It’s difficult to imagine today, but the land for this park was once the freight yards for the St. Louis & San Francisco (or Frisco) Railroad as well as the east-west tracks for the Rock Island Line railroad. The railroads were a lifeline to the outside world when Oklahoma City was young and growing, but as the city matured the tracks and trains caused traffic headaches downtown. In the 1930s the railroads were moved a few blocks south to Union Station which made way for Civic Center – the county courthouse, city hall, and the music hall all connected by parks, including this one.
From the beginning this park has been a gathering place. Generations of Oklahoma Citians have assembled here for protests and demonstrations and parades. During World War II it was the site of a welcome center for visiting soldiers and later held veterans’ monuments. Beginning in the late 1960s it was home to the annual Arts Festival each spring. It’s also a popular place for time capsules – at least three of them have been buried and unearthed over the years.
The park was transformed for the American Bicentennial in the 1970s when a modern concrete plaza was created to celebrate the American Revolution. Statues and stone monuments commemorating Oklahoma history were placed on the plaza and yet another time capsule was buried under the plaza.
Unfortunately, the plaza was not very inviting, so in 2010 the park was remade during the Project 180 beautification project. The monuments from the old plaza were preserved on the south side of the park, but the new design revived the original Civic Center concept of connecting the public buildings through parks. The designers intended the layout of park features to reflect the Art Deco design of the buildings but the parallel lines running down the center of the new plaza almost appear to be railroad tracks, recalling an earlier time in the park’s history.