Travelling Through Time Along 23rd Street, Part 1
by Lynne Rostochil. Vintage photos, unless otherwise stated, courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center. “Now” images from Googlemaps, the OK County Tax Assessor, and Lynne Rostochil.
Have you ever driven down a busy inner core street and wondered what your surroundings must have looked like “back in the day”? Well, I have, too, so I decided to pick a street — NW and NE 23rd — and search through the Oklahoma History Center’s vintage photo collection to piece together its past. The results were pretty impressive, and I found buildings and street scenes from the road’s beginnings east of Lake Overholser all the way to NE 23rd past I-35. I’m including these vintage photos, along with “now” shots of the same areas, so sit back and enjoy travelling through time along 23rd!
We will begin at the western stretch of the road in Bethany.
Our first stop is Putnam City West High School as students run a chariot race in 1977:
Across the street from the high school, you could rent this tiny house for a mere $15 a month in 1981. It was the cheapest rental in the city, which isn’t too surprising:
What is also not surprising is the fact that the house is gone now:
At the corner of NW 23rd and Council is the DeVille Shopping Center, which was designed by Fred Pojezny and opened in 1964:
It got an ugly remodel in the ’90s, unfortunately, and looks nearly vacant these days:
On the 7600 block of NW 23rd is the Bethany Hospital, which was built in the mid-1970s:
The hospital closed a few years ago, and although there were rumors that it would be demolished, it looks like it is still in use in some capacity today:
Down the street is the Western Oaks Elementary/Jr. High complex. Here’s the gym under construction in 1963 and a photo of students outside the junior high in 1967:
And the elementary school undergoing a remodel in 1984 — the remodel reduced the size of all of the large windows and really uglied up the building:
Here’s the school now:
As disappointing as the school looks with those awful peephole windows, we can rejoice in a structure on the 6500 block of NW 23rd that is a big favorite of the Mod Squad, the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, which was built in 1962. Here’s the building in the background in 1986 when the church’s longtime minister retired:
And here’s this splendid mod creation today:
I mean, really, how great is this building?!
I’ve always wondered about the little log cabin at 6001 NW 23rd — it doesn’t seem to fit with all of the other, obviously urban, buildings surrounding it, as you can see in this 1982 photo:
It was constructed as the headquarters for Eureka Log Homes, and it still looks pretty good today:
Five blocks to the east is the best fairy tale apartment complex in the city, Olde London Towne, built in 1969:
I don’t know about all of the extra e’s in the apartment name, but I sure do remember being fascinated with that tower when I was a kid. The complex was renamed the Castle Tower Apartments about 10 years ago:
Let’s drive a little further east to the Windsor Hills Shopping Center at NW 23rd and Meridian, where we can see the dedication ceremony in 1960:
Those cute diamonds on the building make another appearance in this 1965 photo of storm damage to the C.R. Anthony sign:
More damage occurred in 1967 when an Impala backed into the TG&Y:
Ouch! The damage was repaired and here’s a view of the TG&Y and Hyde’s Discount Drug in 1978:
The same view today shows that the Windsor Hills has received the typical bland and very ugly ’90s makeover:
I found a couple of vintage photos around the intersection of NW 23rd and Meridian, this one from the mid 1960s showing where the diagonal NW 19th is causing more than a little confusion:
Not much has changed in this regard:
And look at this icy mess along NW 23rd looking west from Meridian from 1968:
And the same area now:
The next block to the east was once the home of what had to be one of the best signs in the entire state:
How great is that?! Here’s another view of the Rancher’s Daughter drive-in from 1961, the year after the drive-in and big time high school hang out opened:
I believe the drive-in closed in the mid 1980s and was replaced with this piece of blah in 1989:
Interestingly, the grassy lawn in front and the u-shape drive parking lot look like they belong to the original Rancher’s Daughter.
Now, let’s mosey to NW 23rd and Portland, where I’ve found old photos of two corners of the intersection. On the southwest corner is a 1974 photo showing the newly constructed Kerr-McGee gas station:
This awning isn’t nearly as elegant as the ones George Nelson designed, and although it looks similar today, I think the above station was demolished and a new Conoco with a convenience store took its place:
The really good stuff is on the northeast corner, where the lovely Humpty Dumpty grocery store opened in this building in 1948:
I would go shopping here every day if I got to enjoy such bright and happy surrounds. This lovely femme fatale obviously felt the same way back in 1951:
All of that caffeine would make me a happy girl, too, but I don’t know about shopping in those shoes — not too comfy.
A TG&Y also shared the building with Humpty Dumpty. I believe this is the storefront for that retailer:
The third and final tenant was OTASCO:
I remember going to OTASCO with my dad when I was little and the entire store smelled like tires. It was more than a bit overpowering, but it was always so much fun exploring the store and eyeing all of the gadgets and whats-its that lined every shelf.
Here’s the Humpty Dumpty building today — it still looks pretty good:
Our last stop of the day is on the next block of NW 23rd, where we are visiting Fine’s Foods and Veazey Drugs. The first image is the building right after it was constructed in 1952:
And the interior of Fine’s:
I guess the owners wanted something more dramatic, so they added this fantastically obnoxious sign that could probably be seen for miles at night:
That is one huge WOW!
Within a few short years, Al Fine more than doubled the size of the grocery store when he expanded the building westward on the lot. At the same time, he updated the exterior to give the building a much more mod feel:
At some point after 1969, the portion of the structure that sat further back on the lot was expanded to create one long building. It was probably at this time in the 1980s that it also received a pretty sad remodel in which the former Fine’s lost a lot of its lovely windows:
It was remodeled again about six years ago. Although many of its windows were restored, the building isn’t nearly as charming as it was originally:
That’s it for this week. Next week, we’ll pick up our journey as we cross over I-44 and head east toward OCU and Uptown. Click the link to read Part 2.