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The Story of “America’s Corner”

Explaining a tourism idea that never came to pass



 



You know you’re getting close to Oklahoma City when one of the giant maps flashes by, about 20 miles outside the city proper.
 

Chipper and striking in red, white and blue, the body-length signs are staked on the right shoulder of the interstates and turnpike, greeting traffic on its way to the capital city.

They show a silhouette of the continental United States, depicted with an odd combination of detail – illustrating, for instance, the precise shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico, Cape Cod and Chesapeake Bay alongside a maybe-something-like-this attitude toward the border with Mexico, coupled with a middle-school-geography-test shrug of the shoulders in outlining the Great Lakes and Michigan.

But so what? The most important elements of the sign have nothing to do with the other 47 states on this map; it’s Oklahoma that is the star.

Reimagined larger than the state of Texas, standing out boldly in red against a nation of white, Super Oklahoma stretches from Nevada to Illinois, Texas to Nebraska.

Its interstate arteries – I-35, I-44 and I-40 – meet in the center, pinpointing the heart of the state and the precise interchange motorists are barreling toward.

The sign announces the news: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING AMERICA’S CORNER.

But that is the last travelers will hear of it. The intersections themselves make no mention of the designation. America’s Corner is not listed in tourism brochures, flogged on truck stop magnets or featured on T-shirts. Only a handful of photos are posted online, taken of the signs from windows of fast-moving vehicles or by daredevils who pull over on the interstate for a quick shot.

What gives?

As it happens, this month marks the 20th anniversary of the birth of America’s Corner. In the first week of June 1996, Oklahoma’s Transportation Commission approved an action called for by Senate Joint Resolution 37, “to promote the state as a national hub for transportation-sensitive industries.” The resolution had requested that a 20-mile radius around the intersection of Interstates 35, 40 and 44 be designated as America’s Corner.

The idea was similar to the foresight shown long ago by Tulsa businessman Cyrus Avery, who successfully lobbied to have the major road from Chicago to Los Angeles drop south through Oklahoma: Position the state as the center of the next big thing in transportation.



I-35, I-40 and I-44 are America’s Corner, and we must use them to our advantage.”  

State Senator Keith Leftwich
 


With the North American Free Trade Agreement taking effect in 1994, talk turned to a superhighway crossing the United States and joining Canada and Mexico.

Oklahoma jockeyed to position itself as a key player in the debate, promoting I-35 as the main NAFTA trade corridor. In 1997, the Tulsa World reported: “State officials are touting Oklahoma as ‘America’s Corner,’ the hub of an international trade route that links the United States with its international North American Free Trade Agreement partners Canada and Mexico.”

U.S. Sen. Don Nickles, a Republican from Ponca City, designated I-35 as a high-priority corridor in the National Highway Bill, noting “an international trade corridor will help to stimulate local economies in need of a boost, such as Oklahoma City.”

State Sen. Keith Leftwich, a Democrat representing south Oklahoma City, promoted and invoked the new name, arguing “It is time for Oklahoma to take advantage of our strengths to encourage economic growth, and, right now, Oklahoma is faced with a tremendous opportunity. I-35, I-40 and I-44 are America’s Corner, and we must use them to our advantage.”

In the weeks before the America’s Corner designation, The Oklahoman wrote: “If tourism was the mother of U.S. Route 66 – then trade will be the father of the proposed North American Free Trade Agreement superhighway system.”

But the project – sidelined by political battles, lack of funds and shifting priorities – never materialized.

In the years since, the concept of a NAFTA-inspired superhighway has become a bête noire of conspiracy theorists, who see it as a virtual highway to hell: a monster swath of 10 lanes of pavement stretching maybe four football fields wide, slicing through the heartland and a step on the road to a North American Union that would strip the United States of its sovereignty.

Undeterred, the signs stand sentry in testament to a 20-year-old dream, declaring in patriotic red, white and blue that Oklahoma City – once one of the featured stops on the 20th century’s Main Street of America – is the proud 21st century home of the spot where the interstates cross to form America’s Corner.

 

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Calendar

September 2018

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

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This year will mark the eighth time the John F. Kennedy Awards have been celebrated, honoring individuals making a significant contribution to Oklahoma, its communities and its people, while paying...

Cost: $300

Where:
Skirvin Hilton Hotel
1 Park Ave.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Sponsor: Santa Fe Family Life Center
Telephone: 405-840-1817
Contact Name: James Timberlake
Website »

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More than 20 speakers in a one-track session designed for the digital marketing professional, marketer, business owner or anyone interested in branding, PR, advertising, social media, SEO, search,...

Cost: $250

Where:
Tower Theatre
425 NW 23rd St
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: BigWing
Telephone: 405.475.4185
Contact Name: Janelle Archer
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

A fabulous art auction to raise money to help support Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO.

Cost: $100

Where:
CHK|Central Boathouse
732 Riversport Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73129
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma A+ Schools at UCO
Telephone: 405.974.3791
Contact Name: Heather Bryant
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

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Join supporters in communities across the nation for the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This family-friendly event raises funds to support the...

Cost: $10 for adults or children six and older

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S. Lake Hefner Drive
Oklahoma City , OK  73116
View map »


Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

Let’s end childhood cancer. Together! This September, supporters across the country will unite to participate in the St. Jude Walk/Run to End Childhood Cancer, an exciting, family-friendly...

Cost: $10 for Registration

Where:
Stars and Stripes Park
3701 S Lake Hefner Dr
Oklahoma City, OK  73116
View map »


Sponsor: ALSAC St. Jude Oklahoma City
Telephone: 405.403.7762
Contact Name: Emily Drover
Website »

More information

Price Tower Art Gallery in Bartlesville will host Women Artists of the West's 48th annual juried art exhibition, featuring over 200 original art works, created by women in all mediums, subjects...

Cost: Free 2018-09-21,22,23

Where:
Price Tower Art Gallery
510 S. Dewey Ave.
Bartlesville, OK  74003
View map »


Sponsor: Price Tower Arts Center
Telephone: 918.336.4949
Contact Name: Angelina Bourgou
Website »

More information

Escape the ordinary, and learn about OKC from a different point of view. Relax in the climate controlled cabin on one of our 65’ cruisers, or enjoy the breeze on the viewing deck and listen...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

The evening Cocktail Cruise offers stunning views of the downtown skyline, the Boathouse District and Finish Line Tower, the Wheeler Ferris wheel and quite possibly an amazing Oklahoma sunset. Come...

Cost: $15 for Seniors and kids under 12, $20 Adults

Where:
Regatta Landing
701 S. Lincoln Blvd.
OKC, OK  73109
View map »


Telephone: 405.702.7755
Contact Name: Business Office
Website »

More information

Show More...
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