Alva was established in 1893 as a land office from the Cherokee Outlet Land Run, the largest of the land rushes that settled western and central Oklahoma. The site was chosen for its location on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and likely named for a railroad attorney, Alva Adams, who had become governor of Colorado.
Alva is home to Northwestern Oklahoma State University, founded in 1897. The college’s main building for a time was the “Castle on the Hill,” a huge, fanciful brick building, modeled after a Norman castle, that towered over much of the town. The Castle burned down in 1935, to be replaced by Jesse Dunn Hall, which was dedicated in 1937 by Eleanor Roosevelt.
Today, the city council is actively soliciting murals — one of the most recent is of the storied Castle. One can find marvelous murals throughout the downtown area, which is centered around a town square. Alva is a destination city for numerous northwest Oklahoma attractions, such as Little Sahara State Park, Great Salt Plains Lake and State Park, Alabaster Caverns State Park and the Twister Museum in Wakita.