The City of Midwest City is celebrating its 75th Anniversary throughout 2017. To tell our story, throughout the year we will be writing additional articles about a variety of subjects. Midwest City has a very proud heritage and one that is unique in America. We start today with possibly the most important story – how we began…
The year was 1940. As Germany was in the process of invading several countries throughout Europe, the United States was gearing up for a Lend-Lease program that would provide aircraft to Great Britain and in preparation of our own U.S. defense.
As war-clouds were gathering and bombs were dropping overseas, the United States was experiencing a time of renewal and hope. The Great Depression had just ended in 1939, giving our citizens optimism for a better life.
Much of this renewed hope could be found even in America’s music of the early forties. It has been said by some that the music of the forties brought a renewal of American pride and spirit. Why not? This was most of all the age of the Big Band era, whose 17-piece big bands crooned out such swinging tunes as “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “In the Mood,” “Take the ‘A’ Train” and many more. Music by such notable song writers as Cole Porter, Richard Rogers and Irving Berlin filled the airwaves and nightclubs throughout the country. America was on the up and up after the Great Depression. There was a lot to enjoy during this time.
At the same time, however, war intensity was increasing overseas. The U.S. War Department was in the process of locating a site somewhere in the middle of the United States, that could be developed as an aircraft factory. Civic leaders in Oklahoma City established the Industries Foundation, a trust through which the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce could purchase land for such a factory, later changing that to an air depot site instead.
Two site locations were submitted to the War Department: one north of Norman on State Highway 74 and one on S.E. 29th ST. On March 8, 1941, the Air Corps site selection board arrived in the area to announce that the air depot would be built on S.E. 29th ST. The depot was designated as Midwest Air Depot and on July 18, 1941, construction began.
During 1940, the idea for building a new community occurred when it became knowledge that the War Department was wanting to expand the U. S. Army Air Corps, by constructing air bases around the nation in locations with good year-round flying weather. The announcement that the Oklahoma City area was a finalist in the competition for a Midwest Air Depot created great interest in real estate speculation. Following hints that were published in the Daily Oklahoman newspaper, C.B. Warr and W.P. “Bill” Atkinson each purchased large tracts of land where they speculated the facility might be built. Atkinson guessed correctly as he purchased an area that sat directly north of where the new facility would be built. He named the new city Midwest City, after the proposed name of the airfield, Midwest Air Depot.
After conferring with Pentagon officials to ascertain their needs, Atkinson began home construction in April 1942 at the corner of East Trumbull and East Boeing streets, which is the area that is still referred to as the Original Mile.
Atkinson’s concept was to create a community that would act as a support system to then, Midwest Air Depot. He not only built affordable homes, he also recruited businesses, such as grocery stores, retail and services. Citizens soon adopted a charter-council-city manager form of government to better manage its rapid growth.
Atkinson hired the services of Seward Mott, the director of the Federal Housing Administration’s Land Planning Division to assist in designing the city. Because of his innovative and creative design, the city attracted national attention and it became a model for postwar community development. In 1951 the National Association of Home Builders recognized Midwest City as "America's Model City."