Guthrie Historic District: Guthrie, Oklahoma

Planning Excellence

Although rural Guthrie, Oklahoma, has faced economic struggles in the past, Guthrie Historic District is a neighborhood that fosters creativity and community involvement. Embracing its historic character has been a key to simultaneously improving the health of residents, creating a welcoming place for visitors, and bolstering the local economy of this Oklahoma town.

A street in Guthrie's downtown district, which features ground-level commercial space and apartments above. Photo courtesy City of Guthrie.

Guthrie was established in 1887 as a railroad station stop, gaining residents and development during the Land Run of 1889, and later becoming the capital of Oklahoma in 1907. During financial struggles and population loss in the mid-20th century, the impoverished town lacked the resources to demolish its urban center, thus providing the intact historic core that remains today.

The Guthrie Historic District, designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1999 — and the largest historic urban district in the state of Oklahoma with more than 2,000 buildings — is significant for its collection of late 19th and early 20th century commercial architecture. The historic bones of Guthrie provided a canvas on which the city proactively implemented innovative health-focused initiatives, such as a complete streets ordinance, especially significant in a small, rural town.

Guthrie was the second city in Oklahoma to adopt a complete streets ordinance. Over the past few years, bike racks have been placed throughout downtown, and the city is in the process of connecting downtown to multiple parks with trails and bike lanes. Additionally, Guthrie has its own on-demand transportation system, the First Capital Trolley, an uncommon amenity for a small (roughly 10,000 people) community.

The streets host multiple events, including an Open Streets event, which has received statewide recognition for its growth and urban planning. Guthrie was recognized for six years in the Certified Healthy Oklahoma Program, in part for its wide sidewalks and overall quality of life design elements, and is looking forward to adding a new downtown wayfinding kiosk that will provide residents and tourists the walking distance to historic buildings.

For the last eight years, local business owners, city leaders, and community leaders have participated in Bike to Work Day. Photo courtesy Courtney McLemore.

The University of Oklahoma Institute of Quality Communities partnered with Guthrie to study the economic impacts of a Mumford and Sons tour, and ultimately provided the city with increased tax revenue to use for grant programs to enhance safety for people walking and biking in the district.

Historic Downtown Guthrie is one of eight Oklahoma communities to be awarded a Creative Community designation. The focus of Guthrie’s designation is the Elbow — once an African American neighborhood, and now a large undeveloped greenspace — with the hope of activating the overgrown area with increased accessibility by trail network and collaboration with the arts community. The City of Guthrie is working with the local communities and a district school to enliven the area with vibrantly painted crosswalks.

Innovative planning, embracing the past, and fostering partnerships with local schools and universities have helped Guthrie to creatively envision downtown economic development, and to bring vitality to the historic core for both residents and visitors.

Defining Characteristics and Features

  • A nonprofit organization works closely with the City of Guthrie to rehabilitate brick sidewalks.
  • Fully renovated apartments are located above the Historic Guthrie businesses, providing residents walking access to food, businesses, and public spaces.
  • Bicycle parking infrastructure can be found throughout the downtown district.
  • Guthrie is in the process of connecting downtown to multiple parks around the city with trails and bike lanes.

Designated Area

Roughly bounded by Oklahoma Avenue on the north, Broad Street on the east, Harrison Avenue on the south, and the railroad tracks on the west; also includes 301 W. Harrison Avenue.

The City of Guthrie placed eight bike racks located in parking places around Historic Downtown to increase bikeability. Photo courtesy City of Guthrie.

Learn More

WPA Walking Tour

City of Guthrie tourism website

Red Brick Revival Foundation

Guthrie History