Midwest City's 75th Anniversary: A History
The Original Mile
Midwest City started out as a one-square mile area which contained homes, a school, a park and a retail area which was located between Air Depot and Midwest Blvd, and SE 15th St and SE 29th St. The neighborhood, designed and planned by W.P. “Bill” Atkinson, was developed to house the employees of the nearby Midwest Air Depot, which was later renamed Tinker Air Force Base.
“The original square mile was arranged as a family-friendly community, complete with shopping centers, churches, parks and schools. He wanted Midwest City to be a community where families could enjoy a good life, all the while supporting the ongoing work at the base," said Atikinson’s daughter Eugenia Atkinson Davis.
Atkinson was a thematic developer and builder. In development of the original mile, the streets were alphabetically named for aircraft companies and military officers, such as Boeing, Lockheed, Key and Gruman. This helped people in locating addresses easily, since they were all in alphabetical order. In the second phase of the original mile, the streets were named for trees and shrubs, and when a family purchased one of the homes, Atkinson gave them a tree or shrub that corresponded to the name of their street.
“Granddaddy planned the family friendly community around the military air depot theme. The curvy streets and cul-de-sacs were arranged in alphabetical order and were named after military officials or aircraft. The original downtown shopping center on 29th Street was built in the shape of an airplane,” explained Atkinson’s granddaughter Cindy Mikeman.
It’s said that Atkinson purchased the wheat field two weeks before the air field’s location was announced, after studying an Oklahoma County Map and deciding it was the logical place to build an air field. Atkinson then, along with Seward Mott, a Washington architect and director of the Land Planning Division of the Federal Housing, planned out the community. The streets were designed to help avoid cars speeding through them, making them safer for families and children out playing.
There is a plan in place to revitalize the original mile, in an attempt to preserve the historical neighborhood as well as update it and make it more family friendly. The city of Midwest City awarded a $70,000 contract to TAP Architecture of Oklahoma City to create a master park plan for the Original Mile in the fall of 2016. The firm has been tasked with creating space for a dog park, spray ground and performance space for family-friendly entertainment.
The Atkinson Heritage Center
The Atkinson Heritage Center is the historic family home of W.P. “Bill” Atkinson (1906-1999), who was the founder of Midwest City among many other things. The home, located at 1001 N. Midwest Blvd was built in 1955 and is currently owned by the Rose State College Foundation. It has been maintained as it was built and still has the original furnishings and décor inside. The property is maintained by Rose State College as a historic community resource and meeting facility and is open for tours by appointment. There is a conference room inside of the home that can be rented for meetings, reunions and parties. The main parts of the house can’t be used for any gatherings in order to preserve it as a historic property, however it can be rented for photo sessions. Rose State is currently taking steps to get the home on the historic National Register.
The property also includes a pony barn, formerly the home to the Shetland ponies that were a part of the Atkinson Pony Club, which has now been converted to a museum and history center. Each of the pony stalls is dedicated to a particular area or organization and houses memorabilia and photos for that section. This includes Tinker Air force Base, Midwest City, Spencer, Harrah and more. The stall area can be rented for meetings and gatherings. It also has a conference room area which can be rented out.
Atkinson went into the home building business in 1938 and within two years he was recognized as the leading home builder in Oklahoma. Atkinson’s dream to build a complete city developed in 1942 when he founded Midwest City on what was then the edge of Oklahoma City. That same year Atkinson and his wife, Rubye, began the planning and construction of their magnificent home located at N.E. 10th and Midwest Blvd, which was built in stages. Atkinson also began developing the Ridgecrest housing addition surrounding the area in the 1950’s, which he came up with the idea to offer each family a Shetland pony with the purchase of the home. Each home had a single pony barn in the yard, but for the families that didn’t want it housed at their home, Atkinson built the large pony barn at his residence where the ponies could be kept instead.
“There wasn’t a day that went by that granddaddy wasn’t creating and thinking about new things to come. He was a total visionary who was outside the box thinking constantly about better ways that people could be comfortable raising their families in communities,” said Atkinson’s granddaughter Cindy Mikeman, who works for Rose State College and helps run the Atkinson Heritage Center.
In the early days when it was first built, the house was used for several years as the Tinker Officer’s Club. Many times the Tinker Officer’s Club will still rent the facility to hold special events including retirements and special recognitions, in honor of it being the first location of the Officer’s Club.
It was Atkinson’s desire that the home be turned into the historical center for Midwest City, which is why the family donated the property to Rose State College in 2004 following Atkinson’s death in 1999. For more information about the Atkinson Heritage center you can call (405) 733-7368, or e-mail
The Atkinson Pony Barn and Club
Imagine going to buy a home and being offered a free pony along with the house. Imagine a childhood where walking outside and saddling up your pony to ride around the neighborhood was a way of life. This was exactly how it was for one of Midwest City’s neighborhoods back in the 1950s.
W.P. “Bill” Atkinson wore many different hats during his lifetime. One of those happened to be the owner of the Atkinson Pony Barn and Club, which was attached to his home and the surrounding Ridgecrest addition that he developed and built in the 1950s. His own magnificent home was built on the corner of N.E. 10th and Midwest Blvd, and attached to his property was the pony barn which housed dozens of Shetland ponies for the residents of the neighborhood.
Atkinson decided to offer every homeowner a free pony with the home, which was a brilliant marketing tool at the time.
“Granddaddy was an incredible marketer, he would take people in to look at these homes and the first stop that they would make was in the kitchen. He wanted the lady of the home to see the beautiful new appliances and then they would go through the house and the last trip was to the back door. He would open the door and pick up a bucket of oats and shake the bucket of oats and the saddled pony would come up,” explained Cindy Mikeman, granddaughter of Atkinson. “Well the poor man of the home would have no other choice because the wife was so excited about the kitchen and the lazy susan and all the beautiful appliances and the kids were so excited about that pony.”
Each of the homes in the Ridgecrest addition came with its own single pony barn on the property, however for those that didn’t want to keep it there, they had the option of keeping it at the larger pony barn locate on Atkinson’s property. On Sunday afternoons the community was invited to the barn and the kids would ride their ponies while the adults would visit with neighbors and enjoy the day. The Atkinson family also had a young man, Joe Cole, who was referred to as ‘Little Joe’ who would take care of the ponies during the day at the pony barn. The residents who kept their ponies in the barn could call Cole ahead of time and he would have the pony saddled and ready to go when they got there to ride it. Hundreds of children came through those barn doors riding their ponies throughout the years, setting the scene for an idyllic childhood and community. Cole still resides in Midwest City and keeps in contact with the Atkinson family.
“Granddaddy started out with show ponies and gradually got into ponies that the kids could ride because these show ponies were quite expensive,” explained Mikeman. “There’s a gentleman that’s working on a statue of grandaddy’s likeness, which will be down on 29th street, and it’s him standing next to a Shetland pony. The problem that we are running into, is there are two different ponies and their shape is totally different. So we’re trying to cross between the show pony just because it’s more streamlined looking versus the ponies that the kids rode, which were just big and stocky.”
The pony barn was donated by Atkinson and his family to Rose State College and is used as a historical center as well as an events center which can be rented out. The property is helped managed by Mikeman who works for Rose State. For more information, call (405) 733-7368, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Historical names of Midwest City
You are probably familiar with Joe B. Barnes Regional Park, but have you ever wondered about the man it was named after? Joe B. Barnes (1931-2013) was an important member of the Midwest City community for many years. He and his wife LaFern, moved to Midwest City in May of 1957. Shortly after moving to Midwest City Barnes served as Vice President of First National Bank of Midwest City. He then opened the business Edgewood Mobile Homes Park and Sales and then soon became the owner of Smith Hardware
“He broke his chainsaw and he went down to Smith Hardware to buy a chainsaw, well they didn’t have any,” explained his wife LaFern. “So he came home and he said “Well you now own Smith Hardware.” And I said “What?” and he said “Well they didn’t have a chainsaw but they will have from now on.” And so he bought the place.”
Among being a business owner, Barnes served as the Ward 6 Councilman of Midwest City from 1962 to 1968. He also served on the original Board of Trustees for the Midwest City Municipal Hospital and the original Board of Trustees of the Master Conservancy District. Barnes was one of the first appointees by Governor Dewey Bartlett to the Oscar Rose Junior College Board of Trustees where he served from 1970 to 1976. In 1973 he was appointed by Governor David Hall to the College’s Board of Regents, and later elected by colleagues as the chairman of Board of Regents.
“I think his heart of hearts was in Rose State probably. He was proud to be able to start that and be involved and see it all the way through. I think of everything he did, that was what he cared about the most.” Said Barnes’ daughter Rhonda Barnes Burnett.
On May 1, 1976 Barnes became the Treasurer for Oklahoma County and remained in that office for 18 years. During his tenure, Barnes was the first treasurer in the history of that office to implement investment policies that have provided additional funds for county services.
“The three Councilmen from Oklahoma City called him and wanted to go to lunch. They took him to lunch and he came back and said that they wanted to appoint him County Treasurer because Jack Blackwell had just resigned,” recalled LaFern.
Barnes has also served as Oklahoma County Coordinator for the Tinker clearance project in Glenwood, Finance Chairman of BRAC Committee, and the finance chairman of the Star Spangled Salute at Tinker. Barnes has also served as a board member for the First National Bank of Midwest City, board member for the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce, board member for Midwest Regional Medical Center, and Chairman of the finance committee for the expansion of Tinker Air Force Base.
“I always just felt like dad was just a true servant. I don’t think he ever thought of himself as a politician, we never thought of him as a politician, we just thought of him as servant because he had a servant’s heart. Whether it was you know helping with something with Tinker, or the County, he was always helping people personally, he had a big heart. He would never turn anyone away, that’s just what he did.”
Barnes also had his hand in commercial real estate development and was the owner of Barnes and Johnson Funeral home.
“With the funeral home he felt it was kind of like a ministry to the community, and when he passed away that was one of the last things he had ever said to me was that he had done right by his family, he was right with the Lord, and he had done right by his community and that’s all he could ask for in his life, and that’s how he was. He truly did care about others,” explained Burnett.
Barnes’ contributions to this city and the community as a whole was the reason that regional park was renamed in his honor in 1984.
The Reed Family
The Reed Convention Center, which was opened in 2006, was named after a prominent family with roots deep in Midwest City.
Marion Carlton Reed moved to Midwest City in February of 1945 when he began working at Tinker Air Force Base as an aircraft inspector. Reed also established an independent income tax prep business in Midwest City at the time. In 1949 he was the first city councilman elected in Midwest City under the new city-manager form of government. Five months later, the city’s mayor moved, and Reed was named acting Mayor. Reed served as the mayor of Midwest City for 22 years. He was elected for seven separate terms, making him the longest serving mayor in Midwest City history.
During Reed’s time as Mayor he also served as chairman of the Industrial Authority, President of ACOG, and was also a member of the Urban Renewal Authority. He was also very active in the community in other ways like being a member of the Board of Directors of Autumn House and the Lake Thunderbird Water Conservatory. Reed was also a founding member of the Midwest City Elks club. It was under his leadership that the funds for the development of Midwest City’s first hospital were raised as well as the first Midwest City Library being started.
Reed’s son, Eddie, followed closely in his father’s footsteps. Not only did he follow by working at the family owned Tax business, but he also became mayor of Midwest City in 1993 and served 13 years until 2006, which was the second longest serving mayor. Eddie became the first Midwest City mayor in two decades to win re-election in 1998 when no one filed to oppose him.
Eddie’s son Sean also grew up to work in the family owned tax business as well as became a city councilman for Midwest City in 2016. Reed’s Tax Service is currently the oldest business in Midwest City now. Their first tax records are dated in 1943. Their walls are also decorated with photos of what Midwest City used to look like once upon a time, as well as with memorabilia from Eddie’s and Marion’s years as city councilmen and mayor, making it a historical center as much as a tax office.
Oscar V. and Virginia Rose
The name Rose can be found all over Midwest City, from Rose State College, Sooner-Rose Elementary, Rose Field, and the Oscar V. and Virginia Rose Administration Center at Mid-Del Schools. These things were all named in honor of the Rose family, including the first superintendent in Midwest City, Oscar V. Rose (1899-1969).
Rose was hired in April 1943 as Superintendent, but at the time there wasn’t even an actual school district for the newly founded Midwest City, which meant Rose had his work cut out for him. His district consisted of two country school buildings, five teachers and 125 students when he began. Rose worked diligently to build the district and the school system. He also realized the financial concerns of having a town full of families that were employed at a non-taxable federal property, and having a school funded from property taxes. The new school district wasn’t going to be able to keep up financially with it’s growth. There were many other places like this who were also impacted by federal properties. So Rose created an unofficial organization of superintendents from these federally impacted areas. They worked hard at getting a federal Impact Aid funding program in place. Rose and his group worked with Oklahoma’s powerful Congressional delegation, and they were able to get the bills passed and in place.
Rose, along with J.E. Sutton who was the district’s first principal, formed Midwest City High School. By 1964 MCHS was the third largest school in the state and had both excellent facilities and a highly competent faculty. Many factors played into the district growing so quickly and becoming so successful which included financial intelligence at work, funding excellent facilities and a competitive pay schedule that attracted highly competent faculty. After just seven years it was the fifth largest district in the state.
Rose developed close ties with congressional staffers on authorization committees and with the bureaucrats who administered the Department of Health, Education and Welfare which greatly helped him in gaining impact aid funding.
Rose was called “The school man who knew everything there was to know in school finance,” by the Daily Oklahoman on the day following Rose’s sudden death in office in January 1969 while he was in Washington D.C.
The school board also hired Rose’s wife, Virginia, to be the new Sooner Elementary principal in 1943 when they hired him. Mrs. Rose was every bit the schools person her husband was and she successfully led Sooner Elementary as principal until her retirement in 1967. The school was renamed Sooner-Rose in her honor at that time.
Oscar Rose Junior College was founded in September 1970, and was later renamed Rose State College in 1983. Rose had a vision that one day, Midwest City would have a college to call its own. He even lobbied the proper politicians and encouraged and guided those who wrote the legislation. Sadly Rose wasn’t able to see that to completion when he died suddenly from a heart attack in January 1969. He had been attending a national conference of school superintendents from federally impacted schools.
Rose had also been the national chairman of the Federal Activity School Superintendents from 1947 until his death, and was a local and national participant in White House conferences on education. He also had served as president of Oklahoma School Administrators Association.