Oklahoma City was settled on April 22, 1889, when the area known as the "unassigned lands" was opened for settlement in an event known as "The Land Run". Some 10,000 homesteaders settled the area that would become the capital of Oklahoma. The town grew quickly; the population doubled between 1890 and 1900. Early leaders of the development of the city included Anton Classen, Henry Overholser, and James W. Maney.

By the time Oklahoma was admitted to the Union in 1907, Oklahoma City had surpassed Guthrie, the territorial capital, as the population center and commercial hub of the new state. Soon after, the capital was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City was a major top on Route 66 during the early part of the 20th century and was prominently mentioned in Bobby Troup's 1946 jazz classic, "Get Your Kicks on Route 66", later made famous by Nat King Cole.

In 1993, the city passed a massive redevelopment package known as the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), which aimed to rebuild the city's core. The city added a new baseball park, central library, renovations to the civic center, convention center and fairgrounds; and a canal to the Bricktown entertainment district. MAPS has become one of the most aggresive and successful public-private partnerships ever undertaken in the U.S. exceeding $3 billion. As a result of MAPS downtown housing has skyrocketed as well as increased demand for residential amenities, such as grocery and other retail stores. Since the MAPS project completion, the downtown area has seend continued development. Several of the downtown buildings are undergoing renovation/restoration projects. Notable among these was the restoration of the Skirvin Hilton in 2007. The famed First National Center is also currently being renovated.

The "Core-to-Shore" project was created to relocate I-40 one mile south and replace it with a boulevard that will create an entrance to the city. This allows the central portion of the city to expand south toward the Oklahoma River, thus connecting the core of the city to the shore of the Oklahoma River. Several elements of Core-to-Shore were included in the MAPS 3 proposal which passed in late 2009.

Residents of Oklahoma City suffered substantial losses on April 19, 1995, when Timothy McVeigh set off a bomb in front of the Murrah Building. The building was destroyed, more than 100 nearby buildings suffered severe damage, and 168 people were killed. The site is now home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Since its opening in 2000, over 3 million people have visited. Every year on April 19th, survivors, friends, and family return to the memorial to read the names of every victim lost.

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