! There's Hope yet, even Hope North.

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Big House on the Prairie: bleak at the moment, it will improve with age.

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A completed home at Esperanza: 8,600 feet for $1.4 million.

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Something more modest.

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Tiny lots on a crowded plat.

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Yet this, too, is gated.

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Another modest addition.

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Inside view.

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A third.

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The plat.

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Inside.

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A house fronting on raw land.

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We're at the edge of the metro now: Western Avenue shrinks here from four to two lanes.

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And what do we find? Spain, of course.

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The developer aims to build 2,000 Iberian fantasies on a single square mile of Oklahoma prairie.

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Some of the houses are on a tight budget.

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Some splurge on an entrance fortification.

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We're plumb out of city.

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Nothing out here except old farmhouses, like this one from 1910.

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By now, we're up in Deer Creek and Edmond townships. If you can stand just one more reminder of what has here before, let's drop down to Britton township and that curve you can see on the Santa Fe railroad.

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Here's the same curve, and on this map from 1907 it shows a tiny village of Britton surrounded by homesteaders.

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A bit closer.

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The plat is the first of the hundreds filed in Oklahoma County since 1890. The intersection at the upper left is of Britton and Western, and the plat covers four blocks in the southeast corner of that intersection. The southeast block is a park--or was dedicated as such. Notice Broadway.

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Here it is on the ground.

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The commercial buildings have been replaced, but some older features remain, like this sidewalk.

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This house, at 901 Northwest 91st, sold in 2004 for $62,500.

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This old theater, built in 1946, has been other things, including a surplus store. In 2005 it was for sale for about $60,000.

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Western for many years carried U.S. 66, so there are lots of old gas stations along the way, including this building, reputed to have been built in 1928 for Kerr McGee.

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Mustn't end with an old building. Here's a new house with all the bells and whistles.


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