Bethany on Route 66
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About Bethany OK
Facts, Information and trivia
Elevation: Elevation 1,310 ft (400 m). Population 19,317 (est 2018).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).
History of Bethany
This part of the state has been inhabited for many years: there is a site near Luther 11,000 years old. The current Native Americans in Oklahoma were forcibly moved there from their original territories in the eastern USA in the 1830s.
Bethany stands on an area which was known as Council Grove because the Native Americans met here during their war councils. There were groves of oak, cottonwood and elm in this territory which belonged to the Creek people. There is a road nowadays running through Bethany close to lake Overholser named Council Rd.
There is a marker next to the Canadian River (see street view) in southwestern Bethany (1001 N Eagle Ln) which mentions councils held here in 1859 and 1865.
Later, during the settlement and "land rushes" of Oklahoma, it was set aside as a "Timber Reserve" (ca. 1889). The stage coach route from Oklahoma city to El Reno ran through this reserve.
By 1905 it was designated a Military Reserve.
Bethany was established in 1909 as a religious settlement by members of the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene who moved there from Beulah Heights on the north side of Oklahoma City.
The new tram line (Electric Interurban Railway) that linked El Reno to Oklahoma City passed through Bethany and made it easy for them to relocate there.
The town was named after the Biblical town.
The name Bethany
The English word comes from Greek (Bethania) of Hebrew origin and means "house of figs" or "house of affliction". It is a valley close to Jerusalem where in the village of Bethania, Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus Christ.
The Oklahoma Holiness College also moved there (it was renamed Southern Nazarene University in 1986).
The post office opened in 1913. The Nazarenes felt free to enact local "blue" laws which outlawed movie theatres, alcoholic beverages, dance halls, pool halls and tobacco. These laws were relaxed in the 1990s.
Route 66 was aligned across the town in 1926 and remained there until it was decommissioned in 1985.
Where to Stay: Find a Hotel
Book your hotel in Bethany.
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Lodging Near Bethany along Route 66
>> See the RV campground to the east in Oklahoma City
Tip: It is not easy to find RV parking areas in Bethany it is not a very RV friendly city. Choose the outskirts.
The Weather in Bethany
Location of Bethany on Route 66
Summers in Bethany are hot and humid. Winter is quite mild and cold, with occasional snow (8 inches - 20cm between Dec. and March).
Average winter temperature is 39.2 °F (4 °C), with highs and lows between 48.5°F (9.2°C) and 25.6°F (-3.5°C).
Summer average temperature is 83.0 °F (28.3 °C) with mean highs and lows of 94°F (34.5°C) and 71°F (21.5°C).
Rainfall is around 36.3 in. (925 mm), most falls during summer. Thunderstorms are frequent during spring and summer.
Article in the New York Times about the tornado, credits
Bethany is located in one of the most tornado-prone areas in the whole world: about 150 tornados have struk this area since 1890.
Some of them were very strong (F5 on the Fujita scale, which is the maximum value).
In this "Tornado Alley" there are some 10 Tornado watches each year.
The town was hit by a tornado on Nov. 19, 1930, it killed 23 people and destroyed most of the town. It is one of the three worst tornados to strike Oklahoma during November since 1900. The town recovered slowly after this disaster.
You can get to Bethany driving along Historic Route 66.
Map of Route 66 through Bethany Oklahoma
See Route 66 in this 1948 roadmap below (click thumbnail for full size map). At that time the Interstate system hadn't even been conceived. Bethany is in the middle, next to Oklahoma City
1948 Shell Roadmap central Oklahoma
Click on map to enlarge
The thumbnail map above (clik on it to enlarge it) shows the town of Bethany on the right side of the map, in 1963.
Check out this map of Route 66 in Bethany.
Bethany's Route 66 Landmarks and Attractions
What to see in Bethany
Historic Context Route 66 in 1946
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse wrote his "Guide Book to Highway 66" in 1946 after driving Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. In it he describes the highway during its heyday. He tells us the following about the town.
4 mi... BETHANY. (Pop. 2,590; alt. 1,212'; garages; stores; cafe; no courts.). This town was founded in 1906 by members of the Nazarene Church, who established a college here and laid down certain comunity regulations which still stand. No cigarettes, tobacco or alcoholic drinks are sold in the town, and there are no theatres. Rittenhouse (1946)
His next entry is the "steel bridge over the North Canadian River" west of Bethany.
We will drive through Bethany from east to west and describe its main spots of interest:
Old Gas Station
6317 NW 39th St, on the NE corner, there is a used car dealership which used to be a gas station. The old canopy is still standing over the pumps island, but the pumps have long gone. The two bay garge is beside the office. See its Street view.
Route 66 Bank
Ahead, to your left, on the SE corner of N College Ave. and Route 66 is one of the oldest buildings in Downtown Bethany.
It is a two-story brick building built in 1922 (four years before Route 66 was created) it was the Farmers Bank, which had been established in 1905.
Now it is the Bethany Law Centerm and Rick and Susan Martin who purchased it in 2011 have renovated it. They have preserved the vault and its doors among other historic elements. Below are a "then and now" set of pictures:
Route 66 Murals in Downtown Bethany
Route 66 Mural #1: "East College Street Mural"
Facing the bank, on the SW corner of 39th Expy. and N. College Ave. Painted on the eastern wall of a Mexican restaurant the "Birrieria Diaz". It is 50 ft. long and 20 feet high, featuring Route 66 businesses spanning the period from 1926 to the mid 1950s. And includes a US 66 Oklahoma shield.
Route 66 Mural #2
One block south of the Old Bank is another mural (on the south wall), to your left, it celebrates Route 66. We depict it below:
Go south and turn left on 38th St. to see another mural.
Mural #3 Pony Express "The Ambush"
6604 NW 38th St. It is on the western wall of a shop (See Street View) and it was funded by the Betany Kiwanis Club and the Bethany Improvement Foundation.
Just ahead, is a former "classic hamburger drive-in
Old Mr. Swiss
At 6600 NW 38th St Bethany, now it is the 38th Street Barbershop, but the A-frame building was a "Mr Swiss" hamburger drive-in. The chain was founded by L. Doefler in Oklahoma City back in 1964. He sold sandwiches, ice cream and burgers. He expanded the chain to 200 stores across America but it went under in the 1970s.
There are other Mr. Swiss on US 66 in Joplin and Lebanon Missouri, Claremore and Oklahoma City in OK.
Head back westwards along 38th, cross College St. and visit another mural.
Mural #4: Wehrenberg Soda Fountain
On the north side of the parking lot between College and Asbury Avenues. Apart from depicting Melvin Unruh who operated the soda fountain, there are
flowers beneath it to remember the McClures' Flower shop. See this Map showing where it is.
It is between Asbury and College Aves. on the alley running behind the shops facing 39th. Seee it from the parking lot there.
Head west and on the next block, on Asbury there are two murals, one on the SW corner, the other on the eastern side of the street.
Murals #5 & 6 Asbury
The western mural shows five of Bethany's institutions that date back to 1909: the City itself, Bethany First Church of the Nazarene, Bethany Public Schools, Southern Nazarene University and the Oklahoma Orphanage (see a Street View).
Across the road portrays some well known local landmarks (Lake Overholser bridge on Route 66, the rail car of the El Reno, or Oklahoma Railway Company among others).
Bethany Church of the Nazarene
NE corner of Rte 66 and Asbury Ave. Head back to Route 66. Here is the Bethany Church of the Nazarene which can be seen in a "Then and Now" set of photos; now it is the Herrick Auditorium of the SNU. The postcard read: "Bethany Church of the Nazarene, in the background can be seen the Bethany Nazarene College".
Current view of the same building:
If you are interested in collectibles and antiques you must stop at one of the antique galleries in Bethany:
- Rink Antique 3200 N Rockwell Ave.
- Apple Tree Antique Gallery 6740 NW 39th Expy.
- Bethany Antique Mall 3909 N College Ave.
Continue westwards and at Divis St. and 39th Expy. is an old Garage (on the Southeastern corner), this is its Street View.
Ahead, to the left is a a Classic Motel.
7600 NW 39th Expy. Bethany; the Western Motel in the 1960s postcard pictured below tells us: "Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Diffee, Owners-Operators - 24 Units with Tile Baths - Tub or Shower... Wall-to-Wal Carpeting Heavy Duty Beautyrest Mattresses".
Still up and running, its neon sign is intact, which is quite unusual. See its "Then and Now" sequence below:
Annual Bethany 66 Festival
It takes place in late May and is a free event which includes a car, truck and motorcycle show plus food vendors and more. A family friendly festival with live entertainment.
Your City tour of Route 66 in Bethany ends here, head west and visit Yukon.
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Banner image: Hackberry General Store, Hackberry, Arizona by Perla Eichenblat
Jack DeVere Rittenhouse, (1946). A Guide Book to Highway 66.