Mod Blog

The Saga of the Split-T Burger

Posted by on Aug 15, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Vintage photos courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center.  New photo by Lynne Rostochil.

Named after the football formation made famous at nearby OU, the Split-T was an OKC institution for over 50 years and served the BEST onion rings and charbroiled hamburgers (make mine a chili cheese burger — with real, grated sharp cheddar cheese — and raw onions on the side, please). I’m salivating just thinking about it….

With its football-themed decor, scattered OU paraphenalia on the walls, and red and white checked table cloths, Split-T was THE hang out for every high schooler of every generation from 1950 to the millenium. It was the place where a lot of people had their their first kiss, their first beer, their first… well, you get the idea. It was a hoppin’ place, indeed.

When my mom, sister, and I moved to Dallas in the early 70’s, my mom’s one lament was not having Split-T around. No more yummy, freshly charbroilered burgers. No more super crunchy, munchy onion rings.

She has always fancied herself a hamburger connoisseur and proceeded to drag my little sister and me to every burger joint in Dallas looking for a patty that compared with the juicy, well-flavored ones at Split-T. We ate at fancy places in North Dallas and Highland Park, hit every hole-in-the-wall spot in Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff, made the trek to the burbs of Mesquite, Richardson, and Farmers Branch, all to no avail. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, compared to a burger from Split-T, according to her. When we ventured out on our eating expeditions, I didn’t really care what the burgers tasted like — I was way more concerned about getting back home in time to plant myself in front of our small, late 50’s model black and white TV (with rabbit ears, of course) to watch “Bionic Woman” or “Match Game ’76.”

After years of trying every single place that sold a burger in Dallas — can I tell you how tired I was of burgers by this time? — my mother and aunt (who also lived in Dallas and was equally as disappointed in the quality of burgers there) came up with a great idea:

Why not go to Split-T, order a bunch of burgers, take them back to Dallas, freeze them, then simply pop one in the microwave whenever they were feeling the need to consume a really good burger?

It sounded like a great idea, so my mom and aunt gathered up as much money as they could afford to blow on such a frivolous expenditure (they were single moms with little extra income). They set out to (or I should say, they made me) return for deposit the dozens of cartons of Coke bottles that were piled ceiling high in a kitchen alcove; reduced their smoking habits by at least a few packs a week; and made my sister, cousin, and I sack lunches (bologna and white bread — yum) instead of buying us lunch tickets.

After several weeks of scrimping and saving, my mom and aunt had enough money to buy about 30 burgers each. So, the next time they took us kids to OKC to see our dads, they were ready.

That Sunday, on the way out of town back to Dallas, my mom and aunt pulled up to the Split-T drive-thru window in my mom’s sky-blue Pinto. Half giggling to herself, she said, “Um, I’d like 60 chili cheese burgers, please.”

“Excuse me, but did you say 60?” the employee asked, as if she didn’t quite hear my mother correctly.

“That’s right. Sixty. 6-0. Ten times six.” My mother and aunt were quite pleased at the incredulous stare on the poor girl’s face.

After the employee picked up her jaw off the floor, she shouted out a few commands to her cohorts and got the entire staff working like mad preparing the burgers, all the while suspiciously eyeing the two crazy ladies and three little kids in the blue sub-compact with Texas plates. I could tell that she was trying to solve the mystery of the 60 burgers while she was stuffing them, one by one, into huge white paper sacks with the red Split-T logo on the front. She still had that same quizzical look on her face as she placed the last burger in the last bag and handed it over to my gleeful mother, and I knew as we drove off that she still hadn’t figured out my mom and aunt’s brilliant plan.

So, we drove all the way back to Texas — two giggling adults, three kids squished in one half of the Pinto’s backseat, and one ice chest filled to the brim with chili cheese burgers. I was the lucky one who got to sit smashed up against the ice chest, smelling cooked beef and spicy chili the 200 miles back home.

All the way home, the conversation between my mom and aunt went something like this:

Mom: “I think I’m going to take one to work tomorrow.”

Aunt: “Oh, I might make one for dinner tomorrow night.”

Mom: “Should we have a party and invite all of our Texas friends to show them what a real hamburger tastes like?”

Aunt: “No way! We worked hard for those burgers. I want to eat every last one of them.”

Mom: “You’re right. No sharing.”

Aunt: “I think I might make one for dinner when we get home tonight.”

Mom: “Ooo, and I could pop one in the oven for a midnight snack.”

If I was sick to frickin’ death of hamburgers before this little adventure, imagine how much I hated them when we finally got home and my mom assigned me the job of wrapping each burger in foil and finding space in the munchkin-sized apartment freezer (half filled with a thick layer of ice — no defrosting freezer for us) for our new treasure.

All of the burgers finally crammed into place in the freezer, my job here was done, and I never wanted to see another beef patty again.

The next evening, my mother carefully removed one of the prized burgers from the freezer and took it over to my aunt’s house to heat up.

My aunt, who lived across the street from us, had just bought her first ever, refrigerator-sized microwave — I think it was one of the first ones ever mass-produced and I swear, that sucker took up half her kitchen. So, like religious devotees, she and my mom ever-so-gently placed their burgers in the microwave, turned the dial to one minute, and watched through the glass as those babies cooked.

Ding. My aunt slowly opened the giant microwave door, and both ladies breathed in deeply to catch a whiff of charcoal and chili spices. They looked like they were in deep, euphoric prayer paused like that in front of their dinner. I’ve never seen them more reverent.

They each took their burger and didn’t even wait to put them on a plate or grab a napkin (which you need plenty of with Split-T chili cheese burgers). They both opened their mouths as wide as they would go and chomped down on about 1/3 of the burger.

Eyes closed, their happy, food-filled smiles filled the room as they started to chew. Slowly, their looks of joy turned — their eyes began to bulge and water, their smiles became frowns, and they both made a mad dash to the sink to spit out a light brown, barfy-looking conglomeration of burger, cheese, and chili.

They spat and spat until every last morsel of food was in the sink. Then, they grabbed their ever-present Cokes and chugged them, ran for a few puffs of the smoldering cigarettes they had left in the living room, all the while primal screaming at the tops of their lungs.

“They’re AWFUL!”

“What happened?”

“UGH!!”

“Get out of the way, kids, I’m going to be sick.”

(You get the idea.)

Apparently, my genius aunt and mother didn’t anticipate the burgers getting freezer burn and very probably didn’t know how to use the microwave, either.

But, these two had saved and saved to get the money to buy 60 burgers, and they weren’t going to throw them away. Oh no.

For months afterward at dinner time, I would hear my mom — in her most sweet sounding voice, which always meant trouble – “Hey, girls, do you want a burger for dinner tonight?”

Imagine the loudest “NO” you’ve ever heard, then times that by about 10 and you’ll get some idea of the response my sister and I would shout back in unison. We were no fools.

So, not able to get anyone else to eat the burgers, my mom and aunt dug in and spent the next few months eating — and gagging on — every single last one of those chili cheese burgers.

They didn’t gripe too much about Texas burgers after that; in fact, I don’t think I remember either of them eating another hamburger for quite a few years afterward, much to my delight.

Skip forward about 20 years. I’ve just moved back to OKC and have probably (half-heartedly) eaten a total of three hamburgers in the years since the now infamous Freezer Burn Incident, as our Split-T misadventure has come to be known.

But, I’m back in town and decide to drop by Split-T just for fun. In homage to my aunt and mom, I order a chili cheese burger and some onion rings and sit back in my booth with the voice of “Why did I just order that?” ringing in my ears. The food comes out, and I gingerly pick up the burger, which is oozing cheese and chili all over the place, hesitate, then take a itty bitty bite.

“Hey, this is pretty good.” Then, I take another, bigger, bite and think, “Man, this is awesome,” and before you know it, the whole thing is gone.

Chili and cheese dripping from my chin a la a Carl’s Jr. commercial, I finally get it. I finally understand what my mom and aunt were talking about all of those years ago. There is no better burger than Split-T. Period.

Alas, Split-T closed in 2000, after 50 years in operation. Soon after, the building was torn down to make way for a strip center, and a Sonic was built across the street. This sign pays homage to an OKC institution and will forever remind me of my goofy mom and aunt, who would do anything for a good burger.

Here’s a photo by Jim Jordan of his classic Cadillac in front of the Split-T mural taken around the time it closed:

On the Market: A Bright and Airy Mod Overlooking the City

Posted by on Aug 6, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil.

It’s not often that a one-of-a-kind mid-century modern in a reasonable price range comes on the market, but that is definitely the case with this modest mod in Wildewood Hills off of NE 63rd just east of Broadway Extension (not to be confused with Wildewood at NE 50th and Kelley).  Even better, it’s a home that has been barely touched since it was built in 1961.

The front exterior is buff brick and siding (painted its original redwood color) accentuated by an aggregate rock wall and capped by a band of windows:

Running along the side of the house, the redwood siding continues and is offset by two chartreuse doors that add a playful splash of color to the place.

Here’s a similar view of the home from 1970 when it was just a few years old:

Love that Buick!

The original owners were Bill and Elizabeth Morris, who were very successful realtors in the ’60s and ’70s.  Here they are modeling in the living room with drinks in hand, of course, in 1970:

Soon after the current owner bought the home, Bill got in touch with him and told him that his wife was an Engineering major at OU and designed the house, which he then built.  Apparently, they constructed a home just like it on Lake Texoma somewhere, so if you know where that one is, please let us know.  Anyway, the Morrises happily lived in the two bedroom, two bath, nearly 1,700 sf house until 1972.  Subsequent owners loved the original style of the Morris House so much, that it has been barely touched in the ensuing years.  So, after this build up, you’re ready to be done with the history and get on with the tour, aren’t you?  Well, okay, here we go:

Let’s begin with the front door with a terrazzo stoop and bevelled glass sneak-a-peek window.  It only gets better from here, folks.

Inside is a short hallway with a vintage sputnik light fixture:

This could be a dark, throwaway space as most entry areas are, but the bevelled window next to the front door creates an open and light filled hallway instead:

Just off the entry is the compact but very well appointed kitchen:

There is a ton of storage in the kitchen that overlooks the living and dining areas:

I love how the light from the adjacent living room filters into the kitchen, providing the open plan living that so many people crave these days.  And here it is being implemented way back in 1961.  That Elizabeth Morris was way ahead of her time….

Here’s the view from the kitchen out to the living room:

I’m so smitten with that floating bar, aren’t you?  Here it is looking back into the kitchen from the dining area:

And check out these oh-so-mod laminate counter tops:

No, they aren’t original, but they are so incredibly cool and are in outstanding shape, so a note to the new owner — please keep them!  Also, did you notice those fun and funky round pulls on the cabinets?  Well, if you think they are nifty, check out them and the unusual light switches that can be found throughout most of the house:

Oh yeah!

Since you got a sneak peek of the living room from the kitchen, let’s move out of the kitchen and check out the L-shaped dining living space that overlooks a HUGE backyard:

Woo hoo, how sexy is that?!  The fireplace, the green cork wall, all of those glorious windows, and that jaw-dropping light fixture!  Your heart is going pitter patter, isn’t it?  Beginning with the light fixture, those perforated circles are to die for and, either on or off, it creates so much drama in the space:

Here’s the view from the dining room looking out the sliding glass door to the backyard:

Yes, those are built-in shelves and drawers next to the kitchen bar.  There’s a ton of clever storage in this home, as you’ll soon see, but look at that backyard!

This photo just captures a small sliver of the yard, which encircles the home.  Now that we’re outside, here are a few views of the rear of the house:

The living room doors are on the left and the master bedroom doors are on the right.  Here’s a view of the home from 1970:

And approximately the same view today:

I’m sure you’re wondering about the band of windows at the top — they are one of the home’s most dramatic elements, as you’ll soon see.  On the back porch, a semi-circular rock garden melds the outdoors with the indoors:

Here’s the view of the garden from inside:

The garden overlooks the large living room and provides our first glimpse of what I think is the home’s most interesting and unique feature, the hall of windows that create an inner atrium that adds a ton of light inside:

They stretch from the living room down the hallway all the way to the master bedroom:

This is such a simple and elegant way to create more light and open up spaces, but I’ve never seen anything like this that has been executed so well.  I’m really wishing that Elizabeth Morris had designed a lot more homes, aren’t you?

The great storage continues in the living room with this built-in that once accommodated a hi fi system — yes, that’s a handy dandy place to keep records at the bottom:

Down the hallway on the left is the first bathroom with an original terrazzo floor and a lovely tiled round sink:

On the other side of the hall is the first bedroom but before we go inside, have a look at the clerestory windows that emit light from the hallway to the bedroom:

So smart.  The only other times I have seen this feature have been in homes and schools that my grandfather, R. Duane Conner designed.  He really liked adding more light and creating the illusion of larger spaces by including interior windows.  Here’s an example of a bedroom window looking out onto the living room of one house in NW OKC:

And another in the den of the same home.

Here’s one of another home in a nearby neighborhood:

He also used interior windows in many of the schools he designed, including Calvin Coolidge Elementary:

Interestingly, he designed a home just one street over from the Morris House in 1960 that had these same interior windows, so I wonder if that might have given Elizabeth Morris the idea to add these windows to her design.  Wherever she got the idea, it’s an ingenious one and I’m surprised it wasn’t/isn’t used more.  Here’s the bedroom looking toward the interior windows:

And the view out toward the backyard:

Down the hall a bit more is the laundry closet with a built-in hamper that is accessible from the master bathroom.  Yes, that’s right, you can toss your clothes in the hamper in your bathroom and don’t have to move them to the laundry room because it’s right there.  Here’s the laundry room from the hallway:

And, on the master bath side, voila, you’re in the laundry area:

Also, the wide shelf over the hamper can drop down to create a spacious folding table, so no need to drag clothes to various areas of the house to fold them.  Clever, clever!

At the end of the light-filled hallway is the master suite, which is another space with many smartly designed features.  Here’s the view from the bedroom door looking to the giant backyard:

Turning away from this view, there’s a large rolling wardrobe that acts as a divider/closet:

If you’re someone who likes a huge closet/dressing area and a smaller bedroom, simply roll the divider a bit to accommodate your needs.  If you want a larger bedroom and smaller closet, just roll it the other way and you’re good to go.  Personally, the dressing area/closet is plenty big for me right where the wardrobe divider is.  Have a look and see what you think:

The wardrobe itself (on the right in the next shot) is pretty spacious, too:

And, I know I’m sounding like an broken record by now, but there’s so much natural light throughout the bedroom and dressing room thanks to the windows on three sides of the large space.  And, if that’s not enough, there’s a skylight in the bedroom that adds even more light:

The light is so nicely diffused in this room, too, which gives the entire space a real calm and peaceful vibe.  I like it!

Oh, I forgot about one other, very rare, perk of this already incredible hilltop house.  It is sited diagonally on a dead end street to take full advantage of spectacular city views, especially in the winter after backyard trees have shed their leaves.  It’s really unusual to get such views in flat-as-a-pancake OKC, making this place truly special, indeed.  Obviously, it’s August and all of the trees are in full bloom now, but I did spy some goodies on the horizon from the back porch off of the master bedroom, even during this time of year:

While we’re talking about the backyard, here’s a Googlemaps aerial view of just how big it is:

As you can see, the yard encircles the home — it’s certainly the largest yard in the neighborhood and has tons of potential for landscaping.  From this hilltop location, in just a few months, you’ll be able to see downtown lit up at night.  Another note to the new owner — please invite me over for some snacks and drinks this winter so that I can enjoy the view with you.

Back inside, let’s check out the master bathroom.  Most of the time in older homes, the master bathroom is a tiny space that barely fits one person, but that’s not the case with Elizabeth’s design.  She created a surprisingly spacious bathroom with double sinks and a step-down tile shower that’s pretty darned big:

And the pulls on the cabinets in the bathroom are delightful — the laminate floor is a lot of fun, too:

There’s even a cute storage thingy next to the toilet:

I don’t know what you’d keep in those shelves besides toilet paper — little books, maybe?  Kleenex?  Who knows, but this thing is cool and I now want one.

Going back down the hallway to the common areas, this is the peek-a-boo view you get of that stunning living/dining area:

Let’s take one last look at this space:

Simply charming.  That’s it for the interior but back out the front door, I have one last surprise for you.  At the back of the carport is a large room that can be used for storage or, with a little work, even a small office:

And how great is that wrought iron gate to the backyard?

I know I say this a lot, but I really mean it this time when I tell you that this home is one of my favorites that I’ve toured.  It’s extraordinary and needs a new owner who will savor and enjoy all of its originality.

The Morris House goes on the market this Wednesday, but if you’d like to maybe get a sneak peek, give realtor Monty Milburn a call at 843-8188 and set up an appointment to tour this gem located at 5909 Crestview Dr.  Since it’s priced at a mere $119,000, I guarantee that it won’t be on the market for long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travelling Through Time Along 23rd Street, Part 4

Posted by on Jul 31, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Vintage photos, unless otherwise stated, courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center.  “Now” images from Googlemaps, the OK County Tax Assessor, and Lynne Rostochil.

If you’ve missed previous installments, click a link to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

In the last installment of our trek down 23rd from Lake Overholser to past I-35, we ended our journey at NW 23rd and Broadway Extension.  This week, we pick up from the east side of the highway looking back at the 100 block of NW 23rd, which was taken after a 1966 snow:

What a mess!

East of the bridge on the south side of the street was the Town Park Motel, seen here in 1975:

Here’s an ad for the motel from 1964:

I believe it was demolished at the time that Broadway Extension was expanded in the mid-’80s.  The site is now a parking lot:

Across the street was the very famous and beloved Dolores Restaurant, pictured here in the 1930s:

Here’s the interior:

And here’s a great history of this iconic restaurant from Retrometrokc.

For Oklahoma City, Dolores Restaurant is just a memory – another great restaurant that faded away after being a local favorite for decades. But for Los Angeles, the legend continues.

Confused?

This story starts back when drive-through restaurants were brand new – an innovation prompted by the sudden explosion of cross country automobile travel.

It was in the early 1920s that Ralph Stephens took his first shot at the restaurant business, opening first at NW 4 and Olie, and then later at Main and Broadway where competition and a lot of debt led him to flee in 1923 with his wife, Amanda, sons Vince and Bob, and daughter Dolores.

The family made its first stop in Dallas, where Stephens later said he saw “a pig stand with what looked like a thousand cars around it.” Indeed Dallas was where the very first pig stand (forerunners to drive-through restaurants), Kirby’s, had opened in 1921.

Stephens was hired by one of the Dallas pig stand chains and learned the operation in Dallas before setting out to open a stand in Little Rock. Before going to his post, Stephens took his family to his wife’s family house in Hannibal, Mo. And it was there that Stephens, visiting with his father-in-law, a carpenter, decided it made more sense to open their own business rather than work for someone else.

The family “slept in the stand” while it was being built, and in June 1925, Goody-Goody Barbeque opened for business. Business initially boomed. But the crowds disappeared once cold weather settled in.

Once again, Stephens was a failed restaurateur.

“We closed, and being sort of soldiers in fortune, we took off for Florida,” Stephens explained in a 1968 interview. “The land boom was on then and we went to Tampa and opened one restaurant, then another. They had told us there were no rooms in Tampa so we bought a tent and slept under that until we almost flooded out.”

The crash of 1929 once again killed Stephens’ short-lived success story. The family returned to Oklahoma City with Stephens determined to settle his debts and prove he could be a successful restaurant operator.

And this time, he was coming with a secret weapon. While in Hannibal, Amanda Stephens obtained a recipe for “comeback” sauce from a barbeque stand in nearby Quincy, Ill. And what a comeback it would be.

Dolores Restaurant, named after Stephens’ daughter, opened at 33 NE 23 on April 15, 1930.

“The Depression hadn’t hit Oklahoma yet and the first year our volume was $52,000,” Stephens said. “We never closed our doors when the Depression hit, but we were selling hamburgers and malts for a dime each to stay open.”

The Stephens continued to add their own touches, even inventing “Susi-Q potatoes” in 1938. They wowed customers with their black-bottom pie and salad dressings. And Stephens also continued the idea of “drive-in” service, establishing parking stalls behind the restaurant, which at the time was located along the heavily-traveled Route 66.

By the 1940s Dolores was becoming a top pick for Route 66 guidebooks. Duncan Hines recommended the restaurant in his 1941 book “Adventures in Good Cooking,” saying “I enjoy eating here, especially their steaks and Susi-Q potatoes and barbequed ribs. They have the best biscuits I have found anywhere in America, made by Neal, a colored woman, who does not use a recipe, but has a remarkable sense of feel, which tells here when the mixture is right – served twice a week (I suggest you wire ahead requesting these remarkable biscuits). Their menu provides a variety of good salads and other things, and I hope you are fortunate enough to find Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Stephens there, so you may meet them personally.”

Dolores Restraurant was booming enough without the high praise from Mr. Hines – that winter Stephens shut the restaurant for a couple of weeks, expanded the dining area and engaged in a bit of rare advertising (Only after selling the restaurant to investors were advertisements seen again in the early 1970s)

Stephens’ brother-in-law, Bob Ogle, became manager of the restaurant (“Ogle’s Special” referred to a root beer float he perfected) and in 1945, Ralph and Amanda Stephens moved to California. They opened a Dolores Drive-In on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and followed up by opening three more restaurants.

Stephens eventually sold all but the Beverly Hills drive-in, which he turned over to his son Bob in 1961. His second son, Vince, meanwhile, was building up a legend of his own back in Oklahoma City.

Maybe you’ve heard of it – the Split T.

In 1966 Amanda Stephens died. Ralph Stephens quickly remarried, and in 1968 he bought The Pub at 6418 N Western. A year later he sold Dolores Restaurant to a group of investors, who closed it for good in 1974. After eight years of standing vacant, The Catering Co. announced plans to reopen the restaurant, but if it did reopen (there is no further record of the restaurant), the venture was short-lived. The building was razed a few years later.

The Dolores name, meanwhile, endures in Los Angeles with the Stephens established a chain of their eateries.

The following history is provided by Dolores Restaurant at www.doloresrestaurant.com:

Dolores was founded by Amanda and Ralph Stevens, who after owning various restaurants in different states moved to Los Angeles in 1944 and opened the Dolores drive-in restaurant in Hollywood.

There were many drive-in restaurants in Los Angeles during the mid 1940’s and Dolores fit right in. Then, in 1956 the Stevens’ son Robert and his wife Lucille moved to Los Angeles to help manage the newly leased Dolores Restaurant on Wilshire Blvd. and La Cienega in Beverly Hills. The restaurant was a hit with the local teenagers in the 40’s and 50’s with its carhops, Suzie Q’s and JJ Burgers became a staple in the community for the next thirty years.

These “good times” would soon end when in 1981 Dolores drive-in was forced to close down to make room for a high rise office building. The last of the remaining Dolores Restaurants is the one you see today located at 11407 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Los Angeles where the food and service are like they have never been before

In 2008 Dolores Restaurant was put under new management. With a fresh new vision, a passion for taste and quality food and a true concern to support local growers, new owner, Kourosh Izadpanahi, brings a new take to this classic diner. The new Dolores Restaurant meets today’s customers’ needs for taste and health conscious food.

Pretty interesting stuff, aye?  As you can see from this early 1970s shot of the restaurant, it looked pretty much the same until its dying day:

The site of the old Dolores Drive-In is home to another iconic Oklahoma drive-in, Sonic:

Across the street and a few doors down from the old motel is the Oklahoma City Amory:

The building was already 30 years old when this photo was taken in 1967.  Last year, the old Armory went up for sale and Coop Ale Works just purchased the nearly 73,000 sf space for a new craft brewery, retail, and even a hotel.  It’s an exciting renovation for a structure with so much history.  Here’s a photo of the Armory now:

Go here to see plans for this magnificent structure.

Across N. Walnut from the Armory is a cute little mod that was designed by Hudgins Thompson Ball and built in 1948 as the Oklahoma Corporation Commission Fuels Lab.  Here’s a rendering of it:

So sweet!  Here’s it is now:

Let’s go down a block and back across the street to have a look at what was once a gleaming example of mid-century modern architecture, the stilted Benham Building designed by Conner & Pojezny and built in 1954:

The architects teamed with Benham Engineering to create this building and, I believe, were heading toward creating a partnership when Conner & Pojezny went their separate ways in 1955.  Benham remained in the building for decades and enclosed the bottom level and expanded it in the back in the 1960s.  By the time it was demolished in 2012, it had been abandoned for years and was a sad looking sight, indeed:

Nothing has been built on the lot to date:

Going a little further east, we hit the State Capitol and the office buildings that surround it.  Let’s start with the State Capitol building.  I found this photo at a flea market a long time ago, and it’s one of my favorites.  It’s looking to the north and shows the site of the State Capitol before construction began in 1914:

I know!  How cool is that?!  The building was designed by Solomon Andrew Layton and S. Wemyss-Smith and was completed in 1917.  Due to insufficient funds, the planned-for dome wasn’t constructed, and here’s how the building looked for 80 years:

In 2002, the dome was finally placed on top of the building:

Just north of the State Capitol was another iconic local eatery, Beverly’s:

During the height of the Great Depression, Beverly and Rubye Osborne were down on their luck, and like so many other Okies, they decided to pack up everything and head west to the promised land of California.  On the way, Rubye was munching on some fried chicken she had made when Beverly hit a bump in the road and Rubye’s lunch went a-flying.  She muttered, “This is really chicken in the rough,” which immediately gave her husband inspiration to turn around, head back home, and try his luck at a new self-named restaurant.  His hunch paid off and Beverly’s became a local institution and was even franchised all over the country.  This location at NE 23rd and Lincoln was a popular hot spot until it closed in 1960 to make way for the new State Capitol complex, seen here soon after the first structure was completed in 1962.

Designed by Hudgins Thompson & Ball with Bailey Bozalis Dickinson & Roloff, the first two buildings, Will Rogers and Sequoyah, were followed by two more in the early 1970s.  Here’s one of the original buildings today:

Just across Lincoln on NE 23rd were a couple of establishments run by nightclub owner, Jake Samara.  The first was Sussy’s Italian Restaurant, a pizza place he opened with friend Jack Sussman in 1947.

According to legend, Sussy’s was the first pizzeria in OKC and it remains in a newly incarnated form as Sussy’s in Bricktown.  Here’s a photo by the Oklahoman’s Dave Cathey of Jack at Sussy’s in the 1950s:

A few doors down was Samara’s Jamboree Supper Club.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any photos of the club, but I did come across these images of some of the people who entertained there.  Lilly Christine was a featured performer in 1951:

And comedian Larry Wilde played at the Jamboree in 1953:

Sussy’s and the Jamboree Supper Club both met their demise around the same time that Beverly’s did when the properties north of the State Capitol were demolished to make way for the government office buildings that are there now.  By that time, there were several other Sussy’s restaurants around town, with the last of the original eateries being the Nomad on N. May, which closed in 2016.  You can still get a delicious pizza with original Sussy sauce at the newly opened Sussy’s in Bricktown, though.

Go here to read more about Jake Samara and Jack Sussman.

On the next block east, nothing much ever occupied the lot where the Oklahoma History Center sits today — just a couple of buildings facing NE 23rd with the rest of the land all the way back to NE 24th remaining undeveloped until it opened in 2005.  It’s a beauty:

On the other side of 23rd and down a block sits the Governor’s Mansion, as seen in this 1969 photo:

The home was designed by Layton Hicks & Forsyth and was constructed in 1928.  It underwent an extensive renovation in the late 1990s and looks great today:

Next door to the mansion is another mid-century modern delight that is in great original condition, the Interstate Oil and Gas Building, designed by Hudgins Thompson Ball and built in 1954:

As you can see in this “now” shot, the building is all original today, which makes my heart happy:

Skipping to the 1300 block, here’s a great 1950s shot looking east from the intersection of NE 23rd and Lottie:

On the right side side of the street, one of the last buildings in the frame is the Bison Theater, which opened in 1942.  It and the Mayflower Theater (which was located on NW 23rd across from the Gold Dome) were built using the same plan, with the Bison having a southwest theme and the Mayflower going nautical.  The Bison closed in 1961 and a rock facade was added in the 1970s when it became a nightclub.  Here’s the theater today:

Looks much better than what has been done to the Mayflower:

Anyway, here’s the intersection of NE 23rd and Lottie today:

Vaughn’s Ideal Cleaners building was located at 1413 NE 23rd and looked pretty snazzy in this 1948 shot:

In 2015, it looked like this:

In the last few years, the two buildings on the right were demolished, but the Ideal Cleaners building is still there and looks pretty good:

The 1400 block looked like this back in the 1950s:

In 1981, a lot of the businesses on the right were still there:

But now only the Church’s Chicken is still around on the south side of the street and the large building at the end of the block on the left remain:

This devastating fire took out the Safeway store at 1600 NE 23rd in 1945:

I don’t believe anything was constructed on the site after the fire, and it’s still an empty lot now:

In 1955, a car slammed through this rock building at 1720 NE 20th, but Ben Benham’s shoe business carried on as usual:

Here’s the building now:

It and the other buildings in this strip look empty, which has me worried that they may be demolished soon.  Here’s what they look like:

The one on the right with the black and red diamonds was once the Cimarron Post Office, which is under construction in this 1949 photo:

Here’s a more detailed shot of the vacant building now:

This post office was vacated when a new one was constructed nearby on NE 24th in 1960:

Like its predecessor, however, this building is also closed and vacant:

Back on 23rd, here’s another photo I found at a flea market several years ago of the 1950s scene looking east from N. Missouri:

One of the businesses in this center is the Irby Rexall Drug store — here it is in 1947:

And how great is that Chief’s Fine Pastries sign?!  Delicious!  Here’s the same block now — it’s not nearly as interesting, I’m afraid:

The McKissick Monument Company once occupied the little building at 1901 NE 23rd:

Here’s the lot today:

Let’s mosey up a block to the intersection of NE 23rd and Eastern/Martin Luther King Boulevard (MLK).  I found a few vintage images of this intersection in 1952 that are pretty great.  Let’s start with these two that look east on 23rd just before the intersection:

I’m so in love with the Spanish-style tower on the right —  there’s a matching one you’ll see in a second.  Also, if you look closely, you’ll see a shiny new Safeway store in the background.  It was built in 1950, and here’s the structure just after it became a Family Dollar in 1987:

It hasn’t changed much since then and is still a Family Dollar today:

Back to the intersection, you can see the two Spanish towers clearly in this shot.  They protect the appropriately named street, Towers Court, which ran through to MLK at the time:

Now, the residential street dead ends at the Ralph Ellison library, which is on the corner of NE 23rd and MLK:

The Ralph Ellison library was built in 1975 and expanded in 2009:

I like the library, but I’m missing those great Spanish towers.

On the northeast corner of the 23rd/MLK intersection was a lava rocked, A-frame Humpty Dumpty with a giant sign made by the Superior Sign Company.  It was constructed in 1962:

If you take a close look beyond the supermarket, you’ll see a great sign advertising Hope’s Golf, which I believe was a miniature golf course that was around for just a few short years in the 1960s.  The building that was home to Hope’s remained around until 2016:

Here’s the lot today:

The Humpty Dumpty is still there and is now a Smart Saver grocery store:

It’s too bad that the lava rock is painted over and the A-frame is covered up.  But it’s all under that crap somewhere, and the original sign is still around, too:

Here’s a ’60s view of the intersection heading west after a wind storm.  I love that googie Carter’s sign on the right, don’t you?

And here’s a longer shot looking westward from the 1950s toward the intersection:

This is such a great shot because you can see the gigantic Falstaff sign, a Texaco station that mimics the Spanish towers across the street, and the beautiful Yellow Cab gas station.  Here’s the same view now:

Pretty boring and depressing.  Here’s a 1952 of the intersection taken on the other side of the Safeway/Family Dollar building:

The same view now:

Moving along past MLK/Eastern, this photo looking to the east on 23rd from Granada shows two motels in the background:

The first one was the Chief Motel at 2101 NE 23rd and the second is the Del Mar at 2211 NE 23rd.  I found an ad for the Chief in my 1964 phonebook:

In 1974, a tornado ripped through this part of town, causing extensive damage to the Chief:

I believe that the motel was demolished after the tornado because I don’t find any mention of a motel at this location in my 1977 phone book.  The Del Mar, which was constructed in 1954, has fared better.  Today, it is the Relax Inn:

Across the street from the Chief Motel, this duplex got the brunt of the 1974 tornado:

Here’s the home today:

A few blocks further east, was the Hawk’s Nest.  Here’s a 1954 view of the restaurant and a Conoco gas station looking west from what is now I-35:

Here’s another view looking eastward:

Here’s another view of the Conoco:

And here’s the side road going north from the Conoco — believe it or not, that’s Grand Boulevard.

I believe these photos were taken because these scenes were about to change dramatically with the new Raymond Gary Expressway that went from NE 23rd to what is now the intersection of I-35 and I-44.  In 1954, the intersection of NE 23rd and Grand was pretty quiet, but all of these buildings were demolished the following year to create a “modern” traffic circle that began the expressway, which opened in 1958:

When the old rock building that housed the Conoco was demolished, a new Conoco opened a few blocks further west in this building that was constructed in 1955:

Crossing I-35, our next stop is on the south side of the street just past the highway.  What is an empty lot now was once home to the El Rancho, a 11-unit motel and a 125-seat restaurant.  I found an interior shot of the restaurant from 1945 when it was just a small cafe:

Interestingly, back in 2008, I was doing a little urban exploring and decided to walk around this site, not knowing what had originally been there.  I found this embedded in old, crumbling concrete:

Blalack.

Intrigued, I returned home and did a little research.  I found out that John D. Blalack moved to OKC in 1945 from Wilburton, OK, and built a “modern” hotel and cafe on this site the same year.  He named the complex El Rancho.  Beginning in 1955, the restaurant became the El Rancho Steakhouse and was around until the mid-70’s, when it became the El Rancho Sanchez, one of five restaurants owned by the Sanchez family, who has operated Mexican restaurants in the OKC area since 1954, with one is still in business today in El Reno.

At some point, a two-story apartment complex was built next to the motel, but all of the buildings were gone by the time I photographed the site in 2008.  Just a few old rock foundations and the motel sign remained:

For several years after that, a farmers market was located on the old El Rancho site, but I’m not sure if anything takes place there now.

For nearly a decade beginning in 1951, the Derby Club was THE after hours spot to go to catch some great live entertainment. Here’s a photo of the great sign from my pal Norman Thompson’s collection:

The Derby Club was located out in the sticks far from town outside the city limits, which meant that it was also out of the grasp of the vice squad.  The place was the brainchild of restaurateur and club owner, Jake Samara, who also ran the Jamboree Supper Club and Sussy’s at the time.  Here’s an article about the club just a few weeks after it opened in February 1951:

“The city’s newest dance and entertainment spot opened the past week with a dance orchestra, a floor show, and a top-flight master of ceremonies.  The Derby Club is spacious, well decorated, and has all the equipment and furnishings for a first-class night out.  Floor entertainment centers around The Derby Dancers, a troup of well trained chorines who have a number of novelty patterns.  Each of the girls is a specialist of solo caliber in some phase of the dance, including tap, ballet, and acrobatic.

Music for the floor show and for patron dancing is supplied by Kenny Harris and his orchestra.  The real star of the show is Frank Reynolds …

… the emcee who bills himself as Dr. Sunshine.  A suave humorist, composer, and vocalist, he has had feature spots on radio programs with Kate Smith and Fred Allen and has played in top hotels and clubs around the country.  He recently wound up a run of 112 shows at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs.  

Besides the girls and the gags, the Derby Club has a new novelty gimmick, wooden “Hollywood Horses” ridden by girl jockeys and then featured in an audience participation number that is always good for some hilarious spills.”

Here’s a little more about band leader Kenny Harris:

“Musician of the first rank is Kenny Harris, leader of the orchestra which has been exciting patrons at the Derby Club.  He has appeared with Kay Kayser, Henry King, Harpo Marx, Jimmy Durante, and Gary Moore, has been arranger for leading name bands, and during the war was head of theory of music at the U.S. Navy School of Music, San Diego.

He holds two college degrees in music from the University of Oklahoma, was formerly with the Rambler orchestra at OU and is a member of Phi Mu Alpha, national honorary music fraternity.”

In addition, the entertainment frequently consisted of buxom women dancing around in the skimpiest of attire.  The Derby Club was an all night place, with the last floor show — usually a striptease — beginning at 2:00 a.m. and a jukebox playing music for dancing after that.  Here are just a couple of performers who entertained guests at the nightclub.  Meet Ricci Cortez, known as the Sleepy Time Girl.  She performed at the Derby Club in 1952:

This lovely damsel, alluringly named Halloween, also performed at the club:

The entertainment wasn’t all scantily clad women, however.  Several comedians were regulars at the club — including this guy, Hal Cogan:

The club even hosted an elaborate Blades on Ice show in 1955:

I don’t know how big the ice rink was for the show, but this photo of one of the entertainers is pretty incredible.

Not surprisingly, the club was raided a few times over the years, once in 1953 because waiters were caught serving customers champagne in ice buckets.  The nerve of them!

In 1959, the Derby Club and its surrounds were annexed into the city limits, increasing OKC’s size from 80 square miles to 175 square miles.  That’s when the trouble began.  First, a 1948 city ordinance stated that no form of entertainment was allowed at clubs after 2:00 a.m. One particularly strange part of the ordinance stated that “dancing must be restricted to hotels and end at midnight with the exception of Saturday nights when it is permitted until 2 a.m.”  What?  That’s crazy!

Well, of course, being outside the city limits for nearly nine years by this time, Derby Club owner, Jake Samara, and his patrons were used to shows beginning at 2:00 a.m., and having dancing afterward.  While many of the area’s club owners complied, Samara decided to test the law.  He had his attorney call for a special council committee session to address the problem, which even several law enforcement officials agreed should be updated with a later curfew and dancing outside of hotels.  In defiance of the law, Samara also refused to get the required municipal permit he needed to run the club legally.

Everything came to a boil in October 1959 when police raided the club.  About 50 guests were enjoying an evening of entertainment and dancing during permitted hours when the police arrived, citing that the club was “a disorderly house and (the owner was) operating a dance hall without a municipal permit.”  All of the talent and employees were arrested and all but one of the patrons were let go — the one patron had a warrant out for his arrest, so he was taken to jail, too.  Police said that Samara had been warned several times to get a permit, but he refused.  To quash Samara’s stubbornness, police told him that they would continue to raid the club and would start arresting patrons, too.

That was the final straw.  Instead of fighting further, Samara closed the Derby Club in December, remodeled the interiors, and opened a new supper club, the Calico, a few weeks later.  Advertising for the new club stated that Baird Jones would play the organ during dinner and dancing would follow — all well within the curfew set up by the city.  I guess the vice squad didn’t care too much that dancing was taking place in a non-hotel, but it didn’t matter, anyway, because the new concept wasn’t nearly as popular as the Derby Club had been and the Calico was soon history.

After the Calico, the building was home to another Sussy’s for a blip in time after the eatery on NE 23rd closed in 1961.

I believe Sussy’s was here from 1961-1964, then the building became home to a teen club called the Nitty Gritty, but it didn’t last long, either.  In 1968, Samara had to sell this property and several others that were about to be foreclosed.  By 1970, the Derby Club had morphed into a much tamer establishment, Foster’s Restaurant and the AMVETS Post 60 Club.  Sadly, the restaurant/club caught fire that year and burned to the ground:

There’s nothing that remains of the Derby Club today but an empty lot with a dirt parking lot:

The last stop on our tour of 23rd Street is, by far, the creepiest, St. Vincent’s.  Just typing the name of the place gives me the shivers!  For as spooky as the place is now, it was once a safe haven for many men who were chronically infirm.

In 1947, the Brothers of Mercy founded St. Vincent’s to provide a place where the chronically infirm could live out their days in a supportive environment.  There weren’t a ton of nursing homes around back then, so this was an idea that was enthusiastically welcomed in the community.  By 1952, the Brothers had purchased a 10-acre country estate that had a pool, tennis courts, and a stable on site and had erected a 22-bed facility.  Demand was so high for space, however, that they got a $50,000 Hill-Burton grant for a new building and hired local architects Monnot & Monnot to design a large and thoroughly modern addition, which was completed in 1957:

The addition, which cost $133,000 to construct, doubled the size of the facility to 50 beds and provided much-needed care for mentally and physically infirm men.  Patients, who ranged in age from seven to 90, shared semi-private rooms with connecting baths.  A small chapel was included in the addition, too.  As soon as the addition was complete, there was already a waiting list of 100 men eager to claim one of the 50 beds at St. Vincent’s, but even with the demand, the facility was never expanded again.  Over the years, the home began taking in mentally infirm patients, along with the elderly and chronically ill.

In 1962, a clean cut former male nurse at St. Vincent’s walked into an Oklahoma City police station and turned himself in.  Louis Andre Demers calmly but emphatically explained that he had murdered two patients at the nursing home when he worked there the previous year.  He did it “because I had tried to kill once and couldn’t do it.  I wanted to find out how it felt.”  The 24-year-old former Army MP told police that he had been trying to tell doctors what he did but no one believed him.  The officers didn’t believe him, either … until they gave him a lie detector exam.

According to Demers, he first tried to kill a man when he was still in the Army.  He and another soldier got into a fight and he really wanted to kill his opponent, but something stopped Demers from carrying out his desire to murder.  A devout Catholic, after he was released from the Army, Demers returned home to the Boston area and went to work for the Brothers of Mercy there.  When a position came open at St. Vincent’s, he decided to move far from home to Oklahoma City.  Within a matter of months, two men were dead and no one suspected a thing.

In November 1961, Demers targeted 92-year-old Stewart Mitchell, who Demers said was within just a few days of dying anyway.  Demers worked the 2:00 a.m. shift and was often the only nurse on duty, so it wasn’t difficult for him to creep into Mitchell’s room one quiet night and place a towel over the old man’s face for 10 minutes until Demers was sure he was dead.  The man was too old and weak to resist and died without a struggle.  Demers then left the room and let another nurse discover the body a few hours later.  With his advanced age and ill health, no one suspected that Mitchell’s death was anything but natural.

Instead of satiating Demers need to know how it felt to kill someone, the murder only emboldened him.  He attempted to kill another patient but was thwarted when he heard a noise down the hall.  The patient later told a relative that he had dreams of being choked and wanted to leave St. Vincent’s right away.  Unfortunately, 78 year old William Ingraham wasn’t as lucky as that man.

On a cold December night, Ingraham was sleeping peacefully when Demers creeked open his door and entered his room.  The old man awoke to Demers’ hands around his throat, and unlike Mitchell, Ingraham still had a lot of fight left in him and began to struggle.  Maintaining a creepy calm, Demers tied the aged man’s arms to his bed with a bathrobe cord and placed a plastic sack over the unfortunate man’s head and waited … waited … waited.  When he was sure his victim was good and dead, Demers removed the sack, untied Ingraham’s arms, and left the room for someone else to discover the body.  Once again, doctors labeled the death a natural one and Demers got away with murder a second time.

Before he could kill again, Demers left St. Vincent’s and returned to Boston, but his conscience wouldn’t let him rest.  He checked himself into a veterans hospital in Boston and confessed his crimes to the doctors there, but they didn’t believe him.  He later stated that he had also tried to tell doctors back at St. Vincent’s what he did and no one believed him there, either.  After trying to turn himself in to Boston police and getting nowhere, Demers decided to return to Oklahoma City and talk to police there.  Luckily, they decided to give him a polygraph before turning him away.

After the polygraph showed that he was telling the brutal truth, Demers was examined and deemed to be mentally unfit to stand trial.  He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and sent to Central State Hospital in Norman for treatment.  I figured he stayed there for a long time until I found Demers obituary.  In fact, I don’t think Demers spent much time at Central State at all because by 1971, he had earned a BA from Washburn University in Kansas and he ultimately spent decades — get this — working as a licensed mental health technician.  WHAAAAAT?!  That is beyond messed up!  Of course, his obituary doesn’t mention that he murdered two men and served time in a mental institution, so I don’t know if his violent streak ended after St. Vincent’s or not.  He died in 2013.

You’d think that would be the end of the creepiness associated with St. Vincent’s but you’d be wrong.

In 1968, an affable priest arrived at St. Vincent’s to start a treatment program for alcoholics.  Rev. Richard Dolen became a friend to many at the facility, even after he left a few years later to start other alcohol/substance abuse programs throughout the city.  In 1974, he was busted for “acts of lewdness” when he propositioned a male undercover vice officer.  This was the beginning of the end for Dolen.  He became inactive in the church, started drinking heavily, and gave up his religious duties to run bingo halls.  Over the next several years as his life continued to deteriorate, he was severely beaten once and robbed another time.  But by 1988, Dolen was a recovering alcoholic himself and was getting back on his feet when his landlady discovered the inactive priest’s badly beaten body in his modest apartment.  No one was ever convicted for the poor man’s murder.

The sadness continued over at St. Vincent’s.  By the 1990s, the former nursing home was closed for good and the building has sat ever since, slowly rotting away:

The place has been the scene of many a paranormal investigation in recent years and even made an appearance in 2014 on TV’s “Ghost Asylum.”  I don’t know if it’s haunted or not, but I’ve walked around the perimeter of this place during the day and it is truly freaky and weird.  I like abandoned places, but I do not like St. Vincent’s one little bit.  So, if you’re like me and would rather not explore the spooky St. Vincent’s in person, you can check out Abandoned Oklahoma’s photos of the interior here.

Originally, I ended the post here, but a few people reminded me that I missed the Skyview Theater at NE 23rd and Coltrane, so I decided to add it to complete the trip down 23rd … besides, it was certainly one of the metro’s most elaborate and dramatic drive-in theaters, so why wouldn’t I want to include it?

The Skyview Drive-In was just north of 23rd and faced Coltrane on a diagonal.  It was owned by Sam Caporal (who also owned the Mayflower and Bison that we saw earlier on our trek down 23rd) and designed by architect David Baldwin.  The grand screen was “made of reinforced concrete and built using slip-form construction. The screen tower was formed in six days, with five windows on each of the eight rows. The Caporals put lights behind the quatrefoil-shaped windows to light them up like golden stars at night,” according to a post on Cinema Treasures.  It opened in 1948, and here it is the following summer:

How great is that?!

Here’s another image, this one take in 1955, of the tower illuminated at night:

I’m sure you could see those diamond-shaped lights for miles.  Anyway, the Skyview stayed open until the end of the 1983 season and slowly rotted away.  Here it is, abandoned and forlorn and hoping someone would save it:

Unfortunately, the Skyview wasn’t saved and, instead, was demolished in the early 1990s.  The site remains vacant today.  Here’s an aerial shot where you can see that trees have grown in a crescent shape that follows the way cars parked at the theater:

I walked around the site, and there are several remnants of the Skyview if you look around:

And that’s it for our tour of 23rd.  Hope you enjoyed it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travelling Through Time Along 23rd Street, Part 3

Posted by on Jul 25, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Vintage photos, unless otherwise stated, courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center.  “Now” images from Googlemaps, the OK County Tax Assessor, and Lynne Rostochil.

If you’ve missed previous installments of this series, click a link to read Part 1 and Part 2.

Today, we pick up our tour of NW 23rd at one of the premier fan favorites in OKC and beyond, the lovely Gold Dome.  Originally, the Jefferson Elementary School sat on the eastern-most corner of the lot:

When it was deemed surplus, it was purchased by Citizens State Bank.  The bank had originally opened further east on NW 23rd and, after three expansions in less than a decade, the directors were looking to construct a much larger building.  Robert Roloff of Bailey Bozalis Dickinson & Roloff designed the iconic geodesic dome structure that quickly became a beloved modern beacon on OKC’s architectural landscape.

Even though it’s in need of some love, the Gold Dome is still a stunning structure today and was the home of this year’s wildly successful Oklahoma Modernism Weekend:

In 1964, city leaders discussed building a monorail system throughout OKC, and this is an artist’s drawing of what that might look like at the intersection of NW 23rd and Classen:

How groovy would that have been?  Another reason this photo is so great is that you can see a couple of older homes were still across the street from the Gold Dome.  I’m sure they were used for businesses, but it’s pretty cool to see them there.

Moving on, across the street from the Gold Dome was a cute little shopping center that housed the Classen Cafeteria, seen here in 1948:

Here’s the cute sign for the Classen Cafeteria:

NW 23rd and Classen always was a dangerous intersection, as you can see in this 1953 photo:

Just around the corner from this shopping center on Classen was Steven’s Cleaners, home to this exuberant Mac Teague sign:

Next door to the shopping center was the elegant Mayflower Theater:

The Mayflower was constructed in 1938 and became an “art” theater 20 years later and showed mainly foreign films.  In 1966, the Mayflower became the Cinema Mayflower:

By the 1980s, the Cinema Mayflower was an adult movie theater, and it closed for good in the early 1990s.  In 1998, new owners converted the once-lovely theater into the Hy Palace Asian Restaurant:

Two doors down to the east of the Mayflower Theater was the Carnation Ice Cream Company:

The dairy opened around 1948, and it quickly became a popular neighborhood hang out.  Here are some interior shots of Carnation when it first opened:

And here’s a shot of this lovely building during the day:

Man, it’s cute!!  I don’t know why, but those Deco-spired buildings always make my heart go a-flutter.  I have such a crush on them.  Another great one was Garland’s Drive-In:

And the George E. Failing building in Enid had a nice one, too:

Alas, these examples are long gone, including Carnation.  Carnation stayed in the building until 1965 or so.  After that, it was home to many things, including a Chinese restaurant in 2003:

The building was demolished 2008 and replaced with a parking lot for the surrounding shopping center:

At the intersection of NW 23rd and Walker on the southeast corner, Patrick’s Foods was one of the city’s most popular eateries for nearly 25 years beginning in 1950.  Here’s a postcard from one of the Vanished Splendor books:

The building sat diagonally facing northwest on the lot.  In 1974, it was demolished to make way for more parking for the telephone company next door.  Around 2000, Conoco gas station and Circle K was built on the site:

On the 900 block of NW 23rd are several older homes that are among the last holdouts that prove that this now-bustling commercial street was once solidly a residential area.  The largest of the lot is a two-story prairie house that was built in 1918.  In 1975, it was home to a small Christian ministry called the Shiloh House:

Today, the home and its next door neighbor are boarded up.

Hopefully, they will be restored one day and can take part in NW 23rd booming renaissance, just like the little bungalows down the street on the 700 block (more on them in a sec).

The mod clinic at 801 NW 23rd has always been one of my very favorites.  Designed by Cirlos, Nicek & Associates and built in 1955, the Morrison Clinic is still in great shape today.  Here’s a rendering of it in 1955:

And what it looks like today:

Back to some of the residential architecture on NW 23rd.  I love the cluster of bungalows on the 700 block, don’t you?  One of the homes was photographed in the 1950s and housed Curtis Realty and a dentist, Dr. O.H. Randall.

The bungalow is now the popular eatery, Chick N Beer:

There are all kinds of goodies on the 600 block, which has been a shopping area since the 1930s.  The first of these is the old Rothchild’s building, which was photographed by 1963:

The western portion of the building belongs to Planned Parenthood, while Lillian Strickler, H&R Block, and Paseo Church are using the rest of it:

Before this building was constructed in 1950, more bungalows dotted the north side of the street.  The original Citizens State Bank is in the background:

Here’s the same scene now:

Speaking of the original Citizens State Bank, here’s a great photo of the groundbreaking for the modern structure:

Originally, the bank was going to look a lot different.  Here’s an early drawing that appeared in the Oklahoman:

And here’s the final structure that was designed by Bailey & Bozalis and built in 1948:

The bank grew so rapidly that it was soon expanded:

It grew again a couple of years later.  By 1955, bank directors realized that this building could never serve the growing customer demands placed on it, and they decided to purchase the lot at NW 23rd and Classen where the Jefferson School stood.  The result was the gleaming Gold Dome that opened in 1958.  The original Citizens building became a savings & loan and then a church before sitting vacant for nearly a decade:

In 2015, the Uptown Group purchased the building and spent the next two years renovating the old bank.  Hurts Donuts opened in 2018, and as this NewsOK photo shows, the building is bright and shiny once again:

Yay!  Another success story is the group of buildings on the 500 block that is now known as the Rise.  Originally, the building on the westernmost end was the only one there and housed Cullimore’s Furniture:

Interestingly, until the mid-1950s, there were three apartment buildings squeezed into what is now the alley behind the Rise, and you can see one of them in the above photo.  As Cullimore’s grew, the Rise was added on to and eventually comprised four separate structures.  Three of them kept the Art Deco trim that runs along the top, and one had a more modern storefront.  In the mid 1950s, Cullimore’s expanded and a third building was completed — Park’s Uptown and Street’s were located in that building.

The last building on the right, which is now occupied by The Drake, housed Lerner’s Vogue, another clothing store that has morphed into New York & Company.  To the west of Lerner’s was Sturm’s.  As for Cullimore’s, this shop offered the latest in home furnishings — here’s a shot of a display window from 1951:

How much do you love every single thing in this 1952 display?

Cullimore’s used these cute vans for deliveries:

When Cullimore’s moved into the expanded building around 1955, a new shop, Kathryn Lipe’s took over the storefront at 515 NW 23rd.  And when Cullimore’s vacated the larger building in 1964, guess who moved there … yep, Kathryn Lipe’s.  One of the most fondly remembered stores of the era, Kathryn Lipe’s was a kid and teen clothing store that was started by, duh, clothing designer Kathryn Lipe in 1950 and quickly became THE place to go to shop for the little ones and their older siblings.  Here’s a drawing of the larger shop that Ms. Lipe moved into in 1964.

Here’s 500 block in 1979, three years after Kathryn Lipe sold her business.  Kathryn Lipe’s was two doors down from Evans:

Interestingly, when the buildings that comprise the Rise were being cleared out after years of neglect by the former owner, who ran a used restaurant supply business, fellow photographer Isaac Harper and I were invited inside to have a look around.  Here’s what the former Kathryn Lipe’s shop looked like in 2013:

The former Kathryn Lipe’s space is now home to Interior Gilt, and all of the dramatic staircases are gone:

In the 1950s and 1960s, Sturm’s occupied the space to the east of Kathryn Lipe’s.  Here’s a shot of the Sturm’s storefront in 1951:

The interior had recently received a very modern makeover, and the shop was bright and shiny and quite posh:

The drama of the space was the grand staircase leading upstairs to more shopping:

In 2013 when Isaac and I photographed the place while it was being cleaned out, the lovely staircase was still there:

This is the Sturm’s storefront before work began on the Rise:

Here’s the sad condition of these buildings on the 500 block at that time:

And after Johnathan Russell of Land Run uncovered the original Art Deco details of these buildings, restored them, and revitalized them as the Rise:

I found several vintage images of the intersection at NW 23rd and Walker, so we’ll be able to take a look at it from several different angles.  First up, here’s the view looking east on 23rd right before Walker:

The billboard says that Local Federal on N. May is about to open, so that dates this photo to 1963, I believe.  Here’s the same view today:

The building on the right was home to one of the first liquor stores after prohibition was abolished in 1959:

This cute mod building is now a lot more boring and is a Goodwill donation station:

On the north side of the street are shops and the Tower Theatre, but we’ll get to those in a bit.  Let’s take a look at the same intersection looking from walker past NW 23rd to the north.  This image was taken in 1949 and is a real jaw dropper because there’s not much that is recognizable here – you might want to click on it to get a bigger view since there are a ton of great details to look at:

First of all, how cool is it that psychic and astrologer, Madam Zita was on this even-then busy corner where the liquor store would end up a decade later?  I decided to find out more about this seer of the stars and found a first mention of her in 1941 in the Oklahoman.  Originally from what is now the Czech Republic, the soothsayer was born Sofie Randiak and came to America in 1920.  She stayed in New York for a few years and shed her ethnic-sounding name for the much more Americanized Pauline Mills before heading to Oklahoma.  In the 1920s, she married and had two children, but I think that one of them died as a child (the other died in Oklahoma in 1968).  I don’t know if she came to Oklahoma with her husband or not, but she set up shop as a reader in OKC in 1930 and by 1941, she was working out of her home located at 436 NW 6th.  Soon, the petite but very strong willed woman was doing so well that she bought properties at 1023 N. Walker, 1116 NW 16th, NW 23rd and Walker.  She also had acreage outside of town.

In 1946, Pauline married a guy named O.F. Dorrance, but the madam obviously didn’t read her own fortune because the marriage foundered just a year later.  Mr. Dorrance sued her for half of the property she owned and money she had in the bank ($2,000 – which is about $25,000 now).  He told the court that, although they hadn’t married until 1946, he had lived with her since 1941 and ran the business side of her profitable enterprise and prepared astrology charts for customers.  The judge sided with him and awarded him half of everything.  Pauline appealed the court’s decision, but I’m not sure if she won or not.

The fortune teller/astrologist got in trouble a couple of other times.  A few years later, she was sued again when tenants in one of her apartments complained that she overcharged them rent and the court ruled in their favor.  In the early 1950s, she found herself back in court when she refused to pay taxes on one of her properties.  The court reduced the tax by $4,000 for that year but, when she complained again the following year that the rate was too high, she was out of luck and had to pay the full amount.

All of this didn’t affect Madam Zita’s popularity, though, and she continued giving readings for decades.  I found this cute article by Tom Boone from 1971 about her and her set up:

I am a Pisces and am told that I should live near water.  The only time I have ever lived near the water was when the bathroom pipe upstairs broke and flooded the dining room.  Pauline Mills says that doesn’t count.  She’s an astrologer in Oklahoma City.  The other day she looked me in the eye and told me I was going to get a pay raise pretty soon.  I liked her right away.

She’s about 70, short, stout and speaks with an accent that turns out to be Czechoslovakian.  She likes to laugh and to talk.  The best thing about her is that she leaves you feeling good.  She is quick to point out that she is not a fortune teller and doesn’t believe in what she calls “hocus pocus stuff” of palmists, spiritualists, and the like.  “I am very scientific,” she said.

Whether astrology is a valid science has been debated for thousands of years.  Some of the greatest thinkers of ancient Greece and Rome were astrologers.  Nowadays, however, astrology is mainly a form of entertainment.  No one really believes in it anymore.  Not really.  “I don’t really believe in it, you know,” someone is apt to say.  “Neither do I,” says someone else.  They impress this upon one another as they sit around Pauline Mills’ living room waiting for a $10 appointment.

I was first in line so I went into the dining room and sat down at the small table across from Mrs. Mills.  Covering the top of the table under a sheet of glass was an astrological chart to which she referred as she talked.  She also had a deck of ordinary cards which she studied occasionally and which, on their faces, bore the stamped words

HAROLD’S CLUB
RENO, NEVADA

I had never been to an astrologer before, but it being the first of a new year and all, I thought I might get an idea of what the future holds.  I might want to plan to be out of town.  I explained this to Mrs. Mills.  “I don’t really believe in it, you know.”  She just smiled.  She has faced many a disbeliever across the little table.  “I just set them straight,” she said.

Then she set me straight.  Not completely straight, though, because as she told me about myself, she hit a few things right and she missed a few.  Never mind, it was the future I was interested in.  “The coming year will not be a good year,” she said, speaking generally.  “It will be a good year financially, but in other ways it will not be a good year.”  What she meant by that, she said, was that during 1971 the American middle class will revolt against government and against the rich people.

Government at all levels is getting too much control over our lives, she said.  Taxes are too high.  “I pay nearly $1,000 a year in property taxes,” she said, referring to her house and a piece of business property she owns.  Middle-class people are getting sick of all of this and will soon sit up and say so.  She also said that there will be assassinations, and I allowed as how I had had enough of looking at the future.

“I’m also a marriage counselor,” she said.  During 1970, she reconciled 83 couples who were having marital difficulties.  All through astrological counseling.

She has been counseling and charting the lives of people in Oklahoma City since 1930, although she works under another name, Madame Zita.  Pauline Mills as a name suits her better because she works without any frills just as she was taught in New York and, years before, in Czechoslovakia.

“Cut the cards three times,” she said.  She looked at each pile, fanning the cards, throwing some away, laying some face up.  “But you are a Pisces and really should live near the water,” she said.  I shrugged apologetically, feeling somehow guilty that I don’t live near the water.

“It looks very good,” she said.  “Your company is going to send you on a trip soon.  You have a happy marriage.  I see a long, happy life for you.”  As I say, she leaves you feeling good.  “You are in excellent health,” she went on.  I was indeed, at that moment, in excellent health.  “In fact, the only vulnerable spot in your entire body,” she said, “is your big feet.”  Ah well.  An insignificant blemish, and all the better for wading.

I love it!  Such a fun article and sweet view into the world of Madame Zita.  The astrologer lived another decade and died in OKC at the age of 81 in 1981.

Anyway, back on NW 23rd.  Let’s look at another vintage photo from 1946 taken at a slightly different angle than the one above, shall we:

And, for comparison, here’s the same view now:

Not nearly as nice.

In the vintage photo, beyond NW 23rd on the left is a Mobile gas station where The Drake is now.  How cool is the WKY billboard for television that’s “on the way” — WKY officially signed on the air June 6, 1949 and is now KFOR.  On the northeast side of the intersection is a building that houses various shops.  It’s the building with the Standard sign that had me intrigued, though.  It looks very fun and mod in this photo, so I dug around and found another vintage image of this forgotten building, the gorgeous Standard Food Market:

What a building!  I think it was constructed around 1932, and it was photographed here in 1946. During the holidays in 1948, two bandits robbed the market as unsuspecting customers continued to shop.  It was the second robbery at the store in as many weeks.  Here’s the article about it:

Standard Market and Humpty Dumpty were owned by the same group led by S.N. Goldman — yeah, the guy who invented the shopping cart.  Soon after this photo was taken, the grocery store became a Humpty Dumpty and remained that way until 1981.  In 1982, the building became a church called the Praise Center, and five years later it was known as the Judah Fellowship.  In 1991, all of the churches were gone and Midwest Wrecking knocked down the Deco beauty.  Now, there’s just a vacant lot that has become a skateboard heaven to local kids:

Back at the intersection, let’s have a look at two photos looking toward the Tower Theatre.  This one is from 1948:

And this one was taken a few years later in the mid-1950s:

It’s interesting how the Veavey’s Drug signage changed during this time frame, and I love the cottage-style building belonging to the drug store.  It’s so pathetically sad today:

Here’s a better view of the building from the 1930s — how sweet it was:

Going past this intersection, let’s take a look at the buildings where the Tower Theatre is located.  Here’s a great panoramic shot from 1957 of these buildings in their heyday — you’ll definitely want to blow it up and look at every fantastic detail:

Here’s the same general view today:

Not much has changed.  In fact, these buildings look shiny and new after a meticulous renovation by David Wanzer, Ben Sellers, and Jonathan Dodson in 2016.  Here’s another vintage shot of the theater from 1946 and the tiny building next door that is now home to Ponyboy:

And now:

The Tower Theatre is an OKC icon and looks just as beautiful today as it did in this 1962 image:

Here’s another vintage image of the theater — the Sand Pebbles came out in 1966:

In 1980, Spivey’s Antiques was located in the old C.R. Anthony building:

And a few doors down, Ed Reynold’s Flowers was a hoppin’ spot to purchase blooms for your favorite loved one:

Today, the building is still home to a very popular business, 23rd Street Body Piercing:

I found this sweet photo of an Ed Reynolds window display from 1946:

And, yes, that beautiful detail over the door is still there — it’s painted black but it’s still there.

Next to these buildings was the Gene Scott Service Station:

I found this great photo at a flea market a long time ago and some Flickr friends helped me identify the location.  The giveaway was the little Deco building with the black Vitrolite trim on the left in the photo — it is clearly Cheevers:

And here’s the restored gas station when it was the grocery a few years ago:

Across the street is this 1953 shot of the apartment building at 400 NW 23rd:

It’s still looking good today:

On the northeast corner of the next block was the very sweet Toddle House:

Here’s what the Vanished Splendor III says about this eatery:

The “Toddle Houses” were a national chain of small cafes specializing in breakfast.  Each tiny outlet was built to the same plan and contained no tables, but merely a short counter with a row of stools.  At one time, there were three Oklahoma City locations: 1307 N. Broadway, 329 NW 23rd, and 1221 N. Walker.  Former customers still remember the fluffy scrambled eggs prepared in a special way.  Payment was on the honor system: customers deposited their checks with the correct amount in a box by the door on their way out.  In business in Oklahoma City some 30 years, the Toddle Houses closed here in the 1960s. 

The Toddle House in NW 23rd was demolished after it closed and the site remained a parking lot until recently.

A modest brick building is currently being constructed on the site.

Meanwhile, at 319 NW 23rd, diners from all over the city waited in long lines to eat at the very popular O’Mealey’s Cafeteria:

The old O’Mealey’s building is now Queen’s Beauty Supply and all of that mid-century modern beauty is long gone:

Battens Flowers was located at 301 NW 23rd and was on the receiving end of quite a ride in 1954:

Perhaps with good reason, the site of the Battens is now a parking lot for neighboring Dollar General:

The 200 block of NW 23rd was still comprised of mostly bungalow-style homes that were being used as businesses in the 1950s.  The exception was the two-story Dr. Ruth Payton clinic, as you can see in this 1956 photo:

Here are a couple of detail shots of the clinic:

Dr. Payton was a chiropractor and

The site of the clinic is now home to Basil Mediteranean:

Our last stop of the day is Byron’s Liquor at NW 23rd and Broadway.  In this case, let’s start with the “now” image first — this one is from their website:

I also found this nice history of Byron’s on their website:

Byron’s Liquor Warehouse opened its door on December 7th, 1959. Byron’s Liquor is owned and operated by Byron and Patricia Gambulos. Byron’s Liquor Warehouse is a pioneer in the OKC liquor industry. Offering the lowest prices and largest selection since 1959.

Byron has owned and operated several businesses to include; a burger restaurant, parking lots, Pat’s fashion dress store, and was the vice-president of Liebold-Gambulos Construction Company after serving in the U.S. Army during WWII and the Korean conflict.

In 1957, as the Prohibition Law ended, Governor Howard Edmondson vigorously helped Oklahoman’s have a choice to legalize alcohol. In 1958, the government asked Mr. Gambulos to set up mock liquor store so people would have an idea of what a liquor store should look like. Byron saw this as an opportunity to sell store furniture and fixtures. Instead businessmen bought or rented the mock stores to operate them. Eventually, he built 55 stores across the state. But fate intervened and in September 1959 when he built a liquor store on the corner of NW 23rd and Lincoln to lease out; the businessman that was going to purchase the store was unable to get a liquor license so Byron decided to operate it himself. The stored opened for business on December 7th 1959 as Byron’s Package Store. The “package” refers to the brown paper bags used to conceal liquor bottles during the Prohibition era. The store started with only two employees but was able to make $1000 in sales the first Saturday in business. Byron thought “this is a new industry with unbelievable growth, its pre-marketed and will not go out of style” based on this he decided to leave the fashion business and enter the liquor industry. The original store was 3,900 sq. feet and the first year Byron’s made over a 1 million dollars. Byron could not believe his good fortune.

In Sept. 1959, the State went “wet”,   there were no franchises, no price control and anyone could get a liquor license.

In 1961, the state condemned the property he operated out of so Byron moved to a building owned by the family on 23rd and Broadway.

In 1962, the Liquor price war started. Since the State did not control pricing as volume went up prices got lower. Low cost wholesalers were changing the retail business concept creating the advantage of buying low. This gave Byron the opportunity to buy at low prices and foster to keep the prices low by eliminating various attempts to develop a monopoly of price fixing. In 1963-1965, Byron pioneered in offering the lowest prices to the consumer. Byron’s has not only survived adversity, it has earned a solid spot as Oklahoma’s largest volume liquor retailer. Due to his persistence and tenacity in overcoming the roadblocks placed before him, Byron has throughout the years been a pioneer in changing liquor laws not only in Oklahoma but in other States that have adopted regulations similar to ours.

In the 60’s, he was voted the largest cash & carry liquor store in America. 1970, Byron started a major expansion program that has led to a 30,000 sq foot store. Byron’s was named 1990 Market Watch Leader, an elite list of about a dozen of the nation’s most successful liquor retailers.  Byron has traveled abroad several times to the wine growing areas of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal largely due to the increasing number of people in Oklahoma who enjoy fine wines.  Byron’s is the first retail store to conduct wine tastings off premises.  Some of the promotions that Byron created to attract customers were; Western Months (with real guns) and Tiger-Tank featuring a real tiger with an Old Charter Bottle on the top of the cage and also some famous people to shop at our store; Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley body guards for Elvis Presley (waiting in the limo), William Jennings and George Wallace.

Byron has also been a member of many social, civic and government organizations like MAPS, Midwest Enterprises, Board Member of the Oklahoma Zoological Trust just to mention a few.

A shrewd businessman he is, with a heart of gold to go with it. Pride, thought, hard work, good business judgment in developing and maintaining a serviceable store for the benefit of the people are the best words to describe Mr. Gambulos success. Competitive pricing remains the key part of the store’s philosophy. Through our policy of staying two steps ahead of both our competition and the economy we have managed to maintain an increase in volume despite some less than desirable economic times.

In 1964, Byron’s was bombed twice.  Apparently, there were several bombings of liquor stores around the state during the above-mentioned wholesale wars.

After a second bombing attempt, Bryon constructed a pillbox watchtower above the store for protection:

The tower didn’t last long, though, and came down just eight months after it went up:

Nine months after the first bombing, the police and FBI charged a suspect.  He was a wholesale salesman who was apparently disgruntled because retailers were buying liquor from Byron’s at cheaper than wholesale rates.  He paid a guy $500 and that guy paid someone else $300 to plant a stick of dynamite in the store, where it went off in the middle of the night, causing quite a bit of damage but injuring no one.  I’m not sure if the man was convicted.

Today, Byron’s is busier than ever and there haven’t been any bombings since these photos were taken.

Just up Broadway from Byron’s was Garland’s Drive-In:

Garland’s sat at NW 22nd and Broadway, and according to the Vanished Splendor, “Tis the Taste that tells the tale” was the motto that Garland’s Drive-In Restaurant … used in its advertising.  Garland B. Arrington founded the drive-in in 1939 and it remained at this location until 1950.  The architecture depicted in this view has a certain Art Deco flavor in both the coloring and the design of the building.  The decor inside was characterized by floral wallpaper and decorative wrought-iron fixtures.  Garland’s was known for its Tennessee Country Ham, Fried Chicken, and Corn Fed Steaks, as well as Individual Chicken Pies.  It offered curb service and several people remember that whatever the total bill, the standard tip was 10 cents, if you really wanted to ‘put on the dog.'”

After Garland’s moved out, I believe that El Fenix moved into the building and remained there into the 1980s.  The site is now a parking lot for Byron’s.  Here’s a view of this area in 1951:

And the same view today:

Back on NW 23rd, our last stop of the day is this little batch of buildings just before you hit Broadway:

If you look past the traffic, you can see the whole block of buildings that were once there:

When Broadway Extension was expanded in the early ’80s, they all came down — this photo is from 1982:

Here’s construction of Broadway Extension at NW 23rd in 1986:

That’s the tour for today.  Next week, we pick up where we’re leaving off today and will meander along NE 23rd.  Click Part 4 to read the final installment of the series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travelling Through Time Along 23rd Street, Part 2

Posted by on Jul 16, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Vintage photos, unless otherwise stated, courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center.  “Now” images from Googlemaps, the OK County Tax Assessor, and Lynne Rostochil.

I was hoping to get this series finished before the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend, but since that didn’t happen, we’re continuing it now.  If you need a refresher for the first installment, click the link to read Part 1.

Today, we pick up our time travel journey along NW 23rd near its intersection with Drexel.  In 1979, people were up in arms that a business was operating out of this 1930s-era home along NW 23rd:

Obviously, the businessman won his case because there are now dozens of businesses located in these old homes.  The house in the photo remained a business for years — here it is in 2004:

The following year, the Dental Depot next door acquired this and a couple of other homes to expand their parking lot.  Here’s the Dental Depot:

I found another view of the intersection looking northeast from 1947:

Although the location wasn’t identified in the Oklahoma History Center archives, I immediately recognized the duplex on the left because I always fantasized about living there when I was young.  Here’s the duplex today:

Yep, I still love it.  It’s crazy to think that the duplex, which was built in 1940, was just a few years old when the vintage photo was taken.  Soon, Miskovsky Foods would build a modern grocery store on the vacant lot.  That building was designed by Conner & Pojezny and constructed in 1947.  I don’t have a vintage photo of the building, but I do have a matchcover illustration of it:

Very nice!  Here’s the building a couple of years ago when it was a thrift store.

I found another photo of people driving on the ice — this time along Drexel just north of NW 23rd in 1967:

Call me a wuss but I really can’t imagine driving an old car in those kinds of conditions — makes me think of watching “Mechanized Death” in my high school driver’s ed class.  Terrifying!  Anyway, here’s the same general area on a cloudless summer day, which would make for much friendlier driving conditions:

On the southeast corner of the NW23/Drexel intersection, Derby’s was one of the first self-serve gas stations in the metro.  Here’s the manager in 1970 advertising that patrons can “Serv-u-Self”:

Yep, that’s my favorite duplex in the background.  The gas station was demolished when the Northwest Baptist Church on Drexel needed more parking and wanted direct access from NW 23rd:

Next door to Miskovky Foods was Adair’s Tropical Cafeteria, which was built in 1950:

Today, the building is home to the NW 23rd Street Antique Mall:

Just past the parking lot for Miskovky and Adair’s was this view from 1947 of Drexel Cleaners, a cottage-style Mobile station with a Pegasus sign, and Taft Middle School:

Although the gas station was replaced with a more modern example, this view remains largely unchanged today:

And, of course we have to mention the gorgeously Googie Drexel Cleaners sign by Mac Teague — love, love, love it!  Here’s the sign in its glory days:

And now:

We got a teaser of Taft Middle School in a previous photo.  Here’s a detail shot of all of its glorious Art Deco beauty from 1946, when the school was a mere 16 years old:

And another photo taken in 1980:

Today, the trees are so tall that you can barely see the front of this architectural gem:

Although it’s not on NW 23rd, across from the school, there was a C.R. Anthony store where moms could shop while waiting for their kiddos to get out of class for the day:

New Leaf Florist occupies the building now:

On this same side of the street back at NW 23rd and May, this 1950s photo turns back to look at the buildings on the south side of NW 23rd at the intersection:

The cottage that housed the Conoco gas station in this photo later morphed into a sad looking structure…

… before being restored a few years ago — wish they had kept the building with all of the words on it, but alas, it got a boring brown paint job:

Also, in the vintage photo, you can just make out the City Animal Hospital.  Happily, this building hasn’t changed a bit and is still a Streamline delight:

On the north side of NW 23rd and May, the intersection has changed quite a bit.  Back in the 1940s, a Safeway occupied the northeast corner:

Here’s an interior shot of the supermarket after it was robbed in 1949:

The robbery foreshadowed a bleak future for the building; it and its neighbors were demolished sometime in the 1980s and an ugly Walgreen’s occupies the site today:

Travelling further east, our next stop is the Cleveland School, seen here in 1951:

Here’s the school again in 1994:

And today:

The 2500 block of NW 23rd has changed quite a bit since this photo was taken in 1962:

On the left side of the street, all of the buildings in the photo would soon be demolished to make way for Shepherd Mall.  The buildings on the right are, for the most part, still there, but the view isn’t nearly as interesting today:

In 1981, the Jesus is Lord Pawn Shop stood at 2430 NW 23rd:

And, although the name is different, the building is still home to a pawn shop:

As for Shepherd Mall, it was constructed on the land run stake belonging to the Shepherd family and opened at NW 23rd and Villa in 1964.  Here’s a rendering of the mall:

And some photos of just how busy of a place it was for its first two decades:

The mall received the first of many pretty bad remodels in 1982:

And now it’s REALLY ugly and most of the original mod is long gone:

Surprisingly, the Shepherd family house survived the construction of the mall and wasn’t demolished until 1970:

I think I’d prefer a dilapidated farmhouse on the site to what is there now — a KFC:

On the next block is this ’50s view at the intersection of NW 23rd and Barnes:

Too bad that those cute homes are gone:

The corner of NW 23rd and Penn was once THE place to go shopping when the gorgeous and very modern Sears store opened in 1954.  Here are some shots of the store under construction in 1953:

And after it opened in 1954:

The building was demolished in 1993 and replaced with a strip center that is now home to a Westlake Hardware and Dollar Tree with an ever-present McDonald’s in the parking lot:

Across Penn from Sears was Bixler’s Drive-In:

The site is a boring ole pawn shop now:

In 1960, a car crashed into this building at 1704 NW 23rd:

Yikes!  Luckily, no one was injured and the structure, which was built in 1939, is now where Pirate’s Alley is located:

How cute is this mod ’50s building that was once home to Milady’s Dermaculture Studio?  It was located at 1419 NW 23rd, as pictured in this 1963 photo:

Milady’s and the neighboring buildings were demolished in the 1970s or 1980s to create a bigger parking lot that is shared by The Fabric Factory and the Smith-Kernke Funeral Home:

Let’s talk about the Spanish-style Smith-Kernke Funeral Home, shall we?  It’s such a great building and looks like it hasn’t changed a bit since it was built in 1939.

Here are some fun interior shots of the funeral home when it was new:

Kind of morbid but kind of cool all at the same time.  This lovely building is on the National Register and is just as beautiful today as it was when the previous photos were taken:

Another building I’ve always appreciated is the Trinity Baptist Church education building.  Here it is when it was fresh and new in 1954:

Yeah, yeah, this building is technically on NW 24th and Douglas, but I don’t care because it’s such a great building.  Here it is now:

And here’s an even later mod addition to the church:

Nice.

This next photo is a little odd and I’m not sure why someone even took it, but it’s interesting nonetheless so I’m including it.  This is the intersection of NW 23rd and Douglas looking toward Classen in 1948:

See, kind of a weird shot.  Anyway, here’s the same block now:

Pretty unrecognizable.  The 1200 block of NW 23rd has changed quite a bit, too.  I found this 1930s photo of Roberts Rexall Drugs, which occupied what we in this generation know as the Rainbow Records building:

Here’s another view of this building and its neighbors in 1950 — the Rainbow Records building is the last one on the right:

And a more detailed shot of the Rex Westerfield linoleum business, which sold St. Charles cabinets!!!

Wish I could jump into this photo and stroll through their showroom, don’t you?

Anyway, these three buildings are still around and the Rainbow Records building looks pretty much the same today as it did when it was Roberts Rexall Drugs.  The other two received facelifts in the 1960s that covered over the Deco details.  One received aqua, gray, and white panels, which means that, yep, the right building is the recently closed Macias Dance Center.  The left building has been boarded up for quite awhile now.

The Macias building is currently for sale.  I’m going to miss that fun loving sign:

So, the buildings that were home to Rex Westerfield and the Macias Dance Center were constructed in 1950 (which is probably why they were photographed by the Oklahoman).  These structures replaced a sweet little Deco building that housed the Jensen & Smith Construction Company in 1945:

Macias is on the site today, as you can tell from the brick wall and roof-mounted sign that are still identifiable to the right of Jenson & Smith as part of the Rainbow Records building.  See the brick wall to the right of Macias in the below image — just the same as it was in 1945:

Across the street from these buildings was the beautiful and totally mod Beverly’s:

After Beverly’s closed, Jeff’s Country Kitchen took over the space and thrived until Bank One, which was located in the Gold Dome, announced that it was selling the geodesic dome, which would be demolished to make way for a yucky ole Walgreen’s.  Happily, the owner of Jeff’s offered to sell his building to Walgreen’s, and that’s where it was built instead — Jeff moved further north on Classen, where he continues to serve up great mom-and-pop diner fare today.  Here’s the site of the old Beverly’s today:

Okay, that’s it for today.  Next week, we will pick up our tour of NW 23rd with the Gold Dome.  Click the link to read Part 3.

The 2018 Oklahoma Modernism Weekend Mod Home Tour

Posted by on Jun 28, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated.

Without question, my favorite part of the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend is the Mod Home Tour because all of the chaos of the weekend is over and we can just sit back and relax in our cozy bus seats while our friendly driver (we had Richard this year) takes us to some of the metro’s most outstanding abodes.  This year, we decided to surprise tour goers and not tell them a thing about the places we’d be visiting, and even with that, tickets sold out in a mere 30 hours!  Thanks to everyone who had faith that we’d show them some beautiful homes, and as you can see from the photos in this post, we did not disappoint.

Our first stop was a new mod owned by Dr. Brett and Jessica Nelson, and I can honestly say that my jaw dropped the second I walked in the door and it did not close again until we left.  Wow, wow, wow!!

When we arrived, Jessica happily greeted us (Terri got this snap of her):

Inspired by several iconic mid-century modern homes in Southern California, the Nelson House was constructed in 2016 and is an ‘L’ shaped, two-story home in the SoSA (South of St. Anthony) district that blurs the boundaries between indoors and outdoors.

Building materials include extensive glass, cedar and Douglas fir beams, steel, elongated brick, and hardy board. The open and spacious central living space regularly hosts live music events and can comfortably sit 50+ people.  Is this space a mod paradise or what?

Off of the main living area is the coolest in-home office space I’ve ever seen:

I could get a lot of work done in this inviting space, for sure.  On the other side of the living room is a giant kitchen/dining room that opens to a private courtyard on one side and the beautiful backyard on the other:

The courtyard:

The backyard overlooking downtown OKC:

This house even has two garages, one of which houses a few of the Nelson’s incredible collection of Porsches:

Back outside and looking toward the house, a large exterior deck and spiral staircase off the master bedroom provide an elevated view that interacts with the downtown skyline.

Speaking of the master bedroom, here she is:

And the inspiring view you’d get to wake up to every morning if you were lucky enough to live here:

Not too shabby!  Off of the master bedroom is a large bathroom and the sexiest closet I’ve ever seen.  It’s the size of a huge bedroom and contains a washer/dryer and folding table so the Nelsons don’t have to run laundry up and down stairs all of the time.  Genius!  Only a woman would think of that, so it’s not surprising that one of OKC’s premier architects, who also happens to be a woman, designed this home — Randy Floyd.

This neighborhood was originally comprised of homes built in the early 1900s.  It was a sad, derelict area when, in 2005, Randy and her partner, Michael Smith, renovated two territorial homes.  Mod didn’t arrive until Brian Fitzsimmons designed his personal residence on a hilltop overlooking downtown in 2010.  A few more modern homes sprouted up in the next few years and then the building boom began in earnest; now, there are over 51 completed projects with many more on the books, and the neighborhood has quickly become a modern architecture mecca in the city.  Randy Floyd’s firm is responsible for several of these projects.

There are two more bedrooms on the second floor – here’s one:

Back down the elegant staircase and you’re back in the large but comfy living room:

Let’s get a close-up view of that to-die-for tri-planter, shall we?

Oh … my … gosh!!  Is it Architectural Pottery?  I don’t know, but it’s certainly one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.  And speaking of cool, one thing I like best about this home is Brett and Jessica’s quirky collection of art.  It’s literally everywhere and adds so much fun and whimsy to the space:

There’s even an original Matt Goad to gawk over:

Terri got a photo of this outdoor sculpture in front:

I love everything about the Nelson House, from the design to the excellent use of color that makes what could be an imposing space both friendly and comfortable.  Love it!

The architecture changed from SoCal mod to perfect vintage Streamline Moderne with our next stop at Dr. Leonardo and Margaretta Baez’s gorgeous Gatewood dream, which was constructed in 1940:

Gatewood was created on land originally intended for Epworth University, which opened its doors in 1904 and was the first institution of higher learning in Oklahoma City. The University offered instruction in law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, commerce, liberal arts, and fine arts.  Unfortunately, the school closed due to financial woes in 1911 (it was the predecessor to Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center) and that opened up the land for residential development.  The Gatewood Addition was platted in 1922 and homes soon started being constructed.  This home was built by L.M. Rauch, who was the manager of the Victoria Theater on Classen:

Rauch must have been interested in architecture because he opted to design his new place of residence himself with guidance from Chicago architects Glennon and Kern.  Ken Kern would later go on to author The Owner-Built Home, a guide to help others like Rauch design and construct their own houses without the assistance of an architect:

As for Rauch, he designed a steel-framed Streamline Moderne abode that was a real stand out in a neighborhood of much more traditional designs.  The Rauch family lived in the home until the late 1950s, and then Opal Staley purchased it and lived here for over 30 years.  In 2017 after the third owner moved out, the home underwent extensive renovations, which were completed by Leonardo and Margaretta in 2017.  And, in case you don’t know, they are the owners of Midtown Vets and are responsible for livening up the little mod concrete block structure that sat vacant for many years until they moved in — here it is before they bought it:

And here’s the side of the building with two Joe Slack sculptures adding some fun to the courtyard:

Anyway, Leonardo and Margaretta have lovingly named their stunning abode Casa Opal in honor of the home’s longest occupant, Ms. Staley.  Terri took this photo of the couple as they welcomed us inside:

No wonder they look so happy — they get to live in this remarkable, light-filled space:

Every inch of the mostly monochromatic house exudes calm and quiet joy, including the upstairs sunroom:

That daybed!  I could spend hours reading and napping there:

I loved the kid’s room upstairs, too — such an inviting space:

The master bedroom/bathroom isn’t too shabby, either:

The kitchen is, of course, the best hang out in the home:

… and it even has the perfect nook, where you can sit and look out the casement window and sip on your morning coffee — love it!

I love the dining room off of the kitchen, too — those perfectly rounded glass block windows kill me:

Such a zen space, isn’t it?

Outside the zen continues with the most perfect backyard oasis ever:

So far, everything about this house is relaxing and peaceful.  Well, all of that changes in the crazy colorful casita in the backyard:

Woo hoo, it’s a celebration of pattern and color everywhere!  That tile — so quirky and unexpected and beloved by all who traipsed inside to have a look.

Oh wow, check out those uber mod light fixtures that look like they’ve come directly from Woody Allen’s “Sleeper”!

The Baez’s even served Okie Mod Squad cookies — how great is that?!

Terri got this shot of all of the different styles that they had on hand for us:

They tasted just as great as they looked, too.  YUM!

As for the casita, how incredibly fun is this one bed/one bath space that pays beautiful homage to Frida Kahlo’s unabashed love of color?

Yeah, I know, I think we all want to bang down Leonardo and Margaretta’s door and beg to move into this wondrous bungalow.

Back outside, tour goers Vera and Lissa took a break from all of the eye candy to enjoy a relaxing moment by the pool:

And then it was back on the bus, where we headed to the woods of NE Oklahoma City and the home of Cam and Joli Sanders:

Yeah yeah, I know this one isn’t obviously mod, but wait until we get inside.

As a child growing up in Texas, Joli and her father often explored abandoned farmhouses that dotted the barren rural landscape near their home.  On one such outing, they meandered through a crumbling clapboard house that featured a long breezeway dividing the common areas from the sleeping quarters and allowed for easy indoor-outdoor living in the days before air conditioning.  Joli remembered this home years later when she took on the challenge of designing her own version of a farmhouse on a densely wooded lot in Northeast Oklahoma City.  The home, which is an amalgamation of Austin contemporary and modern, features a similar breezeway running from front to back that is the true heart of the expansive house.

Here’s a great detail shot by Terri of the beautifully crafted stairs:

I love this breezeway so much!  You can open the front and back doors and suddenly you’re both inside and out at the same time.

To the left of the breezeway is the giant living/dining room and kitchen:

Here’s a shot Joli took before the tour.  How inviting:

The polished and honed stone fireplace running the length of the living room is one of the most dramatic features of the house.  Here’s a closer view so you can see how interestingly it was constructed.  I love the 3D effect:

The fireplace is definitely the best spot in the house to snap a prom photo or, in this case, photograph the lovely owner, Joli, as Terri did here:

And, if you’re looking for a quiet backyard haven with a charming, woodsy feel, this has to be one of the best lounging spots in the city (Joli took the first two photos below):

Honestly, being so perfectly tucked into the woods, this place feels like it’s a million miles away from the noise and congestion of the bustling city that is, in actuality, just a few convenient highway stops away.  It’s definitely the perfect spot to spend a lazy afternoon reading a book while listening to all variety of birds serenade you to contended slumber.  No wonder Joli looks so happy — she gets to live here!

Back inside, the master suite is a creative mixture of ethnic and mod that gives the room a vibrant and relaxing vibe all at the same time.  Like the rest of the home, it offers a perfect escape from the chaos of everyday life:

There’s another bathroom and an office downstairs and a perfect retreat just for the kiddos upstairs:

All of the kids’ bedrooms are off of this central living space, which makes me love the upstairs almost as much as the breezeway downstairs.  Let’s get another look at that, my very favorite part of the house, shall we?

Maybe one reason I like this space so much because that’s where Cam and Joli keep the wine:

Although I would have enjoyed hanging out and having a drink or two at the Sanders House, it was time to move on.  Our next stop was the Brand-Cook House, a little-known mid-century modern gem tucked away in the Cleveland neighborhood.

Built for shopping center developer, R.A. Brand, this is one of just a few mid-century modern homes in the Cleveland neighborhood and was featured in American Home magazine soon after it was constructed.  C.B. Warr, the local developer responsible for creating his self-named Warr Acres, began platting and building homes in Cleveland in the late 1930s.  These include the beloved Streamline Moderne homes designed by Dallas architect Charles Dilbeck:

The neighborhood was filling in nicely when World War II broke out and halted all building for the duration. After the war, veterans wanted nothing more than to settle with their wives in suburban homes and get back to normal life, so the building frenzy began and the neighborhood was completed around the time this home was constructed in 1947.  Today, with few exceptions, the home is in pretty amazing original condition, starting with the sweet kitchen:

The open dining and living rooms are pretty fantastic, too:

While everyone was touring the place, Ginger, Terri, and homeowner, Marla posed for the camera:

How great are those Oklahoma Modernism Weekend t-shirts, guys?!

Back on the tour, down the hall is a delightful jade green bathroom…

… and three bedrooms.  Here’s a kid’s room and the master bedroom (the third bedroom is being used as an office):

So, you might be wondering to yourself, “This is a very sweet house, but I don’t really get why it’s on the tour.”  Well, here’s why, folks — the living room opens up to this:

TA-DA!!  Now you get it!

Musician Manuel Cruz purchased the home for his family in the late 1960s and soon installed a recording studio for himself and his sons, Edgar and Mark, both of whom are well known classical guitarists.  I believe that the family also added this over-the-top and oh-so-fabulous modern den and living area at the same time.  Did you notice those crazy saucer hanging lamps?  Yep, all original and in perfect condition.

The current owners, Marla and Damon Cook use the old recording studio downstairs as a playroom for their child:

I’m sure that all of those handy closets once housed hundreds of records at one time.

Back up the stairs is a friendly lounge area with an exit to the backyard:

But the big money shot is up a few more stairs to the giant, A-frame den that is also incredibly inviting and comfy at the same time:

Yes, that’s a built-in entertainment center that runs the length of the interior wall, and it is BEAU-TI-FUL.  How much do you love the huge round wooden pulls — so much!

And how great is the perfectly atomic fireplace with the dramatically angled ledge?

Yeah, I think I could put on a little Miles Davis, start a fire, and hang out for a long time in this perfectly preserved mod space.  Oh and check out the all-original perforated lights upstairs:

Now you get why we were so excited to have this stunning home on the tour!  It is a true mid-century modern dream and best of all, it is on the market.  If you’re interested in living in this perfectly preserved mod oasis, let me know and I can put you in touch with the owner.  I just hope that the next owner will love this place exactly as it is and continue to preserve all of its mid-century modern goodness.  So long, beautiful Brand-Cook House that even boasts original tile in the entryway:

With everyone settled in their comfy seats back on the bus, I asked our tour goers which house in all of OKC they’d like to see most.  Without exception, they all said this one:

Well, duh, who wouldn’t want to check out what is perhaps OKC’s most well known and unique mid-century modern home?  No, scratch that.  … what is DEFINITELY OKC’s most well known and unique mid-century modern home.  I don’t know what I would have done if they had picked a different house because this one was, indeed, our destination!

Bruce Goff’s only built Oklahoma City design is one of the most distinctive and beloved examples of mid-century modern architecture in the area, that’s for sure.  It is known as the Pollock-Warriner House and is comprised of nine overlapping squares set on an angle, with the apex of each square capped by a diamond-shaped skylight.  Outside, this angular motif is repeated everywhere, from the wood shingled pyramidal roof to the two reflecting pools to, most dramatically, the green corrugated covered terrace above the office. Here are a couple of images of the front of the home and the first pool:

As much of a piece of sculpture as it is a home, artist Laura Warriner and her late husband, Joe, have lovingly maintained this exceptional space since they purchased it in 1966.  The home was added to the National Register in 2001.

It’s such a special space and is a photographer’s dream — literally everywhere you look, a dramatic angle or provocative piece of art beckons and entices you to snap, snap, snap away and that’s exactly what I did:

How can you be anything but effusive about such a standout piece of architecture?

Inside, the home is just as unique and impressive.  Although modest in size (nearly 1,800 sf), the home feels spacious because each room opens to the next, not one square inch of space is wasted, and the light magically dances on every surface:

In fact, Laura said the the light is her favorite thing about the house.  For me, I’d have to say it’s the giant conversation pit anchored by a fireplace on one side and surrounded by light everywhere else.  It can easily seat you and a dozen or more of your best pals:

Also, Laura shared many stories about the house with us, and we were truly an enrapt audience:

Here, she regales us with the tale of her first meeting with the legendary Bruce Goff:

You want to know the story, don’t you?!  Well, I won’t keep you in suspense….

Laura and Joe hadn’t lived in the house for long and they were used to people stopping and taking photos of the home — sometimes, people even crept through the bushes nestled against the house to get better views of it.  One day, two young men arrived and began chatting with Laura about the home and asked to come inside and tour the place.  She obliged and they spent the next two hours chatting about the architectural marvel.  At one point, Laura mentioned that she didn’t know anything about the architect or that the home was significant; she and Joe bought it simply because they liked it and not for its pedigree.  One of the men piped up and said that it was designed by Bruce Goff and he was in the car if she’d like to meet him.  That genius of a man patiently waited in the car for TWO HOURS until he was invited inside!  After that, the Warriners and “Mr. Goff” (as Laura still calls him) became friends and were soon discussing plans to expand the house.

At the time, the home was much choppier and the Warriners wanted to open it up and add a master suite and an art studio for Laura, who was a burgeoning artist.  Goff told Laura that he wanted to get to know them better so he’d know exactly what they’d need in their addition.  Over the next several years, he invited the couple for weekend visits to his home in Tyler, Texas, where Joe and Goff’s mom would enjoy watching baseball together (both were huge fans) while Laura and Goff would discuss art, design, and just about everything else.  Goff even became an artistic mentor to Laura when he heartily encouraged her to pursue her art at a time when she was still insecure and unsure of her talent.

During one such discussion, Goff showed Laura a piece of magnificent green tile that he had picked up in his travels and asked if she liked it.  She replied in the affirmative, and they both agreed that it would make a great floor in her remodeled home.

Finally, after 10 long years and many visits, Goff called the Warriners and told them he had the perfect design for them that consisted of a two-story master suite.  Here are a few photos of the original drawings by Nelson Brackin that Laura shared with me a few weeks ago.  They are remarkable pieces of art in themselves:

Here’s Goff’s idea for the remodeled original house with the green tile floor.  Interestingly, the home had never had a conversation pit — something Goff was well known for — so he decided to include one with the remodel.

Other than the pink trim, the Warriners loved the design.  They and Goff agreed that green would be a color better suited to the surrounding natural environment and Joe and Laura reached out to contractors for estimates.  Unfortunately, the budget they gave Goff in 1967 was less than a third of what they needed to actually get the addition constructed a decade later, so they scrapped that plan and opted instead to update the original house and add a modest studio and the back pool.  Sadly, Goff died at the age of 78 in 1982 as the home was being remodeled, and he never got to see the updated Pollock-Warriner House.

Someday, if any subsequent owner would ever like to add on a master suite, Goff’s approved drawings surely would be the way to go, don’t you think?

Back on the tour, the heart of the home is the open kitchen where, of course, everyone gathered to chat, snack, and have a laugh or two:

The thing I love about Laura’s home is the art, art, art everywhere, which is no big surprise considering she is the brains and heart behind my very favorite gallery in town, [Artspace] at Untitled (which we will discuss more in a bit).  Honestly, there’s something interesting to see everywhere you look, like these modern pottery pieces that are scattered throughout the kitchen…

… the original Bruce Goff painting off of the master bedroom…

… and the nude and her pals that greet visitors at the front door:

In addition to the museum quality art, there are so many interesting architectural details in this extraordinary modern cottage, like the fact that you can be outside and look through a window and have an unobstructed view all the way out the window on the opposite side of the house.  I also love the way each room boldly opens to the next.  As you can see in this photo of the bedroom, it’s not a large space, but because it opens so easily to the gallery beyond, it feels like one giant and yet very practical room.

Here’s the gallery space:

The openness of these areas makes the house feel like one giant room that wraps around the kitchen at the heart of the house.  It’s quite a stunning plan that appeals to those in need of large spaces as well as people, like me, who love to get lost in little nooks.

Laura was such a gracious host, and I know that I’m speaking for everyone on the tour when I say that it was very special, indeed, to get to hear her fascinating stories and spend the afternoon wandering around her marvel of a home.  Although this home isn’t open for tours, you can enjoy more of Laura’s generosity and hospitality at [Artspace] at Untitled.  If you’ve never been to the gallery, I highly encourage you to go by and visit.  The programming is unparalleled with all kinds of beautifully curated exhibitions, film presentations, panel discussions, music evenings, and one of my very favorite events of the year, the very fun Steamroller Festival.  If you like the pottery pieces I photographed in Laura’s home, you can find similar vessels, jewelry, handmade clothing, and all kinds of art in the gallery gift shop, Hive.  In addition to all of this, Artspace runs an incredible mentorship program in which students from under served schools spend time at the gallery working with local artists to learn about, create, and enjoy making pieces of their own.  The gallery is truly a magical space, and that’s all thanks to Laura and the incredibly positive energy she brings to the place.  And that’s my shameless plug for the day….

Okay, well, I think that wraps up the 2018 Mod Home Tour.  It was such a treat getting to tour this varied collection of homes, and we’d like to thank all of the owners — Brett and Jessica Nelson, Leonardo and Margaretta Baez, Cam and Joli Sanders, Marla Cook, and Laura Warriner — for generously opening your homes to all of us architecture geeks.  We really appreciate you.  I’d also like to thank everyone who had no idea where we were going but purchased tickets to the tour, anyway.  Thank you for trusting us!  In addition, the bus driver, Richard, was a great sport and expertly drove us around town.  Finally, a huge thanks to Terri Sadler for working so hard to help me line up the exceptional homes we toured this year.  You’re the best cohort ever!

Hope to see all of you next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recapping the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend: The Flashback Fashion Show

Posted by on Jun 25, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Photos by David Saunkheah, Ryan Jonce Humphreys, and Lynne Rostochil.  

This year, several photographers were on hand to photograph the three waves of the Flashback Fashion Show during the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend, and some of the best images I’ve seen were taken by professional photographer, David Saunkheah, who gave me permission to share them here with you.

David wasn’t on hand for the first wave of the show, but he captured these images of the second wave devoted to everything bright:

For the third wave, Debbie Ellis, better known as the Junk Fairy to some of you, featured patriotic fashion.  However, just as the first models began walking the runway, power to the entire building went out.  Suddenly, we had no light, no music, no nothing!  But that didn’t stop anyone.  The fiesty crowd turned on their phone flashlights and began clapping a beat, and the intrepid models continued their walk.

And here are a couple more that I took during the patriotic wave:

We also are thrilled that photographer, Ryan Jonce Humphreys has allowed us to post his photos of the fashion show.  They are so great, too!

Thank you, once again, to Debbie, her assistant, Tracy Mabry, and Diana at Bad Granny’s.  In addition, thanks to the fantastic and up-for-anything models who weathered the heat and the power outage with complete grace: Josie Pearson, Brooke Taylor, Tamara Jones, Adrienne Johnson, Katie Murray, Alexis Perry, Zhiane Dempsey, Meaghan Syrjala, Nazim Khalidov, Brayson Williams, Ryan Humphrey, and Will Hodges. Finally, thank you to hair stylists Carole Perry and Lacey San Nicholas. Hope all of you join us again next year!

 

 

 

Recapping the 2018 Oklahoma Modernism Weekend

Posted by on Jun 22, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photo by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated.

This year, we felt so lucky to be able to host the third annual Oklahoma Modernism Weekend (OMW) at the iconic Gold Dome in Oklahoma City.  The building didn’t have air conditioning, water, or facilities, but no one seemed to mind a bit because, duh, it was in the GOLD DOME, for goodness sake!  I honestly can’t imagine a more beautiful backdrop for all of the fun events of the weekend….  Let’s take a look back, shall we?

Mod Swap vendors began arriving Friday afternoon to set up their unique wares for the Mod Swap on Saturday.  The place filled up quickly:

Terri took these shots of booths all set up and ready to go.  Here’s the scene at Funky Shway’s booth:

And the goodies for sale by Retrospectiv:

Love the nice set up by remodernOK:

After set up was complete, the actual Weekend kicked off Friday evening with a happy hour hosted by our Mod Squad friend, Koby Click, at his new shop Space3012.  If you haven’t been by his new space, you will love it!  He’s now located at 3012 N. Penn:

Afterward, a group moved on to the Pump for an evening of fun and games:

The next morning, organizers enjoyed a few moments of quiet before the Mod Swap and Wheel-o-Rama opened at 8:00 sharp:

Commonplace Books brought along several mod titles for people to lust over:

As soon as we opened the doors, a steady stream of mod lovers filled in to shop, make some good deals, and have fun:

This quirky bar from Retrospectiv was one of my favorites:

And who doesn’t love a little cat-eye look brought to you by Renee Curry:

We even had my favorite gallery, [Artspace] @ Untitled, on hand giving printmaking demonstrations to curious customers:

But, I can honestly say that I found a lot of favorites at this year’s Mod Swap.  We had a great group of vendors from all over Oklahoma, as well as from Dallas and Amarillo and even Little Rock, and they brought some fantastic treasures that very smart Mod Squadders scooped up quickly:

It was mid-century modern nirvana!

Also, we were so happy that Jennifer and Bren offered to man the concierge desk and merchandise booth.  They were on hand to sell the best OMW t-shirts ever, buttons, and much-needed Okie Mod Squad hand fans:

 

While there was a frenzy of shopping going on inside, the always-exciting Wheel-o-Rama filled the front parking area with all kinds of classic rides:

How fabulous was this vintage Shasta trailer that was for sale for a very reasonable $4,000:

Terri took this one:

Here are a few more car show photos that Terri took:

And a couple by Tim Anderson of the cute little 1962 Austin wagon that had everyone’s tongues wagging:

The event that always thrills me most is the Flashback Fashion Show, and this year was better than ever.  Debbie of the Junk Fairy and her assistant, Tracy of Golly Gee, organized an amazing show, and you can find many of the fashions in the show at their booth spaces at the one and only Bad Granny’s Bazaar in the Plaza District.  This year, Debbie chose a different summer theme for each wave of the show — 1960s tropical, brights, and patriotic.  Here are some of the highlights of the tropical theme:

Love this photo by Terri:

… and this one by Bren.  That’s my cute son, Will, on the right:

Terri got these images of the second wave, which featured brights:

So many people took great shots of the three waves that I’m going to create a second Mod Blog post with them.  Stay tuned for more great vintage fashion!

In addition to all of these fun events, we hosted several presentations.  The first speaker was Karen Oyerly of the OKC Modern Quilt Guild, who discussed the history of modern quilting and showed off several to-die-for examples of the guild’s work.

They are so jaw droppingly fabulous, and you can check out even more mod quilts at their currently running exhibition at Artspace @ Untitled.

Our next presentation featured OU professor, Dr. Angela Person, who discussed Bruce Goff and the American School.

Traditionally, architecture schools throughout the U.S. taught students based either on the French Beaux Arts model, which focused on studying classical architecture, or the German Bauhaus model, which melded industry and abstraction in architectural design.  When Bruce Goff became head of the architecture department at the University of Oklahoma in 1947, he and his colleagues created an entirely new form of study that emphasized individual creativity, organic forms, and experimentation.  Now known as the American School, Goff’s approach impacted not only his students, but modern architecture throughout the world.  OU will be hosting a huge exhibition about the American School in 2020, and I can’t wait!

Finally, I did a presentation of the history of the Gold Dome, which was followed by a tour of the iconic structure itself.  Lots of fun!  The vault was a big favorite:

Unfortunately, we experienced a huge power failure just as the third wave of the Flashback Fashion Show kicked off, and we weren’t able to get to our fourth presentation by Tim Anderson and Nick Leonard about Roadside Oklahoma, but we hope they will return next year to entertain us with their fascinating stories.

Stay tuned for more Oklahoma Modernism Weekend fun with additional photos of the fashion show and also ride along with us on the Mod Home Tour.

 

 

 

Travelling Through Time Along 23rd Street, Part 1

Posted by on May 29, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Vintage photos, unless otherwise stated, courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center.  “Now” images from Googlemaps, the OK County Tax Assessor, and Lynne Rostochil.

Have you ever driven down a busy inner core street and wondered what your surroundings must have looked like “back in the day”?  Well, I have, too, so I decided to pick a street — NW and NE 23rd — and search through the Oklahoma History Center’s vintage photo collection to piece together its past.  The results were pretty impressive, and I found buildings and street scenes from the road’s beginnings east of Lake Overholser all the way to NE 23rd past I-35.  I’m including these vintage photos, along with “now” shots of the same areas, so sit back and enjoy travelling through time along 23rd!

We will begin at the western stretch of the road in Bethany.

Our first stop is Putnam City West High School as students run a chariot race in 1977:

Now:

Across the street from the high school, you could rent this tiny house for a mere $15 a month in 1981.  It was the cheapest rental in the city, which isn’t too surprising:

What is also not surprising is the fact that the house is gone now:

At the corner of NW 23rd and Council is the DeVille Shopping Center, which was designed by Fred Pojezny and opened in 1964:

It got an ugly remodel in the ’90s, unfortunately, and looks nearly vacant these days:

 

On the 7600 block of NW 23rd is the Bethany Hospital, which was built in the mid-1970s:

The hospital closed a few years ago, and although there were rumors that it would be demolished, it looks like it is still in use in some capacity today:

Down the street is the Western Oaks Elementary/Jr. High complex.  Here’s the gym under construction in 1963 and a photo of students outside the junior high in 1967:

And the elementary school undergoing a remodel in 1984 — the remodel reduced the size of all of the large windows and really uglied up the building:

Here’s the school now:

As disappointing as the school looks with those awful peephole windows, we can rejoice in a structure on the 6500 block of NW 23rd that is a big favorite of the Mod Squad, the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, which was built in 1962.  Here’s the building in the background in 1986 when the church’s longtime minister retired:

And here’s this splendid mod creation today:

I mean, really, how great is this building?!

I’ve always wondered about the little log cabin at 6001 NW 23rd — it doesn’t seem to fit with all of the other, obviously urban, buildings surrounding it, as you can see in this 1982 photo:

It was constructed as the headquarters for Eureka Log Homes, and it still looks pretty good today:

Five blocks to the east is the best fairy tale apartment complex in the city, Olde London Towne, built in 1969:

I don’t know about all of the extra e’s in the apartment name, but I sure do remember being fascinated with that tower when I was a kid.  The complex was renamed the Castle Tower Apartments about 10 years ago:

Let’s drive a little further east to the Windsor Hills Shopping Center at NW 23rd and Meridian, where we can see the dedication ceremony in 1960:

Those cute diamonds on the building make another appearance in this 1965 photo of storm damage to the C.R. Anthony sign:

More damage occurred in 1967 when an Impala backed into the TG&Y:

Ouch!  The damage was repaired and here’s a view of the TG&Y and Hyde’s Discount Drug in 1978:

The same view today shows that the Windsor Hills has received the typical bland and very ugly ’90s makeover:

I found a couple of vintage photos around the intersection of NW 23rd and Meridian, this one from the mid 1960s showing where the diagonal NW 19th is causing more than a little confusion:

Not much has changed in this regard:

And look at this icy mess along NW 23rd looking west from Meridian from 1968:

And the same area now:

The next block to the east was once the home of what had to be one of the best signs in the entire state:

How great is that?!  Here’s another view of the Rancher’s Daughter drive-in from 1961, the year after the drive-in and big time high school hang out opened:

I believe the drive-in closed in the mid 1980s and was replaced with this piece of blah in 1989:

 

Interestingly, the grassy lawn in front and the u-shape drive parking lot look like they belong to the original Rancher’s Daughter.

Now, let’s mosey to NW 23rd and Portland, where I’ve found old photos of two corners of the intersection.  On the southwest corner is a 1974 photo showing the newly constructed Kerr-McGee gas station:

This awning isn’t nearly as elegant as the ones George Nelson designed, and although it looks similar today, I think the above station was demolished and a new Conoco with a convenience store took its place:

The really good stuff is on the northeast corner, where the lovely Humpty Dumpty grocery store opened in this building in 1948:

I would go shopping here every day if I got to enjoy such bright and happy surrounds.  This lovely femme fatale obviously felt the same way back in 1951:

All of that caffeine would make me a happy girl, too, but I don’t know about shopping in those shoes — not too comfy.

A TG&Y also shared the building with Humpty Dumpty. I believe this is the storefront for that retailer:

The third and final tenant was OTASCO:

I remember going to OTASCO with my dad when I was little and the entire store smelled like tires.  It was more than a bit overpowering, but it was always so much fun exploring the store and eyeing all of the gadgets and whats-its that lined every shelf.

Here’s the Humpty Dumpty building today — it still looks pretty good:

Our last stop of the day is on the next block of NW 23rd, where we are visiting Fine’s Foods and Veazey Drugs.  The first image is the building right after it was constructed in 1952:

And the interior of Fine’s:

I guess the owners wanted something more dramatic, so they added this fantastically obnoxious sign that could probably be seen for miles at night:

That is one huge WOW!

Within a few short years, Al Fine more than doubled the size of the grocery store when he expanded the building westward on the lot.  At the same time, he updated the exterior to give the building a much more mod feel:

At some point after 1969, the portion of the structure that sat further back on the lot was expanded to create one long building.  It was probably at this time in the 1980s that it also received a pretty sad remodel in which the former Fine’s lost a lot of its lovely windows:

  

It was remodeled again about six years ago.  Although many of its windows were restored, the building isn’t nearly as charming as it was originally:

That’s it for this week.  Next week, we’ll pick up our journey as we cross over I-44 and head east toward OCU and Uptown.  Click the link to read Part 2.

Visiting the Jet-Age Tulsa International Airport in Architectural Record Magazine

Posted by on May 24, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  photos by Julius Shulman.

As the 1960s dawned, jet airplanes were just becoming a thing and one of the very first airports designed specifically for jet travel was the Tulsa Municipal Airport (renamed Tulsa International Airport in 1963), designed by Murray Jones Murray.  Soon after the airport opened in 1961, architectural photographer Julius Shulman came a’calling, and his photos and a detailed feature article about the airport appeared in the April 1963 issue of Progressive Architecture.  It’s a pretty fascinating read:

The major objectives in the design for this terminal were the separation of essential passenger facilities from concessions and the exclusion of spectator traffic from passenger circulation areas.  The architects’ original proposal was to place the waiting room, concessions and dining facilities in a separate building, linked to the main terminal by bridge.  Neither the airport consultants nor the municipal authorities favored this scheme, however, since it would reduce the attraction of revenue-producing facilities.  The scheme was therefore modified to give the restaurant a position overlooking the apron and bring concessions closer to passenger routes.

A two-level passenger circulation scheme, with separate automobile access for arriving and departing passengers, was ruled out for economic reasons.  Separation of passenger and visitor was achieved, however, by utilizing the change in level of the site.

Passengers enter and leave the terminal at an automobile platform on the field level.  Departing passengers pass through the ticketing area and proceed by escalator to the upper level, where they can go directly to the boarding fingers or detour to the waiting and concession area or the restaurant.  It is necessary at present to descend to the field level to board the plane, but the fingers have been designed and constructed to permit second-level boarding ramps in the future.  Arriving passengers follow the same route in reverse, leaving the terminal through the lower level baggage claim area.

The visitors’ entrance on the upper level leads directly into the waiting and concession area and is convenient to the restaurant.  Visitors are given an opportunity to observe ticketing and baggage claim activities on the level below, but do not interfere with them.  A landscaped “island” surrounding the upper-level entrance separates the terminal from the parking area and serves as an outdoor waiting area, protected from the noise and fumes of the aircraft.

The capacity of the terminal is based on the predicted annual volume of 800,000 for the year 1970.  Initially, the terminal provides 15 gate positions out of an eventual 23.

The glass-walled waiting room is protected from direct sunlight by a gold-anodized aluminum screen.  The dark brown terrazzo floor minimizes glare, and the ceiling is of mineral fissured acoustic tile.  The steel structural frame is exposed and painted white on both the interior and exterior.

The steel framing system was selected for its adaptability to expansion.  The need to insulate the interior from the noise of jet planes was met by using double glazing and four-inch precast concrete panels within the exposed steel frame.  The concrete panels cost no more than conventional curtain-wall construction and provide comparable flexibility for future changes.  The building won an award in the 1962 American Institute of Steel Construction Architectural Award of Excellence Program and was the subject of a Workshop-Critique published in the 1962 P/A (Progressive Architecture).

Since the depth of the steel members was limited by the need to minimize floor-to-floor height and maintain a consistent appearance, the members could not be selected solely on the basis of weight.  The cost of the additional steel required was more than offset, however, by savings on wall area and details.

The exposed steel has been painted white on both interior and exterior.  The precast panels have a large green granite aggregate.  Interior walls are covered with neutral tan vinyl, except where accents of red-orange and yellow vinyl are used to identify the two boarding fingers.

Gold-anodized aluminum sunscreens on the sides of the waiting room wing have been placed 10 ft beyond the glass, so that they need not extend below door height.  On the southwest face of the ticketing and baggage area, gray-tinted glass has been used and special retractable vertical blinds have been installed for protection from the low sun of the winter months.

Recessed incandescent lighting has been used for general illumination throughout the public areas.  Luminous ceilings with a high level of fluorescent lighting have been installed over ticketing and baggage claim counters and above the central vertical circulation well.  Work areas and rental spaces have conventional fluorescent lighting.

The control of signs and concessions displays was given special attention.  The graphics consultants designed all signs, including those for tenants.

The final cost of the terminal was $4,250,000, exclusive of landscaping, graphics, furniture, fixtures, finishing of tenant spaces, restaurant equipment and fixtures, and architects’ fees.

Consultants and engineers for the terminal included: David B. Graham & Company, Structural Engineers; Netherton, Dollmeyer & Solnok, Mechanical Engineers; William E. Short, Electrical Engineer; Leigh Fisher & Associates, Airport Consultants; Bolt, Beranek & Newman, Inc., Acoustical Consultants; and Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar, Graphic Designers.

A separate control tower, also designed by Murray Jones Murray, was constructed concurrently with the terminal.

The only enclosed parts of the 157-ft structure are the observation cab at the top, the space for essential related equipment just below it, and the stair and elevator shaft.  The bulk of the equipment and auxiliary spaces are located in a connected structure at ground level, which can be readily expanded and rearranged as needs change.  The white-painted steel frame and the precast granite aggregate in-filling panels are consistent with the exterior of the terminal:

A system of exposed steel tension members braces the lower against 100 mph winds and adds visual interest.

Today, the Tulsa Airport is much bigger, but it retains many original features and still looks like a mid-century modern masterpiece.