This Week in Sapulpa History: Dewey Ave gets a new look

Rachel Whitney
Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum

The Mother Road of America was established in late 1926 and began connecting many states along the now infamous highway. From Chicago, Illinois through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona to Santa Monica, California, the stretch of road became a historic icon. The inspiration was planned by Cyrus Avery (of Tulsa, OK) and John Woodruff (of Springfield, MO) as they advocated the American Association of State Highway Officials.

This 1930s photo looking east down Dewey Ave shows the angled and parallel parking, prior to the street’s widening by the state highway department.

At first, each town was in charge of their section of the highway. Later, State Highway Departments were ahead of the projects of highways. This week in Sapulpa history, on June 5, 1937, it was announced that Dewey Ave would be under construction to widen the highway.

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“Fred Cowden, Chamber of Commerce President, revealed plans [for] widening of Dewey Avenue through Sapulpa from the west city limits.” Of the 375 miles of Route 66 in our state, Sapulpa’s construction would consist of 9 miles, and was the only town in Oklahoma to have plans for construction on the Mother Road that year.

Announcement to Widen the Road in Sapulpa Herald, June 5, 1937.
“Sapulpa is Ready,” Sapulpa Herald, October 29, 1937.

“Relative to widening of Dewey Avenue, Cowden stated that the sidewalks on each side would be cut down to carry better highway traffic. The State Highway Department would insist on only parallel parking.” Prior, along the Business District on Dewey, angle parking was used along the traffic.

At first, the City had kept in mind to keep angle parking, however, it was met by resistance from the State Highway Commission. In October 1937, “Dr. W.E. Grisso, Chairman of the State Highway Commission, stated unless cities between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, including Sapulpa cleared traffic obstacles there would be agitation started for federal placement of a by-pass around the towns or an airline highway that would leave them ‘high and dry.’”

At the time of the statement, Sapulpa had angle parking on the north side of Dewey, with parallel parking on the other side. “The City Manager, Fred Boone, agreed with Dr. Grisso was ready to recommend to City Commissioners an amendment of the present parking ordinance to provide parallel regulations on both sides of Dewey from Poplar St to Oak St and even out to Maple St if necessary.”

This 1940s photo looking west down Dewey Avenue after the widening and move to parallel parking. At the time, the change was hailed as a “highly practical move.”

Fred Cowden had mentioned that the ultimatum from the State Highway was only a newspaper story, and the City always had intentions to establish only parallel parking. “‘When I talked with Dr. Grisso and proposed parallel parking, he talked of prohibiting parking on Dewey altogether. The City is willing to cooperate with the Highway Commission, but would also like to secure help from the state in maintenance of Dewey Ave.’”

In November 1937, it was announced the changes ordered by the commissioners in the new parking ordinance. “Parallel parking on both sides of Dewey Ave east from Main St to the railroad…buses will not be permitted to stop and load or unload on Dewey Ave.” It further stated that there is no parking on West Dewey, southside, between Poplar and Main Streets. Furthermore, limited parking to a two-hour stretch from 7 AM to 6 PM on Dewey from Main St to Walnut St.

A two-hour parking limit was implemented in November of 1937.

Finally on November 8, 1937, orders for no parking along Dewey due to the new paint being laid for the new parking layout. “This move is being made in order that there will be less congestion on the busiest street in the city and highway traffic through Sapulpa will have privileges of through traffic. There will be less cause for accidents, according to J.O. Edwards, Chief of Police, which have been caused from backing away from curbs [due to angle parking]. The straight parking is in compliance with the State Highway Department wishes.”

Just two week later, “Sapulpa’s parallel parking down Dewey Ave has had sufficient time to prove it is a highly practical move…Crowded conditions on Saturday nights formerly made this lane extremely narrow and difficult to navigate. And car drivers have cooperated and swung into the new habit with ease.”