Hell's Half Acre

Stop 14: At Santa Fe Station at the SE corner of W Reno and EK Gaylord Blvd, Downtown

Big Anne Wynn, the town's most prominent madam, pitched a tent on Front Street on the day of the Run to provide female companionship for the overwhelmingly male population.

Disembarking at Santa Fe Station new arrivals encountered a district that came to be known as Hell's Half Acre. The streets were referred to as Alabaster Row, Hop Boulevard, and Bunco Alley. Nine billiard halls and 18 club houses were counted in the city directory of August, 1889. Big Anne Wynn became a powerful figure in the shadow world of adult entertainment which provided the city with consistent revenues and challenges in law enforcement.

The western edge of the block was Broadway, nicknamed Battle Row. At various times it housed the Two Johns Saloon, the Black and Rogers Saloon, the Turf Club, and the Vendome (the plushest bawdy house in town), alongside the First National Bank, the Lee Hotel, and above the Black and Rogers Saloon, the city council chambers and police court.

For years a war raged between the advocates for enforcing morality, and those favoring an open city even if the edges were a bit rowdy. The city government derived revenues from license fees on the saloons and dance halls, and many of its prominent citizens enjoyed an occasional visit. Oklahoma City attracted people from all over the country, and offered a flourishing den of temptation.
 

  • 1862
    The Homestead Act opens up settlement in the western U.S. by allowing any adult American to claim up to 160 acres of free federal land. 15,000 claims are made by the end of the Civil War.
  • 1866
    The Civilized Tribes are forced to cede large portions of their land, including the Unassigned Lands, to the U.S. Government for relocation of other Native American nations.
  • 1880
    Boomers begin attempts to settle in the Unassigned Lands. The U.S. military repeatedly forces them out.
  • 1887
    The Santa Fe Railroad from Kansas to Texas is completed. Multiple stops are opened in the Unassigned Lands.
  • January-March 1889
    Creek and Seminole Nations release claims to the Unassigned Lands, and Congress approves opening the land for settlement.
  • March-April 1889
    "Boomer camps" pop up along and inside the borders of the Unassigned Lands.
  • March 23, 1889
    President Harrison's Proclamation sets noon on April 22 as the time and date for the Land Run
  • April 19, 1889
    Prospective settlers are escorted from the Kansas and Texas borders to the perimeter of the Unassigned Lands. Those already inside are required to leave.
  • April 20, 1889
    Land east of the railroad tracks at Oklahoma Station is reserved for military use
  • April 22, 1889 at noon
    Oklahoma Land Run officially begins.

 

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