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WPA apartments gave hope to many families

Mary Phillips Published: January 17, 2013

An anniversary slipped by last month.

75 years of anything is generally a milestone to recognize.

On Oct. 31, 1937, more than 600 people attended a formal dedication of Will Rogers Courts, a WPA project for low-income families

The complex near SW 15 and Petee consisted of 37 acres with 354 apartments, a park, a laundry, a community building and playground.

The opening was eagerly awaited by many, although the public project’s construction phase was sometimes bogged down with political red tape and delays.

Mr. and Mrs. Richard Thomas and their 1-year-old daughter, Dixie Lynn, were chosen to be the first tenants.

They were excited.

They had been living in two rooms of an old house where the only available water was from the bathtub faucet and shared with other renters.

They would be moving into an ultramodern three-room apartment in Will Rogers Courts.

” ‘Gosh!’ exclaimed Thomas, who took his family out to look at their new home …

“1603 Rotary Drive! It sounds like it might be in Nichols Hills or someplace like that.”

“It’ll seem just like heaven,” said Mrs. Thomas. “My folks were coming down to see us from Iowa next month. I just hated for them to come to our old place. Now I’ll be proud.”

“It would be impossible to understand the happiness of the Thomases, without seeing them in their old surroundings, then in their new surroundings.

“The look in their eyes and the smiles on their faces, spelling hope and faith in the future, answered a lot of questions about the government’s housing project,” reported The Oklahoman on the front page on Aug. 27, 1937.

Thomas was a taxi driver making $22 a week, and his wife was a homemaker.

Their previous home was an apartment in an old house in poor repair that rented for $19.50 a month, while their new apartment would cost $21.70 and include all utilities. They would have a working kitchen, complete bathroom and a laundry and a park nearby.

Not only are the buildings still standing, but Will Rogers Courts, administered by the Oklahoma Housing Authority, are still providing shelter for Oklahoma City’s low-income families 75 years later.

The project’s mission still remains the same: to provide housing for low-income citizens, providing families hope of a better future.