The Classen Corridor: Just beyond Route 66, Kamps Court

In Oklahoma City, along the broad Classen Blvd. north and south of the juncture of NW 23rd and Classen are many historical gems. They hark back to days when this area was 'out in the country' and on the edge of the growing community.  They remind of heady expansion and opportunity and growth: all things well worth remembering as a new century dawns and continued renewal and rebirth occurs in its rediscovered neighborhoods and business districts.  They are examples of small businesses that succeeded and contributed to the development of the capitol city of Oklahoma.

Kamp's Grocery and Kamp's Courts - In 1910 two German immigrants discovered what was then the outskirts of Oklahoma City and settled down to establish business. Kamp Brothers Grocery at NW 25th and Classen Boulevard was well known for top quality groceries, deli, breads, and service.

In 1928, the  business name was used  in ads appearin local newspapers.  The image of the cute apartments solicited a short ride to see the area.  The urged people to come discover the cozy but green living space where every one had their own garden.   "Kamp Courtyard" advertized they were  bringing a new style of living along NW 25.    They actually purchased the land from Wesley Methodist who were using a building there for "overflow" classes and events.

More recently, the business transformed.  The original Kamp's moved to Bill Kamp's Meat Market at 7310 N. Western over 12 years ago and state "we are still going strong after 103 years."   The Cafe is not related to Bill Kamp who is the third generation of butchers, continuing the same business at a different location. The Midtown ("Kamps1910 Cafe."; 10 N.E. 10th ) is not related.  A new business featuring Peruvian food is now there at the corner of Classen and NW 25th.

Yet, the history lingers on along the corridor, hinting at a past worth preserving and remembering.

Mystery and Money

It is the eternal connection and cause of crime - money. The love of it, the shortage of it, and desire for more of it has been the spark causing trouble and discord since it was invented.  Attempts at social programs designed to equailize access to it and the things it provides are often as riddled with corruption as the piece of Swiss cheese in the fridge for lunch is filled with holes. There is an often seen problem of the inability to use the money of others with sanity and efficiency found in local, state, and federal government offices and agencies.  The government, on any level, does not have any money of its own (it does not produce) but rather is dependent on the money (taxes, fees) placed on the citizens (producers).   As a result, some of the most absurd waste occurs in and through government agencies.

People were aghast in the 1970's and 1980's when government excess, overspending, and bad business practices were uncovered.  The government, which has no money of its own, was spending over $600 dollars for toilet seats!  The history and track record of such poor business management and purchasing practices can be traced throughout school districts, government offices, and federal programs over decades.

"Community Action Program" (CAP) was a part of the Johnson era 'war on poverty' program.  In the 1970's and early 1980's one program rented space in an empty wing of a local building.  They transferred to a 'new building' in an old school building and when they left - they left.  The rental space contained metal desks, chairs, filing cabinets, various office furnishings, equipment and supplies.  The file cabinets were still full of records, resources, names and addresses.  There were files packed with 'plays' about the need for revolution, the need for programs to help addicts by supplying drugs instead of criminalizing them and celebrations of the ability to have free love and safe abortions.

 They were getting 'new' furnishings in the new location.  Boxes of pencils, pens, paper, paperclips, staples, staplers, and typing/copy paper was simply left behind to be replaced by brand new supplies.  Chairs, desks, tables, lamps, electronic pencil sharpeners, file cabinets, trash cans, clocks, and other items were simply left to be replaced by new items in the new location.  Who paid for this collossel waste and abuse of publicaly supplied funding?  

Take a look in the mirror.  The mystery here is one of continued lack of oversight (apparently the government oversight agence catching the military overspending in the 1980's never looked into other domestic agencies).   As one of those hired by the building owners, I saw this all first hand, as we cleaned and got ride of the extra 'stuff' the renters left behind.  So, stay cautious when you hear some government agencies talk about how efficiently they use their budgets, how cost conscience they are.  Waste is easy when it is someone else's dollar and conservation near impossible.  The mystery is why we so often continue to allow such abuses to go on without more accountibility.



The historic roadway known as "Route 66" takes a small turn in Oklahoma City (map) and as a result offers some interesting sites to see.  The Gold Dome, the Milk Bottle Building, and Wesley United Methodist Church.

Wesley UMC was established in November of 1910 by Bishop Quayle.  The current classic English Gothic style building was formally dedicated as the Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church in 1928.  Rising high above the surrounding residential area, it would have been plainly visible to those motoring 'the road.'

Route 66 traveled along 23rd Street (great detail map) between the area of the Capitol complex and just east of Oklahoma City University - taking it past the location of Wesley UMC.  Some historic signs signify some of this area but it is begging for a higher profile treatment to preserve the unique travel route through the area. 

Gothic Interior
of Wesley UMC

Within a short distance of the 'road' was the historic cemetery of early Oklahoma City where both the noteworthy and the notorius found their final rest. Fairlawn Cemetery was established in 1892. 

A novel building featuring a milk bottle reminds of the industry that once thrived and the creative way businesses promoted attention. A few block further, just north of 23rd street on Classen, is the old The Townley Milk Company building owned noe by Braum Dairy.

The historic Gold Dome is a newer structure in a geodesic dome. It was built in 1958, as the glory road was dwindling, and is now on the Register of Historic Places.  It is struggling to be preserved and recognized as a linchpin of the emergent "Asian District."  

Surrounded by historic residental areas and hope to be historic areas, and other areas,  the Asian District, the art centered Paseo district, and historic Route 66 the area is a potential gold mine for development building on these unique and heritage rich elements. Hopefully, as Steven Lackmeyer also hopes,  more city and local leaders will recognize the need and benefit from highlighting this area as a broader "Route 66-OKC" tourist feature. 

Wesley UMC
The Wesley UMC retains many significant aspects: artistic, original stained glass dating from its building in the late 1920's.  Highly detailed Gothic architecture reflects the teaching moments of the Middle Ages churches. In that distant era church goers often did not understand the Latin of the old church services, they were uneducated, and illiterate.  The old catherdrals were often called 'sermons in stone' because of their use of artistic means to teach Bible stories and theology.  The Sanctuary of Wesley is laid out in the classic shape of a cross, the doctrine of the trinity is expressed through the use of classic symbols and the groupings of doors and lights in sets of three.

Deeply imbedded into the early history of Oklahoma City, this stretch of Route 66 offers glimpses of both a bustling growing modern city but also rare glimpses of the rich heritage hiding around nearly every corner. 

Put the sunglasses on and take a trip down old Route 66....Oklahoma City Uptown area.

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