Jenks City Limits Quickly Filling Up

Contributing Editor

RIVER CITY: Much work has been completed on plans for the Arkansas River, which will positively impact Jenks. River development has already been nurtured by the Oklahoma Aquarium and the RiverWalk shopping complex.

In five years, says Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland, his city will be full.
“We’re bounded by Tulsa, Bixby, Glenpool and Sapulpa,” says Vreeland. “There’s no new land to annex.

“Right now we have a few residential areas left but they are being snapped up by developers. We still have commercial land along the Arkansas River and Highway 75, but when that is gone we’ll be hemmed in. From that point on most of the activity in Jenks will be replacing the older neighborhoods and that redevelopment has already begun.”

The last two decades have been busy for Jenks. Once a sleepy rural community it began to take off in the mid-80s when Main Street began featuring antique stores. The growing reputation of its outstanding school system and the residential move to the south of Tulsa helped speed its development.

Development along the Arkansas River has improved the life of the city, Vreeland says. The aquarium “is meeting all its projections and has been hailed by the state Department of Tourism as the top tourist attraction in Oklahoma.’

The RiverWalk commercial development is about to begin its second phase.

Jenks, says Vreeland, is not only maturing but is maturing with a lot of careful planning on how to make the best possible use of the remaining land.

Once upon a time being squeezed for space would have been the furthest thing from a Jenks resident’s mind.

It was begun as a passenger rail depot built by the Missouri Valley Railroad in 1904 and named after a railroad official. The first resident of the city was a doctor who took up the second floor of the two-story depot but left his piano downstairs possibly, it is conjectured, because they couldn’t haul it up the narrow stairs.

The piano served handsomely, however, for the depot’s waiting room. It doubled as a hall for Sunday church services, which were held every week promptly at 10 a.m. unless the passenger train hadn’t gone past the station. Services were delayed until the train rumbled down the track.

The Lions Club of Jenks has compiled a marvelous oral history titled “Main Street Memories: 1900-2005,” complete with ancient photographs of the city, which shows what life was like in early Jenks.

Halloweens were spent with the town rowdies tipping over the outhouses that adorned almost every house as indoor plumbing was virtually unknown.

The city suffered from almost annual floods, not from the Arkansas River but nearby Polecat Creek. It took years to build the protections that would control the damage.

A Jenks High School yearbook featured advertising from a merchant that could be reached by telephone. His phone number was 23.

During the Depression one helpful gas station operator sold gas by the half-gallon (cost: 11-cents) so the local teenagers could afford enough gasoline to practice driving.

The stretch on Delaware Avenue between East 91st Street and the bridge crossing the Arkansas River into Jenks was devoted to a chicken and egg farm well into the 1950s.

That was Jenks then. Around 1975, Vreeland recalls, a high-end house would go for $150,000.

“Now we have houses selling in the $2 million range.”

Jenks is almost full to the brim now, but the foundations for a healthy financial future have been placed with care.

“Jenks is an unusual community,” says Vreeland. “Being hemmed in as we are by other communities we’re as big as you want to be or as small as you want to be. It all depends on your

Updated 04-23-2007

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