Smallest National Park


Most people think of National Parks as being vast areas of wildlife, mountains and trees but the smallest such park is located in downtown Guthrie, Oklahoma and contains one tree which doesn't even leave room for a tent should someone want to camp there.


A rather strange chain of events led to the formation of this park. Back when the US Government decided to have a land run so people could claim homesteads in the unassigned lands in the Oklahoma Territory, they knew they would need a land office where those claims could be processed. They built a 24 by 36 foot building on the southwest corner of a half block of land that the government owned on the back half of a block facing onto Oklahoma Street where most of the Guthrie business area was located.


When the land run took place, people would race to a piece of land that had already been surveyed and claim it by pulling up a numbered stake and replacing it with a claim flag to show that piece was claimed. Then they would take their stake to the land office and file their claim. Since the registration of claims went along with typical governmental efficiency, the line of people waiting to file their claim often stretched around the building, and a quarter mile along Cleveland Avenue. It's claimed that some people waited in line for up to a week to file their claim.


The land office finally closed after all claims had been filed and the building set vacant for several years before being sold and moved across the street. During this time, it was decided to build a new post office on that half block of land, but some farsighted person said that the location of the land office would be of historic value and should be retained. So it was decided that a one hundred foot square area of land would be retained for that purpose.


Then in 1974 when it was decided to designate Guthrie as a historic town and identify a number of the buildings as National Historical Landmarks, the location of the land office came up. It was at that time they discovered that a small error had been made in the transfer and instead of a one hundred foot square of land, it had been written as one hundred square feet of land being retained.


Since there was a large oak tree growing on the corner of the parking lot behind the post office in the area where the land office had been located, they measured off an area of eight feet by twelve feet, six inches around the tree and ran a curb around it. They ordered a bronze sign designating that as the location of the land office and since there wasn't room inside the area, they erected it on the sidewalk in front of the park.


All historical landmarks owned by the US Government are under the control of the National Parks Service and carry the designation of National Parks. So this one hundred square foot block of land became the smallest US National Park.



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