If you assumed that McKinley Park was named for the 25th president of the United States you wouldn’t be alone. The park is actually named for the adjacent McKinley Avenue, but that street is named for Margaret McKinley who was one of the first successful businesswomen in the city’s history. After working many years as a clerk and accountant in a land office, McKinley started her own real estate development company. She developed the McKinley Place addition in 1906, which is now part of the Gatewood historic district, and she was a partner with Anton Classen, Charles Colcord, and others in the University Development Company which created the large University Place development in today’s Oklahoma City University area.
McKinley Park is a testament to what we can achieve when we all work together. The site of the park was once a brick pit for the Oklahoma Brick Company, but it was abandoned in 1913. When the 60 ft. deep pit became a dangerous place for children to play, residents in the neighborhood came together to form the Oklahoma Brick Pit Improvement Assoc. and raised funds to aid the city in reclaiming the land for a public park. It took many years to gain title to the pit from the landowners and fill it with dirt but work on the park began in earnest in 1928. During the Great Depression, laborers from the WPA constructed the distinctive stone castle clubhouses – one for boys and one for girls - and tradesmen around the city donated their time to install lights and other features, while people in the neighborhood dug up the trees in their own yards and transplanted them in the park. McKinley Park finally opened in 1933 and was quickly proclaimed the finest gem in the city’s park system.