The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

29 October 2005

Saturday spottings (in place)

Legally, it's the Hassaman Heights Addition, but for years it's been known as the Edwards Neighborhood: one block wide (Page to Grand), seven blocks long (NE 10th to NE 16th), it was the first step out of the "inner city" for Oklahoma City's African-American community. Walter J. and Frances W. Edwards made it happen. In 1937, they bought the tract, then largely outside city limits; city government wasn't about to provide city services beyond the boundary. (In fairness to the city, they didn't do it for the previous owner of the property either, and he was white.) So Mr. and Mrs. Edwards took responsibility for running utility lines and paving the streets. They set up their own construction unit to train young black men for the job of building houses in the area, and when FHA at first expressed no interest in providing financing for buyers, they made the mortgage loans themselves. By 1939, FHA had come around; by 1940, the neighborhood contained some 40 homes, including the Edwards residence on Grand south of 16th. This year, the Edwards Heights area, across I-35 and extending to Bryant on the east and Success St. (north of 19th) on the north, including Edwards Park, was added to the National Register of Historic Places, so it seemed like a good time to take a look at Mr. and Mrs. Edwards' original strip, which had been put on the Register in 1996, and to which I hadn't paid a great deal of attention since they'd put up the "W. J. Edwards" sign at the intersection of 10th and Grand.

From a purely topographical standpoint, northeast Oklahoma City is easily the most attractive of the four quadrants; it's got rolling hills and lots of trees, the latter partly because it's on the edge of the Cross Timbers region, before you start moving into grasslands, but perhaps also because it was considered an unnecessary expense to remove them. (Elsewhere, the converted farmland that is now the fringe of the city is breathtakingly bare.) Grand slides down a hill from 16th to 10th; halfway down is a church — Tabitha Baptist. Page, not accessible from 10th, climbs up the back. The houses are smallish but neat, typical single-story prewar design, though construction continued at a reduced pace throughout the 1940s. I'm waiting for the city to extend Historic District, or at least Urban Conservation District, zoning to the area.

Speaking of ethnic movement, you might suspect some near MacArthur just south of the Warr Acres line, where a dollar store proclaims on its sign: IF YOU CAN READ THIS SIGN, COME IN AND SAVE. Innocuous on the face of it, unless you've noticed the increasing number of Spanish-speaking folks moving into this part of town, in which case you might wonder just what the store is trying to say.

The city of Warr Acres itself has had to adjust its signage, after biting the bullet and raising the sales tax by a penny. The signs duly reflect the new 7.5 percent rate, and the word "STILL" now precedes the proclamation of "Lowest Tax Rate."

And it must be lead time, or the lack thereof, to explain the general absence of Hornets references on local billboards this close to the beginning of the season.

Posted at 7:12 PM to City Scene