A Brief History of Oklahoma County Government
Oklahoma County marked its beginnings right along with the Oklahoma Territory. It was one of the first seven counties in Oklahoma, organized under the Organic Act passed by Congress on May 2, 1890. It was designated County Number 2 until voters renamed it Oklahoma County.
Located in the State's geographic center, Oklahoma County has a population of more than 650,000 residents located in an area of 720 square miles. County leaders show their commitment to excellence in local government through strong leadership, high standards of professionalism, public accountability, and active citizen participation.
In the early days of Oklahoma County, all County business was transacted in a building located at California and Robinson Streets, now no longer in existence.
On November 4, 1904, Oklahoma County began the construction of the first Oklahoma County Courthouse at 520 West Main Street with a bond issue of $100,000. The building was used as the courthouse until 1937 when county government moved to the building at 321 Park Avenue, which currently serves as the main courthouse. In those days, however, the building housed all county offices and the courts.
The Courthouse building was erected during the depression by a $600,000 bond issue approved by the people of Oklahoma County as well as a $540,000 contribution from the Federal Government through the Public Works Administration.
Meanwhile, the original courthouse on Main Street was sold on November 28, 1949, for $327,997 to four local philanthropists - C. R. Anthony, L. A. Macklanburg, Harvey P. Earnest, and B. D. Eddie - who submitted the highest bid to take the empty structure off the hands of the County government.
By 1965, the Courthouse on Park Avenue was bulging with offices, court rooms, and was totally inadequate to properly serve the taxpayers of Oklahoma County. Departments were overcrowded, and some departments and courts were housed in rented space outside the Courthouse. A $6 million bond issue was approved by voters in 1965 to construct a County Office Building at 320 Robert S. Kerr Avenue and linked to the existing Courthouse by crosswalks. The six-story building opened in 1967.
Situated in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City, the main county complex includes the Courthouse, County Office Building, Investors Capital Building, and Metro Parking Garage located at the corner of Park Avenue and Robert S. Kerr Avenue. The new jail at 201 N. Shartel Ave., the Human Services Center at 7401 N.E. 23rd, the Juvenile Justice Center at 5905 N. Classen Blvd., and field offices for each of the Commissioners. Oklahoma County government is multi-million dollar business with more than 1,500 employees.
Prior to 1986, the administration of juvenile justice was conducted in offices in the County Office Building, in the courthouse, and in offices outside the County Complex. With changes in state law and a need to consolidate its services, Oklahoma County built the Juvenile Center, which started operation on October 1, 1986. It houses the County Juvenile Bureau, the Juvenile Division of the District Court, and the juvenile detention facility.
For years, the Oklahoma County jail was contained in the top three floors of the Courthouse. By the mid-1980's, however, server overcrowding required a new facility. In 1986, County Commissioners began the process to build a new County Jail. Oklahoma County voters on October 13, 1987, approved a one-year, one-cent sales tax to raise $43 million for construction. The new jail opened in November, 1991, and includes 1,200 cells and the Sheriff's Department.
The Investors Capital Building, which is adjacent to the County Office Building, was sought by a County trust and deeded to County government. Several County offices are housed in the building as well as private offices which lease space from the County.