Three Forks History: The drive-in movie theater was located downtown | Lifestyles
In the early days of Muskogee, Broadway was called Agency Street because the Union Agency was located at the corner of Broadway and Main Street. For many years the 300 block of West Broadway was a residential area, with a number of boarding houses and multi-family dwellings.
After statehood, Block 300 had been cleared as the downtown business district expanded west from Main Street. A building boom was launched around 1910 and a number of “skyscrapers” were erected downtown including the Barnes, Flynn-Ames, Surety, Phoenix (Manhattan) and Mid-Continent Buildings as well as the Hotel Severs. Yet most of the 300 block on the north side of the street remained undeveloped at this time.
For several years an outdoor theater operated west of the Mid-Continent Building. The theater screen was angled at the southeast corner of the field, and fences extended to the west and north of it. Flyers announcing upcoming events in Muskogee plastered the fences like the billboards of sports stadiums today. Vendors sold hot chocolate, toasted nuts and popcorn from portable carts they pulled down the street between the various downtown theaters.
The first mention of the address for 310 W. Broadway is in the 1917 city directory. This would indicate that the building was probably completed in 1916. It bears the name BAILEY on its ornate facade.
A search for individuals named Bailey during this period reveals that it is very likely that the building was financed by DeRoos Bailey, a prominent Muskogee attorney who had his law practice in the Barnes Building. Bailey was the legal partner of JE Wyand, who was the mayor of Muskogee at the time the Bailey Building was erected.
Mrs. DeRoos Bailey was also an influential citizen of Muskogee. She helped organize Muskogee’s first library and worked with the city to secure a $55,000 grant from the Carnegie Foundation to build the library on East Broadway.
The first company located at 310 W. Broadway, listed in the 1917 directory, was the Muskogee Carnation Company, owned by Robert Bebb. Robert came to Muskogee in 1910 and purchased a flower business from AZ English with a greenhouse located at Fourth and Kalamazoo streets. Bebb, whose father was a renowned botanist, amassed a collection of native Oklahoma plants that numbered in the thousands. He donated his 33,000 species of plants to the University of Oklahoma.
Several different businesses have occupied the Bailey Building over the years, including the Bebb Floral Company, the Fletcher Optical Company, Tony’s Outdoors, and the Muskogee Chamber of Commerce.
Contact Jonita Mullins at [email protected]