History of Gatewood
April 22, 1889: The Great Land Run
The area which is now the Gatewood Neighborhood was claimed during the “Run of ’89”. Andrew Findley settled on the eastern quarter section, while Lewis Walch claimed a similar area on the west. Both families quickly began farming, and built homes which are still standing today. By 1902, both homesteads had changed ownership. The Walch farm was owned by Margaret McKinley, while the Findley farm had been divided among several owners, including Charles F. Colcord and F. B. Zieglar. The land was still rural, because Oklahoma City initially developed to the south and west of the downtown area.
1902: Epworth University Stimulates Gatewood Development
In 1902, the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, solicited offers of 50 acres of land and a $100,000 endowment, for the construction of a church-sponsored college in Oklahoma Territory. In order to bring the benefits of such a college to Oklahoma City, the Community Club (Chamber of Commerce) led by its first president, John Shartel, guaranteed both the money and land. Mr. Shartel and his business associate, Anton Classen, risked their personal assets to initiate this development. The first step was the organization of the University Development Company, which was originally capitalized at $200,000, and was comprised of Shartel, Classen, Margaret McKinley, Charles Colcord, and F. B. Zieglar. The University Development Club acquired more than 480 acres, ranging approximately from present-day Pennsylvania to Walker Avenue, and between NW 16th and NW 23. The eastern 320 acres, from present-day Indiana east, was platted and named “University Addition”, and the western section was left unplatted. The University Development Company donated 52 acres to the Methodist Church for the construction of Epworth University. In order to raise the $100,000 which had also been guaranteed, alternate four-lot tracts in the platted area were sold, and all remaining land was kept by the University Development Company for future sale. Because transportation to this rural area was largely undeveloped, Anton Classen, as secretary of the Metropolitan Railway Company, arranged to build a streetcar track to the Epworth University. This trolley line ran along present-day Classen Boulevard, and the “turnaround” site was at the present intersection of NW 17th and Classen. Another strip of land 160 feet in width, and just east of present-day Indiana, was reserved for a future streetcar line to join NW 16th and NW 23. The University Development Company also donated a tract of land in the western unplatted area to the Catholic Church for construction of a girl’s school, and the Sisters of Mercy of the Sacred Heart initially built a facility at this site. In 1906, the Vatican empowered the Bishop of Oklahoma, Theophile Meerschaert, to build a “fitting and commodious” residence on this property. The present-day Meerschaert House” was completed in 1907, on a site still surrounded by farmland. The McKinley place addition was platter nearby in 1906.
Epworth University Area
Epworth University opened its doors in 1904, and was the first institution of learning in Oklahoma City. The University offered instruction in law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, commerce, liberal arts, and fine arts. The presence of a growing university and easy transportation increased development in the Gatewood area. Although the school became financially troubled and closed its doors in 1911, it was the predecessor to Oklahoma City University (founded in 1919 as Oklahoma College), and the Epworth University medical school eventually gave rise to the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. The University donated one lot of land to the United States Weather Bureau, and a weather station was constructed along present-day Classen Boulevard in 1923. In 1919, some of the lands owned by Epworth University were platted as University Place. In 1921, the University Addition Plat was amended to permit construction of apartments, which resulted in the building of many of the large four-plex apartments along NW 17th. In 1926, Epworth Church replatted some of its property, and the Nichols University Addition was recorded. Most of the current residences in this area were constructed during the “oil boom” period of the 1920’s, and G. A. Nichols was one of the more prominent builders at this time.
The Gatewood Addition was platted in 1922. Although the Catholic Church had several structures on the land donated by the University Development Company, the rest of the area had been undeveloped. Stringent plat restrictions were established for areas between present-day Kentucky and Indiana Avenues. Homes along NW 21 to NW 23 were to be developed at a minimum cost of $3000; homes along NW 20th and NW 19th were to cost at least $4000, while $7000 was to be spent on homes in the rest of the area. Similar guidelines were maintained between Kentucky and Virginia, but homes between Virginia and Pennsylvania were allowed to be developed in a more random fashion. The growing Catholic community required expansion of the Mission at the Meerschaert House. In 1925, the Jesuit Parish was established by Bishop Francis Kelley. A Parish school was founded in 1927 on Young’s Boulevard, and was later moved to the present site of Rosary School. A rectory was built in 1935, and in 1949, the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church was completed.
A strip of land 160 feet in width had been dedicated to the Oklahoma Railway company for development of a streetcar line between NW 16 and NW 23. However, the availability of less expensive cars during the “boom” period of the 1920’s made streetcars less popular. Most of this property was sold to the Carey, Calloway and Foster Company, and was developed primarily by Jess A. Woolf in the 1930’s. The Mediterranean and Spanish influence in the construction of Carey Place make it a unique area within the Gatewood Neighborhood.
Epworth Methodist Church
1901 N. Douglas
The Epworth Methodist Church was completed by the addition of a new sanctuary to the main Epworth University building in 1926. The large columns in front of the church were once part of the original University building. Epworth Church was designated as a historical site by the Oklahoma City Historical Preservation Commission in 1973.
1315 NW 21st C. 1906.
This is a one-and-one-half-story, weather board Queen-Anne house with a cross gabled composition roof. It has a full-facade porch with wood railing and massive tapered stuccoed piers, octagonal front right room with slightly flared roof hips (possibly added C. 1916), round gable windows, left side hipped dormer, fish scale shingles and diamond-pane windows on frontmost gable, 1/1 windows, wood door with large oval window, side lights, and a ridge chimney. A garage is right rear.
The Meerschaert House
1907 N Kentucky
In 1906, Bishop Theophile Meerschaert petitioned the Holy See that the seat of the Bishop be moved from Guthrie, the Territorial Capitol, to Oklahoma City. The Meerschaert House was completed in 1907, and became the center of Catholic missionary activity for Indian Territory. This facility remains in constant service to St. Francis of Assissi Parish, and some of the large meeting rooms were recently restored to their original elegant decor.
St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
1901 NW 18th
After World War II, Father Edward Van der Grinton set out to build a beautiful parish church. The Indiana limestone used in its construction gives it a unique and appealing appearance. The interior is decorated with marble from the United States and Italy. Construction of the church was completed in 1949.
United States Weather Bureau Building
1923 N. Classen Blvd
Epworth University donated a tract of land to the United States Weather Bureau, and a weather observatory was completed in 1923. This building is currently owned, and beautifully maintained, by the Berry Law Firm, and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.
2036 NW 17th, Located on site C. 1925
This house may have been built elsewhere C. 1900. This is a two-story, vinyl-sided National Folk gabled-L house, on a corner lot, with a cross gabled composition roof of medium-high pitch, and gable returns. It is L-shaped, with a shed-roof porch inside the L. It has a tall front chimney and ridge chimney; windows are 4/1 or 5/1 with vertical upper panes; there is a flush door. The garage is right rear: weather board, accessed from side street.
The house first appears in the City Directory of 1926. When McKinley Place was platted in 1906, the Roman Catholic Church owned the entire block, and retained it into the 1920s. In 1922, the church sold this property and three adjacent lots to Nichols-Chandler Company, which replatted part of the block. This single lot was sold in June 1925 to Elizabeth Darcey, who borrowed $5600 in mortgages in November 1925; she retained the front house property until 1949.
1911 N Classen
The Victoria Building housed the Victoria theatre which opened july 4, 1928 and was built for $200,000. Admission was twenty-five cents for adults and ten cents for children.
The ad for the opening read “This magnificent new theatre…the first of it’s kind in Oklahoma City…is truly a masterpiece in theatre construction. Its thoroughly new design and beautiful decorations will immediately win your admiration and praise. You will marvel at the $30,000 Robert Morton “Wonder” Pipe Organ with its echo chamber in the rear of the house…flooding the entire theatre with its wonder tone.”
The first move to be shown was the silent film “Three Sinners” staring Pola Negri.