The wait for creation of an '89er Trail downtown and in Bricktown could soon be over with installation of markers early next year telling the story of how Oklahoma City started.
Chuck Wiggin, owner of the 101 Park Avenue Building and a local history enthusiast, has spent the past several years working on the project with Bob Blackburn, director of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Oklahoma City's unique start dates to April 22, 1889, when a single gunshot started a land run authorized by President Benjamin Harrison. By the end of that day, Oklahoma City grew from a prairie railroad depot to a town of about 10,000.
“Oklahoma City is in so many ways defined by the way it all started,” Wiggin said. “The story is not on the ground. There is no evidence of it today. But this gets it out not just to visitors but to those who have grown up here.”
The story being told is not a whitewash of the first months following April 22, 1889. The city started with no government, competing land surveys and settlers battling over staked claims. Some people, including the city's first mayor, William Couch, broke the rules and arrived before the start of the run.
Couch was later shot and died from the injury. Brothels and gambling halls set up shop where the Cox Convention Center is located. That story will be told, as well.
Sites, meanwhile, will likely include the Santa Fe Train Station, which was built in 1930 on the site of the original Oklahoma Station that greeted settlers when they arrived on April 22, 1889.
Wiggin said The '89er Trail also tries to tell the story from diverse perspectives including the settlers and the area's American Indians.
Bricktown, which will be home to several markers, already has parts of the story told by the Land Run Monument and Chickasaw Plaza in Lower Bricktown.
Inspiration for The '89er Trail is from Wiggin's hometown of Boston, where the Freedom Trail provides a tour of 16 Revolutionary War sites, including the home of Paul Revere and the Park Street Church.
Wiggin moved to Oklahoma City in 1978, and it wasn't long before he was looking at photos from the Land Run and grew interested in making the story better known among locals and visitors.
When the signs go up, they will include the address for The '89er Trail website that will provide a means to learn more about the city's start.
A nonprofit was established by Wiggin to pay for design, construction and erection of the markers, as well as long term maintenance. The project is going through city design review this fall and signatures have been obtained from all of the adjoining property owners to allow for the displays.
The addition of The '89er Trail should coincide with the completion of Project 180, the makeover of downtown streets, sidewalks and parks, as well as the conversion of the Santa Fe Train Station into a transit hub. Downtown is seeing increased visitor numbers with the number of hotels rising from just one in the mid-1990s to more than two dozen.
“The '89er Trail will help tell Oklahoma City's story right in the places where history was made,” said Jill DeLozier, Downtown Oklahoma City vice president.
“It will augment the downtown experience and be accessible to people of all ages and abilities, which makes it even more valuable. For tourists, it will put their visit into context and show how far we have come as a city.
“For locals, the information is more detailed and personal than what we learned in school and instills an immense sense of pride in our city,” DeLozier said.
The addition of The x’89er Trail should coincide with the completion of Project 180, the makeover of downtown streets, sidewalks and parks, as well as the conversion of the Santa Fe Train Station into a transit hub. Downtown is seeing increased visitor numbers with the number of hotels rising from just one in the mid-1990s to more than two dozen.