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Grand Hotels: 1942

November 1942. "Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -- Hotels on West Grand Avenue." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Office of War Information.  View full size.

November 1942. "Oklahoma City, Oklahoma -- Hotels on West Grand Avenue." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon for the Office of War Information. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Why Hotels?

In response to Doug Floor Plan, I would speculate that this phenomenon was quite common in most US cities in 1942.

Today's hotels are scattered throughout metro areas, especially at freeway interchanges. At that time, there were cabin/cottage like motels out on the highways, but hotels were almost always centrally located. In this case, there was even a third rail station (Rock Island) located a few blocks south to further increase traffic.

By the 1960s, places like Holiday Inn were showing up on the highways, blurring the lines between Hotel-Motel.

For another survivor of the old hotels, navigate two blocks north at the first intersection on my street view link to see the Hilton Skirvin on NE corner of Park & Broadway. We almost lost that one several times. Prior to 1933 the Rock Island station was located directly behind it. The tracks were relocated south to avoid having east-west lines running right through downtown. Many City and County Buildings were developed in the mid 1930s along the former line.

Urban Renewal - UGH!

Yet another Shorpy photo depicting an American city or town of yesteryear that looks so much better than its modern counterpart in Google Street View.

The True Inventors of the Parking Meter

While Carl Magee had the initial idea for the parking meter and he received a patent for it in 1932, he was unable to make a practical working model until he enlisted the help of two engineering professors at Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical College (now Oklahoma State University, my employer) in Stillwater, Oklahoma. They were H. G. Thuesen and Gerald Hale, who perfected the design in 1933. The first batch of 175 parking meters was installed in downtown Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935.

I've got my dancing shoes on, but my wallet is in the car

The Tap Room has "free dancing" but charges for parking. I guess they know a good racket to run!

Why so many hotels?

Since some of the commenters have personal, historic knowledge of OK City, I'll ask: why are there so many hotels along this stretch of West Grand? I found there were two railroad stations a block or so behind where John Vachon was standing. The Santa Fe station is still there; the Missouri–Kansas–Texas station on East Reno is gone. You can spin the Street View provided by Studebaker1913 around to see the train overpass. The Santa Fe station is to the right. Was there something else in this area to make so many people want to bed down nearby?

Today, there are fewer, but much bigger hotels. On the immediate right in Street View there is a Wyndham and a Sheraton. Down the street is the aforementioned Colcord. But I figure they're here because, on the left in Street View is a convention center and then a sports arena on the other side of Reno Avenue.

Being Humans

Once again the startling and heartbreaking contrast between the past and the present. Then; a street for human beings. Park where you want, walk where you like. Get a meal, buy a drink, find a room, hock your saxophone, maybe do a little shopping. Be human. Meet other humans doing human stuff. Now; some kind of corporate hell. Nothing to do, nothing to see - drive right through.

And how is it that, once again, a black and white photograph looks sunnier and warmer than Google street view?

Ka-BOOM! town

Note the Biltmore down the street, a prominent example of a celebrity implosion (right around the time when they became popular as new stories and cities began to search for some prominent, hapless building to be "honored")

And to build - no pun intended - on 'Studebaker1913's post: another hapless building (tho not imploded)

Among its sins: "I.M. Pei wanted to clear the Venetian Style Baum Building in order to straighten Robinson Avenue." Oh, my.


Carl Magee of Oklahoma City invented the parking meter. See his great creation at its birth above. In a way he helped the rise of the mall with its free parking and the demise of main street. What a legacy!

Just before the Warner

is a tall white building. It is the only building in the picture that still exists, and is now an upscale hotel. Where the Warner Theater stood, is now an 845-foot-tall building, home to an energy company. I once saw "This Is Cinerama" at the Warner in about 1957.


Urban Renewal

On the right, the building with the "Fidelity" sign was known as the Baum Building. It was one of the most ornate and regretted demolitions of the 1970s "renewal". I have a small piece of it. Just beyond it is the Colcord Building, the taller white structure, which is the only thing in this photo that remains. Built as office space in 1910, now a high end hotel. Next is the Warner Theater located in part of the site of the current Devon Tower, tallest building in the State. Just beyond that is the Black Hotel and the Union Bus Station. Both survived until about ten years ago.

Across on the left is the 28 story Biltmore Hotel. For many years it was the largest structure brought down by implosion. I witnessed that one. Now part of the Botanical park mentioned in a comment on Seed Town.

Grand has since been renamed Sheridan.

Warner Theater

I see the Warner Theater in the distance. My dad worked there in 1946/1947.

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