Anyone enamored with the rise, fall and rise of Oklahoma City’s wholesale district and its slow evolution into the entertainment mecca now known as Bricktown will want a copy of Steve Lackmeyer’s pictorial history, "Bricktown” (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99).
Lackmeyer, a business writer at The Oklahoman, starts his history lesson before the 1889 Land Run, when the area along the currently named Oklahoma River was an outpost for troops from Fort Reno. Once troops withdrew, proximity to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway made the area perfect for industrial growth.
Primarily using photos and maps borrowed from individuals, the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Lackmeyer shows the district’s development, from the wooden buildings that went up almost overnight after the Land Run to the industrial peak before the Great Depression, when companies such as Carroll, Brough and Robinson, the precursor to Fleming Foods; the Oklahoma City Mill and Elevator Co.; and others occupied spacious buildings in a thriving commerce district.
Lackmeyer devotes a section of his book to Douglass High School — formerly where the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark is — and teacher Zelia N. Breaux and her legendary jazz students Jimmy Rushing and Charlie Christian. He also documents painstaking eras of demise for the district, post-Great Depression and again after a revival from the 1940s to the ’60s.
The modern Bricktown was a long time in coming, according to Lackmeyer’s research. He describes how developers in the 1980s poured money into turning old warehouses into clubs, restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts, only to file for bankruptcy. Lackmeyer says it was the right dream at the wrong time, brought down by high-interest loans on the cusp of the city’s oil bust. Developers later would capitalize on some of those early visions with growth pushed by city voters passing the Metropolitan Area Projects plan. The money brought such changes as the Bricktown Canal, the ballpark and other projects to Bricktown. But, as Lackmeyer points out, plenty of ventures have failed in Bricktown — remember Piggy’s or O’Brien’s?
Photos show the renaissance that exists in Bricktown, from the lighted Sheridan Avenue entrance to the area designed by architect Rand Elliott to businesses and hotels that line the canal. Anyone with a stake in Bricktown or just a curiosity about the district will enjoy this book.