Mod Blog

The Holiday Offerings of Hightower Associates

Posted by on Dec 11, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.

If you lived in Oklahoma City from the late 1950s through the 1970s, you know that THE fancy pants place in town to buy all of your high end silver, china, and linens was Hightower Associates located on Colcord Drive across from the beautiful Civic Center.

The luxurious shop was the brainchild of Frank and Dannie Bea Hightower, along with interior designer Warren Ramsey.  The trio wanted Oklahoma City to have access to all of the upscale merchandise that could be found in New York City, so they purchased the recently vacated Woodmansee-Abbott Music Company on Main Street in 1956, closed off that entrance, and created a New York brownstone with a new entrance off of Colcord Drive.  When the new Hightower Associates opened for business in the remodeled space in March 1958, the owners boasted that the “merchandise (was) picked exclusively for its high quality and taste.”

The place was a big hit from day one, with soon-to-be-brides shopping for their trouseaus, ladies who lunched looking for the newest must-have kitchen gadget, and browsers galore savoring a moment or two surrounded by the shop’s fine wares.

By the mid-1960s, a lot of the downtown shops were beginning to relocate to suburban shopping malls, but the Hightower steadfastly remained in its original location and was as popular as ever.  Just in time for the holidays in 1967, the store released a gift catalog that has left me salivating for most of the mod goodies it contains.  Have a look and see what you think.

I’ll take all of the Cathrineholm and Dansk items, please.  Oh and maybe a piece or two of that charming jewelry … and some of the linens … and the Braun kitchen … and ….  Yep, I definitely would have been one of the gawkers … uh, I mean shoppers … at the beautiful Hightower if my budget allowed.

The charming Hightower Associates finally shut its doors in 1980 as the downtown area became more and more derelict.  However, time has stood still along this bit of Colcord Drive and the facade hasn’t changed a bit since the building was remodeled over 60 years ago.  It still looks like a sweet New York brownstone that is now dwarfed by its towering neighbors:

It probably hasn’t changed because the building is still owned by the family and is part of the larger Hightower office building next door.  To read more about the store, check out the article about Hightower Associates that appeared in 405 magazine in 2016.

 

 

Holiday Shopping Guide 2018

Posted by on Dec 4, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.

I really have no idea how it is December already when my head is still thinking it’s October, but here we are knocking at the door of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever winter holiday you celebrate, which means it’s time to think of the perfect gift for the mod lover in your life.  It’s been awhile since we’ve written an all-book list, but I’m feeling the need to read and have some great recommendations for you.  You can order or pick up any of these tomes at Commonplace Books, Full Circle Books, Best of Books in Edmond or, if you are lazy and do all of your shopping online, at Amazon.

Let’s begin with an Oklahoma angle, shall we?

Industrial Design in the Modern Age by Penny Sparke

When George R. Kravis, II was 11 years old, he purchased a modern-looking RCA Victor record changer and thus began his love of modern industrial design.  While living and working in Tulsa as an adult, Kravis began gathering modern design, primarily from the 1930s and 1940s, and amassed an internationally renowned collection of several thousand rare and valuable artifacts, most of which sadly left Oklahoma after his death in February and went to the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York.  Luckily, he donated his extensive library to OSU, so not all of his impressive collection has left the state.

This profusely illustrated book takes a comprehensive look at the Kravis Collection while it was still intact and will leave you salivating with industrial design desire, I promise you.  Simply put, it’s a beautiful book and is a must-have for any modern art/architecture library.

4th & Boston: Heart of the Magic Empire by Douglas Miller and Steve Gerkin

Okay, so this one isn’t strictly mid-century modern, but if you love Art Deco architecture in general and Tulsa’s collection in particular, you will want to own a copy of this stunning book.  Through hundreds of historic and current photos and drawings, the book tells the fascinating stories of one intersection in T-Town and how it came to pass that so many significant buildings sit there.  It’s great stuff!

Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art by Mary Gabriel

I know, that title is a mouthful, but it also gives you a tiny glimpse of the fascinating, interweaving tales the author tells of these groundbreaking women artists and their work.  As you might imagine, female artists did not have an easy road in the 1940s and 1950s, and all of these women fought against one thing or another (or all of the following): prejudice, substance abuse, living life in the shadow of more famous spouses, etc.  Yet, in every instance they overcame so many obstacles, while continuing to create, and their work is revered today.  At over 900 pages, this is one hearty book, but the stories of these artists are so interesting that you will wish it could be twice as long.

Women Design: Pioneers in Architecture, Industrial, Graphic, and Digital Design from the Twentieth Century to the Present Day by Libby Sellers

Since we’re talking about women artists….

I picked up this book when Commonplace Books had a booth at the Mod Swap during Oklahoma Modernism Weekend and it hasn’t left my coffee table since.  The book provides an overview of the careers of such famous female designers as Eva Ziesel and Ray Eames and architects like Zaha Hadid, but it also introduces the reader to less obviously famous designers whose careers you may know little about, like architect and designer Lina Bo Bardi, in my case.  It’s an easy and interesting read and is well illustrated, but it ended way too soon for me — I wish it featured even more fabulous and creative women!

Mid-Century Architecture Travel Guide: East Coast USA by Sam Lubell

In our 2016 Holiday Shopping Guide, we recommended the first book of this series that was devoted to West Coast modernism.  At the time, I had no idea that Lubell would continue with a guide to the East Coast and now I’m hoping he will come to the Heartland and put together a similar travel book for this region.  Anyway, these compact guides are great to throw into a suitcase if you’re travelling to the region, and they provide locations for some off-the-beaten path buildings as well as the famous stuff you expect to see, along with photos and histories of each structure.

Dennis Hopper: Photographs 1961-1967 edited by Tony Shafrazi

Hands down, this is one of the best photography books I’ve ever purchased.  I bought it when it first came out about 10 years ago and copies were snatched up so quickly that it was difficult to find them anywhere for a long time that didn’t cost $200 or more, so I was happy to see that it was reprinted this year.  Of course, most people know that Dennis Hopper was an actor and maybe you know that he was a painter, too, but in addition to those great talents, he was also a gifted street photographer.  Most of the images in this book are of life in Los Angeles featuring his friends, family, and complete strangers living day-to-day lives in a place that was no longer the glamour capital it had been in previous decades.  It is real and moving and is certainly one of my greatest bound treasures.

Bill Wood’s Business by Diane Keaton and Marvin Heiferman

And since we’re talking about movie stars and photography books….

Over 20 years ago, actress and photographer Diane Keaton purchased the archive of a professional Fort Worth photographer who worked around town during the halcyon boom days of the post World War II era — Bill Wood.  She didn’t know what she was going to do with the archive, but she knew she wanted to keep it intact.  Fast forward to 2008.  With few projects scheduled for the near future, Keaton decided it was time to look through Wood’s work and put together this fascinating slice of Fort Worth life from the 1950s.  It’s such a fascinating look at a town with the same friendly size and vibe as Oklahoma City and view all of the hopes and dreams that come alive in his vibrant images.

As an aside, I fell in love with this book so much that, a few years ago when an opportunity arose to buy a small archive from a Woodward photographer, I didn’t hesitate to follow Diane Keaton’s lead and snap it up.  I’m always uploading new photos of the archive, which you can view here.

Road Trip: Roadside America From Custard’s Last Stand to the Wigwam Restaurant by Richard Longstreth

Last year, I got to write a review of this fun photography book devoted to quirky roadside America but stupidly forgot to include it in the Holiday Shopping Guide, so I’m correcting that mistake this year by adding it now.  If you’re smitten with vernacular architecture and old signs, then you will love this tidy little photography book that includes 40 years worth of photos of long-vanished and even many intact motor courts, gas stations of every style, and diners galore.  And, yes, you will find a few images taken right here in Oklahoma, too.

Lost Restaurants of Tulsa by Rhys A. Martin

Last year saw the publication of Classic Restaurants of Oklahoma City by the Oklahoman’s Dave Cathey, and this year we get a companion book about Tulsa’s fare by local photographer and historian, Rhys A. Martin.  If you enjoyed the first book, you will love this one, too.  It’s going to be a great stocking stuffer for all of the Oklahoma history and restaurant lovers in my family, that’s for sure.

Pet-tecture: Design for Pets by Tom Wainwright

I cannot imagine a better gift for the pet lover in your life than this fun and quirky tome devoted to modern design for the pups, kitties, and other animals in our lives.  It’s so cute and fun and makes me want to buy every single item that’s featured.

 

Okay, that’s it for this year’s top 10 mod book recommendations.  If you are looking for something besides a page turner, here are a couple of other gift ideas for you.

Go Goad

Wanting some unique art that won’t break the bank? Well then, I’m happy to report that Mod Squadder, local artist, and all around great guy, Matt Goad has affordable prints of some of his most beloved paintings for sale.  I know!  Can you imagine a better gift idea than getting your loved one a distinctive art print by one of the state’s best artists?

Go here to contact Matt about prints he has available.

Contribute to HerFlag

The year 2020 marks 100 years since women won the right to vote and local artist, Marilyn Artus is planning a collaborative project with female artists from around the country to celebrate this special anniversary and to encourage women to participate more in the democratic process.  Next year, she will embark on a 14-month journey to each of the 36 states that ratified the Constitution to give women this fiercely-fought-for freedom; at each stop, she will work with a female artist from that state to create and sew on a stripe for “HerFlag.” Upon completion of the project in August 2020, Marilyn and her fellow artists will have worked to create a giant, 18′ x 28′ flag that will be on display at various locations around the U.S.  As she says, this isn’t about Republican or Democrat but instead, “the journey and the completed flag are a thank you and a visual love letter to the states that gave women the right to vote.”

I can’t imagine a better gift for the person who has everything than making a donation in that person’s name to this worthwhile project.  I know that’s what I’m asking my family for Christmas!

Go here to learn more about the project and to donate.

 

To wrap up this year’s Holiday Shopping Guide … and all of the gifts it contains … please don’t forget to purchase a batch of this year’s artist-designed Curbside Chronicle wrapping paper to help wrap up homelessness in OKC.  I’m really liking the Peter Max vibe of Wayne Coyne’s design this year:

Okay, that’s it for this year’s guide.  Hope it helped you find a few treasures for friends, family, and even yourself.

A History of Oklahoma’s Mod Domes, Part 2: The Gold Dome

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

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated. Most vintage photos from the Oklahoma History Center.

In part two of our look at Oklahoma’s mod domes, we focus on perhaps the most famous dome in the state, the iconic Citizens State Bank at the corner of NW 23rd and Classen in Oklahoma City.  Here we go!

The Early Years of Citizens State Bank

The sparkling new Citizens State Bank was formed in 1946 by C.R. Anthony, Fred Sewell, Felix Simmons, B.D. Eddie, V.V. Harris, and Virgil Brown, all of whom were prominent local businessmen.  Their new endeavor was the first bank to open outside the downtown area in decades, and its directors couldn’t have picked a better location than the rapidly developing northwest side of town along the bustling Uptown shopping district on NW 23rd.  Here are some of the movers and shakers behind the new bank at groundbreaking ceremonies for the building at NW 23rd and Dewey in 1947:

The small suburban bank opened in May 27, 1948, and it grew so rapidly that the building was expanded soon after its completion to include more parking and a revolutionary concept in OKC’s increasingly car-dependent society, “auto teller windows.”

Within the next few years, the bank once again outgrew its space and looked to expand.  This time, a second building with department store space was added:

But even this expansion was not enough and the bank soon was in need of even more room.  By 1956, Citizens boasted $20 million in assets and was the ninth largest bank in the state.  Looking toward an even brighter future, the directors decided that a completely new building was in order.  Ultimately, they agreed to purchase from the Oklahoma City school system a block-long section of land down the street at the corner of NW 23rd and Classen where the recently-vacated Jefferson School sat.

The board then hired Robert Roloff of Bailey Bozalis Dickinson & Roloff to design a structure as optimistic and forward thinking as the bank itself.  Roloff returned with a revolutionary geodesic dome design.

The Geodesic Dome

Walther Bauersfeld invented geodesic dome in the 1920s, and the first such dome ever constructed was the Zeiss I Planetarium in Jena, Germany, which opened in 1926.  Here’s the building under construction:

And now:

Buckminster Fuller was teaching at Black Mountain College in 1948 when he and his students refined the geodesic dome design, and he constructed a dome at Bennington College in Vermont in 1949 that received a lot of publicity.  Here’s a photo by Hazel Larsen Archer of Bucky surrounded by geodesic dome forms:

Fuller liked the idea of geodesic domes because a sphere design encloses the greatest volume for the least surface area and is strong, economical, and easy to construct.  Ever the opportunist, Fuller obtained U.S. patents for the geodesic dome design in 1954 without crediting Bauersfeld’s work.

The Gold Dome

After the old Jefferson School was removed at the corner of NW 23rd and Classen, the flashy and beautifully mod Citizens started going up.  The 27,000 sf building cost $1 million to build and was erected by Secor Construction.  As for the dome, it was built in pieces by Dale Benz, Inc., of Phoenix, and the panels were then hauled to Oklahoma City and assembled on site like a giant puzzle:

The dome consisted of 625 panels, ranging in size from 7.5 to 11.5 feet in length.  Each panel weighed 60-70 pounds and the whole roof spanned 145 feet in diameter.  Here are some shots of construction:

The Gold Dome, as the immediately beloved building came to be known, was completed on Monday, December 8, 1958, and Citizens soon vacated its old digs and moved its 86 employees into the funky, Space Age facility that was one of the very first geodesic domes built for commercial use.

As for the original Citizens Bank building, it was a savings and loan for awhile and then a church for several years.  It remained unoccupied for a long time …

… but in 2014, developer Bruce Fraley purchased the building for $1.4 million and gave it a beautiful makeover.  The original bank is now home to Hurts Donut and other businesses are moving into the remaining spaces.

Here’s the new bank soon after it opened for business:

Let’s take a tour of the interior, shall we?  In the lobby, visitors were greeted by a poured terrazzo floor with a circle/oval motif that was reflected throughout the interior space, including the rings along the balcony and the disc-like acoustical panels hanging down from the gold ceiling:

There were circles literally everywhere, including the balcony railing:

And even on the conference room door handles:

Custom furniture was even made to fit with the modern design of the building:

As for the work areas, they were very loungy with comfortable furnishings:

Even the basement level employee breakroom was roomy and modern:

Back on the first floor, the large vault area contained safety deposit boxes and a relaxing waiting lounge:

The boxes are mostly gone now, but the vault and safe are still there:

The Accounts area was located near the main entrance:

Originally the space was open, but the back area was later enclosed to create private offices.  However, some original features remain, including the concierge desk and partition:

The new Citizens offered what it called “convenient banking,” with both walk-up and drive-thru services:

The drive-thru proved so popular that it was ultimately expanded to include several bays:

One of the bank’s most infamous moments came on April 11, 1965 when a man approached a teller window with a ransom note in hand, demanding the teller to turn over her cash drawer.  She complied and he took off with $3,231 but was quickly apprehended by police.  Apparently, the novice robber was found by police when they inspected his ransom note and found a reminder he had written on the other side of the paper about a pink slip for a 1957 Mercury.  That car was linked to a California robbery a few weeks before, and the suspect was a 21 year old man who had skipped town with his 16-year-old runaway girlfriend.  Police found the couple just a few hours after the robbery holed up in a garage apartment on the 2000 block of N. Shartel.  Here’s the young man after his arrest — he looks so clean cut and is even wearing a button down shirt:

The young man pled guilty to both robberies, saying that he was “extremely emotionally involved” with the girl and that they wanted to get away from her parents.  I don’t think the judge had a lot of sympathy for this love sick robber, though, because he sentenced the young man to 15 years for both robberies – he could get out in five years with good behavior.  He must have been a very good inmate because he was out of prison by 1971, married to a woman who was not his jailbait girlfriend, and living in Los Angeles.  I didn’t find that he committed any further crimes, so he must have learned his lesson and led a crime-free life from then on.

Here’s the bank back in business just a few hours after the young man absconded with the cash:

Looks like business as usual.

Over the years, I’ve seen several vintage and pretty rare photos of the bank that I thought I’d share here.  This one looks like it was taken around 1959 — there are no cars newer than that in the shot:

This one is pretty good, too, with that sign.  It was taken by Johnny Melton in 1974:

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Dome was all decked out for the holidays, as you can see in this photo courtesy of Dean Avants:

By 1976, Citizens boasted $100 million in assets and was the fourth largest bank in the city.  Just a few years later, the building received a really dumb renovation that included dropping the spectacular interior ceiling and hiding it from view with boring panels.  You can see the ceiling panels about to be installed in this 1983 photo of the dummy who was running the bank and thought a dropped ceiling was a good idea:

The dropped ceiling signalled the beginning of the end for Citizens.  On August 14, 1986, the bank failed and was purchased by Liberty Bank and, later on, Bank One.  By 2000, Bank One was looking to vacate this branch and wanted to sell the land to Walgreen’s, which planned to demolish the bank and build a new store on the site.  Preservation organizations, the OKC chapter of the AIA, and concerned citizens from all over the city came together and protested the lackluster plan with weekly rallies across the street from the Gold Dome, appeals to the owners, etc.

“Save the Dome” became the popular mantra around town as the weekly protests and periodic rallies continued.

Luckily, Bank One proved to be a friendly adversary and agreed to an extension to allow time to find a buyer.  Soon, Dr. Irene Lam came forward and purchased the Gold Dome.  According to Robert Roloff’s son, Scott, “Bob Roloff wouldn’t show people his feelings. After several plans to demolish it failed, Walgreens’s plan was firm. He said nothing. Later he confided to (probably only) me that when people from the neighborhood went into the street to stop the wrecking equipment because they liked a job he’d done, it had been the most gratifying thing that happened to him. That’s saying a lot. He was gratified more than anyone I ever knew.”

In 2003, this local beacon of Modernism was placed on the National Register, and in 2007, it was listed among the 100 best buildings in Central Oklahoma by that chapter’s AIA.  Yes, the future looked as bright and shiny as the Gold Dome’s reflective roof, and people flocked to the mid-century marvel to attend weddings in the perfectly preserved bank lobby, eat and drink at the very popular Prohibition Room, and wander around the small gallery located in the former bank’s vault.

You would think that the drama would be over for such an iconic and beloved structure, but sadly, it was just beginning.  In August 2012, Dr. Lam defaulted on the building loan and it went into foreclosure.

On September 12, 2012, developer David Box bought the beleaguered structure for $800,000 at auction and sought a demolition permit in March 2013, presumably to replace the Gold Dome with a gas station.  Yes, a gas station.  Once again, the mantra, “Save the Dome” was being chanted at the former Citizens.

After plenty of loud protesting from the community, Box backed off and ultimately turned the building over to TEEMCO, an environmental services company.  TEEMCO announced grand plans to restore the building, but other than painting the dome a crazy shade of canary yellow and painting parts of the facade a very tacky faux oxidized copper green, not much was done. Here’s the dome before and after the horrible paint job:

Yes, TEEMCO was responsible for the horrible paint job … and also for equally horrible business practices that ended with the owner heading to prison.  Bye, Felicia.

Box then listed the building for sale in 2015 and Johnathan Russell of Land Run Development purchased it for $1.1 million.  While the building is safe for now and Russell plans to restore it, the TEEMCO group’s half-assed efforts are haunting him.  A geodesic roof needs to “breathe” and move, but the dummies at TEEMCO decided to seal it without investigating the best way to do that while also letting the roof continue to breathe.  It’s going to cost $200,000 just to fix their error, and that doesn’t count replacing plumbing (all of the copper tubing has been stolen), electrical, etc.  Russell seems very committed to restoring the building, however, so my hopes remain high that he can pull it off.

The Okie Mod Squad was very lucky that Russell loaned us this mid-century modern marvel for our third annual Oklahoma Modernism Weekend in 2018.  It proved to be the perfect venue for all of the mod lovers in the group, many of whom had never been inside this iconic structure before.  Hopefully, we will be able to return for another weekend once the building is renovated and up and running again.  Until then, enjoy these drone photos that were taken for the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend in June 2018:

Long live the Gold Dome!

 

A History of Oklahoma’s Mod Domes, Part 1

Posted by on Nov 21, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated. Vintage photos from the Oklahoma History Center and Lynne’s collection.  

During the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend, I put together a presentation devoted to the surprising number of domed structures scattered throughout Oklahoma to go along with a tour of the always fabulous Gold Dome.  I thought I’d include the presentation for those of you who weren’t able to make the tour — I’ll divide it into two parts, one devoted to Oklahoma’s domes and one about the history of the Gold Dome itself.  Here we go:

Oklahoma has a long history of building domed structures….

Let’s begin with the State Capitol.  When the state capitol moved from Guthrie to OKC in 1910, it was housed in the Huckins Hotel until the new Capitol building could be completed.  Designed by Soloman Andrew Layton and S. Wemyss-Smith, the Romanesque structure was supposed to be capped by a large dome, but construction overruns kept that from happening and the domeless structure was completed in 1917:

Perhaps one reason we became a little dome obsessed in Oklahoma was because we felt inferior without our promised-for capitol dome – or maybe it wasn’t as romantic as that.  Maybe it’s because domes are strong, relatively inexpensive to build, and work well in Tornado Alley.  Either way, the State Capitol was finally completed as designed when the dome was added in 2002:

More early domes include the Blue Dome in Tulsa, which was built in 1924 and served as the White Star Gulf Oil Station.  This was the first station in Oklahoma to be open 24 hours a day and offered hot water, pressurized air, and a car wash (photo below by Budd Bailey):

Another early dome was the First Christian Church on NW 10th in Oklahoma City:

It was designed by Soloman Andrew Layton and opened in 1911.  Now known as Frontline Church, the building is on the National Register.  Another dome on the National Register is the Round Barn along Route 66 in Arcadia (photo by TravelOK):

It was built in 1898 by William Harrison Odor and was restored as a museum and events center in 1992.

The Electric Park Pavilion in Blackwell was designed by W.L. McAltee and constructed in 1913.  Here’s a shot of the building by Kevin Stewart:

It was built as a “salute to electricity” and features a 160-foot domed ceiling and an 800-seat auditorium.  It was once lined with over 500 lights on the dome, the 22 arched windows, and the 27 poles that waved American flags.

Among the first modern domes to be constructed was at Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City.  The Fieldhouse was designed by Coston Frankfurt & Short and opened in 1955:

The round and domed Capitol Hill High School fieldhouse was a true standout among its neighboring and much more traditional campus buildings, which were constructed in 1928.  After it was built, the fieldhouse was featured in Oklahoma Teacher magazine and a 1950s-era book put together by the Oklahoma City Board of Education called Oklahoma City: Capital of Soonerland.  Architectural photographer Julius Shulman also took images of the structure during one of his frequent visits to the Sooner State.

Today, the fieldhouse is still in use and hosts both high school and college-level activities.  It’s in excellent original condition.

OKC-based architect, R. Duane Conner, designed another round gym for Marlow High School, which was built in 1957.  The poured thin-shell concrete structure was 18,507 square feet and cost $116,897 to construct, with such economical features as concrete bleachers that cost $3.50 per seat instead of the usual $10 to $12 a seat for traditional bleachers.  Conner’s innovative and economical design was featured in Architectural Forum magazine in 1956:

Here’s the gym soon after it was completed:

And here it is today:

Other small towns liked the design so much that they constructed gyms using the same plans.  You can see two of these gyms still in use in Amber…

… and in Fairview:

All three gyms were constructed at the same time as the First Christian Church in OKC, which was also designed by Conner.  We will get to that dome in a bit.

Two other domed school gyms include the William D. Carr gym in Cushing, which was designed by Hudgins Thompson Ball and constructed in 1957:

And the Tornado Dome in Clinton, which was built in 1969:

One of the most exciting high school gym designs is by Jack L. Scott and located in tiny Helena.

Scott designed several thin shell concrete schools in the state, including Pauls Valley High School and Poteau High School, but this is the only design that included a dome.  It was constructed in 1958 and was also featured in Oklahoma Today the same year.  It’s in great original condition today.

Okay, that’s it for the high school gyms.  Now, let’s move on to the aforementioned First Christian Church in Oklahoma City.

The church was designed by Conner & Pojezny on what once had been the Edgemere Golf Course.  Go here to read the fascinating history of the church.  Today, the church and other buildings on its campus are for sale — all are on our Endangered list of buildings.

Another endangered dome is the stunning Rose Bowl, designed by William Henry Ryan and located along Route 66 in Tulsa:

The Rose Bowl opened in 1962 and served the community until 2005.  After that, it sat vacant for a few years before becoming an events center and activity area serving underprivileged youth.  It is for sale today and its fate is uncertain.

Architect Paul Harris designed a couple of domed structures in Lawton — the National Guard Armory, which was built in 1955 and is on the National Register …

and the Cache Road Square Shopping Center, as you can see in this photo by Debra Jane Seltzer:

The shopping center was also built in 1955 and was originally much more fun and mod, but it underwent an unfortunate remodel about a decade ago and only the dome is left to show how cool it once was.

A couple of lodges make our domed list.  First up is the VFW #2270 lodge in Enid, which was designed by local architect, Tom Rogers, and built in 1956.

The building, which is located on the outskirts of downtown, was constructed for $140,000 and featured a band of windows between the base and the domed portion of the building.  Sadly, the windows were painted over at some point and the building sits vacant today:

But, it’s in way better shape than the Tulsa Elks Lodge, which was another William Henry Ryan design:

Constructed in 1957, the building boasted a circular lobby/central office area and a very unique domed space under which parties, events, and lodge meetings were held.  Sadly, the dome and a smaller round building were demolished in the late 1990s and replaced with very bland structures.  Yuck.

Here’s a trivia question you can delight your friends with for years to come.  Did you know there were were supposed to be five gold domes in Oklahoma … and did you further know that four were actually built?  Can you guess the locations for each?  If not, here’s the lowdown:

The only non-geodesic dome of the bunch is the old Nuway Cleaners building in Moore:

It was designed by OU professor, Norman Byrd, and built in 1963 along I-35 in Moore.  In 1999, ODOT informed Nuway’s owners that the cleaners would have to be demolished by May 3rd of that year to expand I-35.  Although they were very attached to the little round building, they knew they had no choice but to comply.  They decided to save as much of their beloved laundry as possible and had the aluminum gold dome painstakingly dismantled and stored until they could construct the new building.

Ten days later, the monster May 3rd tornado raged through Moore, destroying everything in its path, including the already doomed Nuway Cleaners building.  So, in an interesting twist of fate, if the building hadn’t been slated for demolition, the roof never would have been saved and we wouldn’t be driving by it today.  In 2001, the new Nuway Cleaners opened just 50′ east of the original building.  No longer round, the new, now-square structure still paid homage to the original by being comprised mostly of glass and topped, of course, by the dome.  Here’s the building a couple of years ago:

A little-known geodesic dome sits on the campus of East Central University in Ada:

It was designed by local architect Ray James and opened in 1974.  The multi-functional and economical Kerr Activity Center is home to the university’s basketball team but has hosted a myriad of community and college events since it was built.

The only unbuilt gold dome design was for Oklahoma City’s convention center:

Like the Gold Dome, it was designed by Robert Roloff of Bailey Bozalis Dickinson & Roloff, and this seven-foot model was included in an exhibit at the Met in New York City called “Form Givers at Mid-Century,” which was sponsored by Time magazine.  After that, the show and this model went on a nationwide tour.  With all of that hoopla, it’s a bit surprising that this design was never realized, but it wasn’t, and Oklahoma City didn’t see an arena until the Urban Renewal era with the Myriad Convention Center in 1972.

Roloff designed another dome in Oklahoma and it’s not the one you think.  This one was located in Pryor:

Located on the Pryor High School campus, the Graham Memorial Auditorium opened in 1959, just a year after OKC’s Gold Dome and received the “Award for Outstanding Design” by the American Association of School Administrators the following year.  It was one of the municipal projects built with $3 million in funds left to the city by local banker W.A. Graham and could seat 800 patrons.  The design was so innovative that a model of the auditorium was on display at the 1960 AIA convention in San Francisco.  Unfortunately, the auditorium was condemned in 1984 after asbestos was detected, and it was demolished in 1990.

The last gold dome is THE Gold Dome to many, Citizens State Bank in Oklahoma City:

We will chat about the history of this beloved structure on the next Mod Blog.  But first, let’s check out some more modern-day domes that are spread throughout Oklahoma.  I’m happy to say that, after a decades-long lull in dome design, the Sooner State is seeing a real resurgence of these buildings, especially in schools and homes.  Here’s one that fits in perfectly with its 1950s predecessors:

This cafeteria in Dale was designed by Michael McCoy Architects of Midwest City and was completed in 2012.  It’s home to 726 students in grades kindergarten through 12 and also substitutes as a tornado-safe shelter.  The two school buildings below are located in Geronimo and Locust Grove respectively and are also tornado shelters:

Good Karma Domes designed and constructed this home in Marlow (under construction here):

And this domed home was a kit:

Domes are still strong, economical to build, and appealing to buyers, and it’s good to see that the Oklahoma landscape is seeing more domed buildings than ever before.

OU vs. OSU: Bedlam 1973

Posted by on Nov 7, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Program from her collection.

To get you in the spirit for this year’s annual standoff between OU and OSU, here’s a little treat I picked up at a flea market recently: a program from the 1973 game.  It was produced by OSU, so there’s a lot more material about the Stillwater school, but there are treats for you OU fans as well.  Click a photo below to enlarge it and see every glorious detail of this fun blast from the past:

In case you’re wondering, OU won the 1973 match up with OSU, beating the Cowboys 45-18.  Under new head coach, Barry Switzer, the Sooners won every game except for their meeting with USC, and that was a tie, 7-7.  This stellar record earned the Sooners their first of eight consecutive Big 8 conference titles under Switzer’s leadership.

As for OSU, this was the first and only season that the Cowboys were lead by head coach Jim Stanley, and their record for the year was 5–4–2.  More importantly than that, did you notice that the OSU uniforms were a much more deep and muted orange than they are now?  I think I like the ’70s color better, how about you?

On the Market: Living the Country Life in the Middle of the City

Posted by on Nov 1, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil, except for the first image, which is from Nathan’s listing.  Vintage images courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center.

I’m feeling very tranquil and at-one with nature after visiting Sqadder, Nathan’s, recently listed home on five acres along NE Grand.  It was really hard to believe that I was in the heart of the city as I strolled around the bright house and hilly, wooded grounds, which are located just a few blocks from the Science Museum.  Yes, if you’re looking for a centrally located mid-century modern oasis where you can relax and enjoy the surrounding nature, this brick and flagstone abode may be just the ticket for you.

The home was constructed in 1953 and is sited atop a hill overlooking the five acres that is part of the property.  It was built for C.E. Bretz and his wife, Mamie, pictured here with their award-winning pointers, Pat and Mike, in 1944:

Bretz was originally from Pennsylvania but moved to Oklahoma City in 1919 as the town’s Water Works Superintendent.  Here he is within a few years of his arrival:

Very dapper.

Bretz was in charge of the construction of Lake Hefner, as well as the Atoka Water project.  At some point in his career, he realized he could earn more money as a contractor instead of a city employee, set up his own hydraulic engineering firm, and hired out to OKC and other municipalities at much higher rates than his former city salary.  Ole C.E. was right and quickly became an affluent man.

After World War II, acreage belonging to the old Borne Dairy Farm on Eastern (now Martin Luther King Blvd.) became available, and Bretz purchased a large parcel.  He planned to develop a small housing subdivision on part of the land that would then pay for the personal residence he planned to build on the northernmost section of the land.  He hired Berlowitz & Commander to draw up plans for his new abode, which are still with the house today:

And here’s a site plan:

C.E. and Mamie had no children together (he had an older son from a previous marriage), so they built a comfortable two bedroom home that more than met their needs.  The couple lived here until their deaths — his in 1977 and hers 20 years later.  A second owner had the place for about a decade until the current owner purchased the place.  So, now that you know its history, let’s begin our tour.

From the front door, the very spacious formal living and dining spaces are on the right:

Of course, no mid-century-era home would be complete without a bay window:

I’ve always wanted a home with a bay window with a comfy cushion on the windowsill where I could sit and read books on chilly winter afternoons, and this looks like the perfect spot for such mind expanding activities.

You can enter the kitchen from this room, but we’ll save that for a bit later.  Back at the front door, walking straight ahead takes you to what the blueprints have labeled as the Club Room, which sounds so much more raucous and fun than calling it a den, don’t you think?

I don’t know what to salivate over more, that drop dead gorgeous flagstone fireplace or the view to the backyard.  Let’s start with the fireplace:

How great is that?  I’ve never seen one quite like this with both brick and flagstone, but I really like it.  And those built-ins are all original, too.  LOVE!

This room has some beautiful parquet flooring, too:

A conveniently located half bath separates the Club Room from the kitchen, which received a not-so-great remodel before the current owners moved in:

Nope, it’s not my favorite, especially when you see photos of how it used to look:

There is a silver lining to the kitchen, though, which you’ll see in a bit.  The good thing about it is the kitchen is huge and the current owner had some preliminary ideas to redo this space in a much more thoughtful and mod way, including extending the windows over the sink all the way to the doors to take full advantage of the backyard views.  I think that would be the first thing I’d do with this space — get the most out of that glorious view!

Going toward the two-car garage is a large laundry room and another half bath.  Now that you’ve seen the common areas of the home, let’s turn to the left from the front door and check out the more private spaces:

The first bedroom is so large that I immediately thought it was the master,

especially when I looked into the giant dressing room/closet that goes with it:

You know how people always lament about the lack of storage in older homes?  Well, that is absolutely NOT the problem in this house.  All of the closets are made for hoarders like me and there are an abundance of them scattered throughout the house.  So, go ahead and move all your clothes and goodies in and don’t worry about where you’ll put everything.

Another closet in the hallway contains even more blueprints:

Across the hall is a well appointed bathroom that could stand to have some mod put back into it:

The tile and sink are all original, so this space could be funked up by tossing those pulls and that mirror and maybe painting the cabinets.

At the end of the hall is the true master bedroom that is surrounded by a wall of windows looking out onto the pool area and backyard:

Both bedrooms have these corner windows on two sides, allowing for some great cross ventilation when the windows are open and tons of light.  Oh and the closet in this room is so big that it holds two dressers in addition to clothes and the sort.

Even with all of the great things about this house,  I know that some of you are poo-pooing the idea that it’s two bedrooms.  Well, the current owner hired Ken Fitzsimmons of TASK Design to come up with an idea to add a master suite to the home, and, as usual, Ken returned with something that is truly inspired.  The plan is to convert the garage into the master wing, with a huge window overlooking the backyard and framed by a cantilevered private patio:

How incredible would that be?  But wait, there’s more.  Ken would then add a complimentary porte corchere on the front of the house for parking:

Here are a few bird’s eye views of what the home could look like:

Pretty fantastic, aye?

Okay, so now that we’ve checked out the house and have explored all of its possibilities, let’s go out the back doors of the Club Room and see what is definitely my favorite backyard in the city:

You could definitely have some shindigs on this enormous patio overlooking the backyard, which is exactly what Mamie and C.E. did during their years here.  They were known for throwing quite a few dances and gatherings at the house, which was obviously made for entertaining big crowds.  Here’s the view from the patio looking toward the master bedroom and pool area:

The current owner installed the pool a few years ago and it fits right in with the entertaining desires begun by the Bretzs:

From the main house, take a few steps down to the valley of the property, which is open and looks like it’s ready to accommodate a hearty game of flag football or even a hole of golf:

On the opposite side of the valley, go up a few rock steps…

… and it’s back to more woods.  On the right is a sweet concrete picnic table with, yes, an original Sundrella shade:

You don’t see those in the wild very often.  This cozy, shaded spot offers a beautiful view of the valley and house beyond:

Turning away from the house, a few steps up the hill is a rock-faced fireplace and horse barn that date to the days of the dairy farm:

The century-old horse barn is in great condition and has its own driveway, so it could be converted into an Airbnb or even a rent house.  Let’s go to the arched front door…

… and take a peek inside:

It’s difficult to tell from my crappy photos, but this is an enormous room.  The current owner planned to install a kitchen and bathroom in two of the old horse stalls and convert the attic space into a master suite:

Again, my photos don’t do this place justice — the attic is BIG, with a lot of old and untouched furniture and boxes left over from Bretz’s days as owner.  I looked into one box and found information about a gas station he owned near the Las Vegas neighborhood in the 1940s:

I’m assuming that the gas station is this one, which received a mod awning in the 1950s:

Oh, remember when I said there’s a silver lining with the kitchen?  Well, here it is.  The second owner kept all of the original cabinetry and countertops, and they are stored in the barn’s attic:

I’d definitely reuse those cabinet doors and would also try to match the countertop color as closely as possible to restore the kitchen to its former glory.

Back outside and around to the back of the barn is flat ground that was once the dancefloor at the Bretz’s gatherings:

There’s a private entrance here, as well, so this could be converted to a driveway for the barn.  Oh and we haven’t seen all that the barn has to offer.  The Bretzs kept the original doors to the barn and added screen doors on the inside so that everything could be opened up on those fun party nights for easy access inside and out without having to worry about pesky bugs and critters:

Pretty nifty.

There are a lot more things to see on the acreage, including the swing that hangs from a tall and sturdy tree — and yes, I tried it out:

There’s also a picnic area where you and a gaggle of your pals can hang out and enjoy long summer evenings:

The current owner also built a fabulous treehouse for his kids that is guarded by concrete lions that actually once adorned the front of my house:

Let’s head back up the tree-lined path to the house:

Can we take one more look at that phenomenal backyard, please:

Can you imagine waking up to any more beautiful surroundings in our normally flat-as-a-pancake city?  Me, either.

During the Bretz’s tenure at the home, they had all kinds of animals, including their beloved pointers, chickens (there’s still a coop in the barn)…

… and even peacocks.  Passersby were so intrigued by peacocks roaming around the property that they often confused the Bretz house with the Oklahoma City Zoo down the road.  That’s when a sign for the zoo was posted outside the property, and one has remained there ever since:

There is so much to love about this place — the house, the history, the barn, the land.  I hope the next owner loves everything about this bit of paradise in the heart of the city and continues the tradition of treasuring everything about it.

If you’re interesting in touring the home, please contact realtor Kacie Kenney of the Kinney Team at 760-3455.  The two bedroom/three bath home is 2,162 sf and is listed for a very reasonable $375,000.  Also, go here to see much better photos of the property and to view the listing.

From Mies to Oklahoma Mod: The Life and Legacy of Robert Lawton Jones

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

by Lynne Rostochil.

To say that Bob Jones enhanced Oklahoma’s architectural landscape with his visionary designs is an understatement.  Simply put and with no exaggeration at all, he was a creative genius who has left his home state with a treasure trove of modern buildings that I hope we will preserve for eons. Sadly, Jones died on September 14th at the ripe old age of 93 but instead of dwelling on the loss of such a visionary, let’s take a minute to celebrate all he achieved in his long and interesting life.

Robert Lawton Jones was born on May 12, 1925 in McAlester and spent his youth there.  Upon graduating from high school in 1943, he left Oklahoma and joined the Navy, where he served as a midshipman in the Pacific theater for the remainder of World War II.  After the Allied victory, Jones enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, where he received his Bachelor’s in architecture, graduating cum laude in 1949.

Deciding that he wanted to be exposed to “the most exciting city in architecture,” Jones went to work in Chicago for the firm of Perkins & Will.  Two years later, he was accepted at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where the ambitious young man began studying under the most modern of modernist architects, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe:

Mies, who coined the term “less is more,” believed that modern architecture should be simple, straightforward, and without unnecessary ornamentation.  His “skin and bones” designs favored industrial steel that framed lots of glass to blur the lines between the indoors and outside world, as is illustrated by what is perhaps his most famous design, the jaw dropping Farnsworth House outside of Chicago:

Bob Jones flourished under Mies’s tutelage and, after receiving his Master’s degree in 1953, earned a Fulbright grant to study at the Technical University of Karlsruhe, Germany, which is famed as being one of the leading engineering and technology schools in the world.  At the university, Jones studied under one of Germany’s most preeminent postwar architects, Egon Eiermann:

While he was a renowned architect who designed the incredibly sexy Olivetti headquarters in Frankfurt…

… you may know Eiermann best by his 1950s chair designs.

With all of that exceptional education under his belt, Jones returned to his home state in 1954 to begin working in Tulsa as the master planner for the city’s new civic center.  As part of the Architectural League composed of other local architects, Jones and his comrades “worked together in a Gropius-idealized planning process to create the Civic Center plan which the city officially adopted in 1955,” according to the Tulsa Preservation Commission.

It was as part of this group of forward-thinking architects that Jones befriended brothers Lee and David Murray, Tulsa natives and OSU grads who embraced similar modern aesthetics as Jones.  The simpatico trio decided to form a partnership — Murray Jones Murray — in 1957 and were determined to become Oklahoma’s most respected firm within five short years.  According to Jones’ obituary, as “director of design and planning with Murray Jones Murray, he sought an architecture which would meaningfully respond to the imperatives of nature, humanity and technology. His commitment was to quality and the development of professional teams at a time of great social and economic change. Former associates describe him as ‘scholarly, witty and driven.'”

The three men’s lofty goal began to take root when they were recognized for their efforts on the Civic Center plan.  Just a year after the formation of Murray Jones Murray, the Architectural League’s Civic Center plan was cited in a book, Architecktur und Gemeinshaft: Tagebuch einer Entwicklung, as one of the world’s foremost architectural projects, “only one of twenty-three top architectural achievements in the world during the past century.”

The newly minted firm’s good luck continued when they were hired to design a new Tulsa airport in 1957.  I once asked Bob about the design of the International-style airport, and he explained that the design process began long before the inauguration of jet service in the U.S. in 1959.  He said, “We had to anticipate something that even aviation officials had trouble forecasting at the time.  Many other airports being built at the same time didn’t take jet service into consideration and were functionally obsolete only a few years later.  The Tulsa Airport design was flexible and allowed for expansion and, as a result, it is still a functional airport today.”

It may be hard to believe now, but in the late 1950s many people thought that Tulsa would never have many jets flying in and out of town, but the architects rebuffed those short-sighted notions and built a lot of flexibility into their design.  As an example, David Murray once explained, “We designed the roof structure of the one-story concourses so that they could accept floor loads if you wanted to add a second story.”  Within 10 years, their vision paid off when a second story was, indeed, added without detracting from the original design.

The Tulsa Airport is perhaps Oklahoma’s most impressive example of Mies-inspired commercial architecture.  The terminal, which won the Architectural Award of Excellence from the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1962, is comprised of steel and pre-cast concrete walls in a series of rectangles, each filled in with a grid of floor-to-ceiling windows that give the building a stunning indoor-outdoor perspective on a grand scale.  Consisting of elevated concourses that cater to pedestrian traffic above and roadway traffic below, the building also provides a harmonious, people-friendly environment that is further accentuated with double glazing that reduces outdoor aircraft noise.  You can read more about the innovative airport design here.

At the same time he was working on the airport design, Jones purchased two acres of land near a pecan farm on the outskirts of town and built the perfect abode for his growing family, which included his wife, Lynn, and their seven (yikes!) kids in 1959.  Here are a couple of very famous Julius Shulman images of the Jones’ “House in the Orchard”:

And here’s the restored Jones House, which is on the National Register, today:

You can read all about the history of the Jones House and its restoration here.

Other buildings the firm designed over the years include Bishop Kelley High School, First Place, Tulsa City Hall, Center Plaza Apartments, OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, Texaco Headquarters Building, Chapman Hall School of Nursing at the University of Tulsa, and the Davis Gun Museum in Claremore.  While all of these are impressive designs, one of my favorite Murray Jones Murray designs is the Sigma Nu house on the University of Tulsa campus.  I didn’t know this building even existed until I started working on the Julius Shulman exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in 2008.  Sadly, by that time, the building was gone.

When it was built in 1961, the Sigma Nu house was a standout among the more traditional Greek houses that were lined in long rows along one end of the University of Tulsa campus.  Designed by the firm in association with Joe Wilkinson & Associates, the building contained housing and social spaces that were bright and open, as well as large outdoor spaces for various activities.  The building also featured a roof of folded plates made of thin-shell concrete, which enabled the architects to open up the interior space without having to include column supports that would inhibit its expanse.

I believe the firm received this commission because David and Lee Murray, along with Joe Wilkinson, were Sigma Nus during their college years and remained active alumni long after graduation.

By far, my favorite Bob Jones design is for the award-winning St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Oklahoma City:

Not only is the building itself full of heart-stopping surprises, but story of how it was constructed is also quite fascinating — go here to read all about it.  Yes, everything about this space awes, inspires, and delights, and we are so lucky to have such a significant piece of architecture right here in Oklahoma:

In addition to designing some of Oklahoma’s best examples of modern architecture, Jones was active in the AIA.  The year after St. Patrick’s opened, his presentation, “Nature and the Built Environment,” motivated the AIA to create a nationwide program called “The War on Ugliness,” which was one of the first professional efforts to address pollution in the United States.  In 1970, he was named an AIA Fellow, and he later served as chairman of its selection jury.

By the 1980s, Murray Jones Murray was one of the most prestigious firms in Oklahoma, just like its principles had hoped it would be way back in 1957 when they formed their partnership.  The firm employed over 60 people and the projects were rolling in.  At the peak of his career, Jones decided to start teaching at the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma (later becoming a director), and he became a mentor to many young architecture students in much the same way as Mies and Eiermann had guided him as a student.

As for the firm the partners worked so hard to build, each of the principles were gone by the early 1990s.  The first to leave was Lee Murray, who spent several years working in Saudi Arabia.  Then Jones left to direct the architecture program at what was then called the University Center of Tulsa. Dave Murray, who retired last, left in the early 1990s, and the firm was taken over by partners Britt Emory, George Miller, and John Sanford before eventually closing for good a few years later.

Jones retired from practicing architecture in 1997 and he and Lynn sold their Tulsa home in 2005 to move to the desert climes in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It was there that he died on September 14th.

Thank you, Bob Jones, for leaving Oklahoma with such an impressive body of work.  Now, it’s up to us to take care of your rich legacy.

 

Another One Bites the Dust: Founders National Bank

Posted by on Oct 9, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text, current photos, matchcover, and playing cards by Lynne Rostochil.  Vintage images by Bob Bowlby, Oklahoma History Center, and Julius Shulman.

Today, the Okie Mod Squad group is mourning the loss of one of Oklahoma City’s most beloved buildings, the gloriously mod Founders National Bank located at May and United Founders Boulevard.

It’s sickening to think that we won’t get to enjoy this elegant arched building anymore and will instead be viewing some ugly box store, gas station, or strip mall on the site.  Oklahoma City has certainly lost an important piece of its distinctive architectural character that can never be replaced.  To let the impact of this sink in, let’s take a look back at the lighter-than-air Founders National Bank in better days.  The following is from a Mod Blog we wrote a few years ago that was devoted to the building’s architect, Bob Bowlby:

Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on Oklahoma City’s suburban expansion, movie theater owner, Jerry Barton, who also sat on the board of Founders National Bank, decided that the area around N. May and Northwest Expressway would be the perfect place to construct a new bank building that would serve the quickly growing suburban area.  Once the board approved his idea, Barton enlisted the services of (former Bruce Goff student) Robert Alan Bowlby to design the new bank, giving the young architect free reign to create something bold and unique.

Bowlby’s bold and elegant design for the new bank, which opened in 1964, incorporated the use of two 50-foot exterior arches that supported the building and removed the need for interior walls altogether.  This allowed for expansive, open spaces inside that gave the structure an exuberant feeling of lightness, so light it seemed the entire building could lift up and fly away with the breezy Oklahoma wind if not for the giant arches tethering it to the ground.

Other distinctive features of the bank included a concave, floating roof that provided a substantial amount of indirect lighting; large floor-to-ceiling windows that made the interior spaces look much larger than they really were, and a century-old, 16-ton vault door shipped from Toledo, Ohio, that both protected the bank’s assets and became the focal point of the otherwise modern lobby:

When LA-based architectural photographer, Julius Shulman arrived in Oklahoma City to take images of Herb Greene’s Cunningham House in 1964, he asked Bowlby, who was also an architectural photographer, to assist him during his stay.  The two spent the next three days photographing the home and other buildings, during which time Bowlby drove the always-curious photographer to the recently completed Founders National Bank.  Shulman was immediately intrigued by the bank’s unique design, as well as the photographic possibilities it presented, and added the building to his list of structures to shoot while he was in town.  On the last day of his visit, Shulman and Bowlby headed over to Founders National Bank just before dusk one evening, and the famed camera man captured the stunning building in all of its dramatic glory just as the sun was setting in a cloudless sky:

There was also a cute drive-thru:

The building’s unique design was so popular that it graced the covers of matchbooks and playing cards distributed by the bank over the next two decades:

In the 1980s, the glass wall around the perimeter of the building was removed to increase the office space, and a brick surround took its place.  With the addition, the building has certainly lost its lighter-than-air feeling, but, luckily, the iconic arches and roofline remained:

In 1992, Boatmen’s purchased Founders and then a few years later, NationsBank bought Boatmen’s and then Bank of America took over NationsBank.  Bank of America remained in the former Founders building until August 2017.  The building and the surrounding undeveloped area were listed for sale in October 2017 and it was demolished today, supposedly to make the cleared site more attractive to developers:

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

RIP, beautiful Founders Bank.

Recent Developments in OKC … Circa 1970

Posted by on Oct 4, 2018 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil. 

I always love getting a great vintage gift and my pal, Koby Click, who owns Space. 20th Century Modern, recently dropped by and presented me with a cool booklet that was published in 1969 by the long defunct Oklahoma City Times.

This booklet is a treasure trove of plans and building projects that were in the works at the dawn of the 1970s and while I’ve seen many of them before in other documents, it’s really interesting to see all of them collected in one document like this.  It makes me realize what a boom time the metro area was experiencing then … much like the one we are living through now.  It’s also interesting to note how some of the planned projects morphed as they became reality and the ones that never left the drawing board at all in the wake of the bust a decade later.  I hope you enjoy this fascinating piece of local history as much as I have and be sure to click a photo to enlarge it so you can see every last detail of each page.

 

On the Market: A Gentle House to Solace the Soul

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

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil

If you are like me and love to drive around neighborhoods looking for mid-century modern homes just for the fun of it, then you definitely know this beauty in one of the loveliest neighborhoods in the city, Forest Park.  This home, located at 3500 E. Maxwell, has been the topic of many a mod conversation in Mod Squad circles for at least a decade, with many admirers wondering what the fates held for this low-lying and increasingly forlorn looking rancher at the corner of E. Maxwell and N. Cardinal.  Well, I’m happy to say that this beautiful mid mod in need of a little love is now on the market … but, before we get to that, let me tell you a bit about the home’s fascinating history and the family who has lived here for over 60 years.

The home’s first and only owners were C.C. “Bill” Cody, his wife, Marian, and their two kids, Carol and Mike.  I’ve heard a lot of stories about Bill and Marian and have come to consider them two of the most interesting people who ever lived in Oklahoma City, and I’m truly sorry that I never met them.  Bill and Marian met as geology students at OU and theirs was a beautiful, five-decade-long love story.  Here’s the tale of their meeting and subsequent few years from Marian’s obituary:

Marian began college at Oklahoma City University as an accomplished ballet dancer and an avid student of the arts, until one day a Geology professor began her class with the poem “Each in His Own Tongue” by William Herbert Carruth, which instantly inspired her to change her focus and devote her studies to Geology at the University of Oklahoma.  It was this change in course that led her to the love of her life, Bill Cody.  She met Bill at OU.  They were both enrolled in the Geology department.  Often admiring each other’s work and success in class, Marian became curious about the man who always made a perfect grade, and Bill wanted to meet the woman whose work was truly impeccable.  Bill introduced himself to Marian and asked her to join him for a cup of coffee at the Town Tavern on Campus Corner.  She agreed, and before they had finished their cup of coffee Bill asked her to marry him and move to South America with him.  Her response, “Well, sure!”  They finished their coffee and walked next door to the local jewelry store, and picked out a ring.  Thus began their instant and timeless love story.

Marian graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Science in Geology in the summer of 1940.  Upon graduation, Marian moved to Tulsa where she worked as a geologist for an oil company.  It was during this time in Tulsa that she discovered her passion for flying.  She earned her pilot’s license in 1941, and joined the Tulsa Civil Air Patrol.  Her heart soared when she flew and every time she recalled her flights above the clouds. 

On November 5, 1942, Marian and Bill were married at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oklahoma City.  Almost immediately after they were wed, they began their adventure together and moved to South America where she worked for Tropical Oil running her own paleontological lab and where Bill was the Party Chief for Seismograph Service Corporation in charge of all Columbian operations.  They made their new home in Columbia, a place that captured their hearts.

It was there that she and Bill bought their “Espiritu” – a lovely little sea plane.  Bill got his pilot’s license as well and they flew over land and sea taking turns at the controls.  She once wrote about their time flying their “Espiritu” and stated that when she and Bill were flying together, they were “no longer earth-bound; free of all responsibility except to each other . . . .   It was a point of time of pure abandon and delight that could never be equaled in just the same way again.”

In 1944, they moved to Caracus, Venezuela, and on December 24th of that same year, their daughter, Carole Anne, was born.  Marian began working as the Venezuelan correspondent for the Oil and Gas Journal, a job that allowed her to devote herself to being a mother.  On October 7, 1947, their son, Michael Frederic, was born.  By 1948, she and Bill decided to move back to Oklahoma City so that their children would not be denied the American heritage and opportunities. It was there that they built their dream home.  Together, they had lovingly imagined every detail of the design so that it would perfectly suit their family of four and provide them with a place of joy and comfort for all the years to come.

Marian did all of these things in a day when, if a woman wanted to be a professional, her options were limited to teaching and nursing.  To say that she was special is a vast understatement, indeed.

As for their home in Oklahoma City, the Cody family purchased a four-acre plot of land, complete with private pond, in gentried Forest Park and selected Raymond Carter to design it.  The Codys wanted a modest abode that took full advantage of their acreage in the heart of the city, and the designer returned with plans for a distinctive ranch house that comfortably fit their needs.  The home was constructed but it burned to the ground within a year, so Bill, Marian, and Raymond went back to the drawing board and came up with a second design that was very similar to the first but larger at 2,257 square feet.  The three bedroom, two bath home was completed in 1956 and the family once again settled in, this time for good.

With its long and low lines, abundant use of rock, and signature lattice work, the Cody House is a quintessential Carter design.

 

Yes, the home is in need of some love, but it doesn’t take much imagination to envision what the place looked like in its prime.  If you’re just not seeing it, let me help you out by showing you a few exterior shots of the place from about 20 years ago:

It was gorgeous then and is gorgeous now, even in its present unkempt condition:

Before we go inside, let’s meander down to the pond, where generations of kids have enjoyed hot summer days playing and swimming to beat the heat.  Here are a couple of vintage shots of the pond as fall leaves were changing color:

Simply magnificent.  Here’s a photo I took of the pond toward the end of summer a few years ago:

It’s difficult to imagine with this view that we are just a few short miles from all of the action of the city, isn’t it?  It is pure natural bliss, and I now understand why the Codys moved here in 1956 and never left.

Now that you’ve seen the outside, let’s get to the best part … the interior of the Cody abode!  A covered corridor leads to the one-of-a-kind front door:

Inside, a latticed entry acts as a buffer between the outdoors and the living room and teases you with all of the beauty beyond:

And, ta-da, move around the lattice and you are greeted by this jaw dropping view of the open concept living/office/dining area with a wall of windows looking out to the backyard:

To the left is a cantilevered, built-in sofa:

And behind the sofa is an office with the coolest built-in desk EVER:

This baby is much larger than the photo indicates and cantilevers just like the sofa on the other side.  Another great thing about the office and many other areas of the home is the storage.  Many of the panelled walls of the home hide closets — in this case, just pop open a hidden door and voila, a closet with all kinds of storage for plans, correspondence, and files:

Another nice feature of the office is a built-in bench that appears to run seamlessly from inside to the outdoors:

Such beautiful attention to detail!  Another great detail is the hanging lighting fixture over the desk:

I’ve seen these exact lights in a couple of mid-1950s homes designed by Carter.  Love the perforations, especially when the light is on:

I don’t know what it is about perforated lights that is so thrilling to me, but I wish I could buy this house just for this fantastic feature alone.  And, luckily, there’s another set of these lights next to the two-sided rock fireplace that divides the living room and more informal den — you can see them on the right in this photo I took of the home in 2014:

Yeah, I know, you’re eyeing all of the great furniture, aren’t you?  Well, to answer your unspoken questions, 1. yes, it is all original from the time the home was built, and 2. some of it may be available for purchase, too.  Obviously, all of the built-in furniture comes with the house, and the owner may have the option of buying some of the sofas.

Okay, you can stop jumping up and down like a giddy two year old now … we don’t want any heart attacks while reading the Mod Blog so just re-laaax and bring that heart rate down.  It’s going to be a challenge as we go on with the tour, I promise, but I know you can do it.  If you’re calm now, we can move on….

Looking to the right from the above view is the friendly dining room:

Marian loved the bamboo that waved in the lattice-trimmed, floor-to-ceiling dining room window, and I do, too:

It lets in a perfect amount of dancing daytime light and makes you feel like you’re inside and outside at the same time.  To the right of the dining room is the all-original kitchen.  And, when I say all-original, I mean matching top-of-the-line 1956 appliances and everything:

I can honestly say that I’ve never, ever seen a vintage Revco Bilt-In refrigerator in the wild until now.  Wowza!  According to Pam at Retro Renovation, “vintage Revco Bilt-In refrigerators and freezers are the ‘holy grail’ of refrigerators from the 1950s and 1960s, more even than the vintage GEs constructed like wall cabinets and even more than the Kelvinator Foodarama.”  (Read more of the Revco article here.)

For comparison, here’s the GE cabinet fridge, a brand that I know a few of you Squadders own:

And here’s the Kelvinator Foodarama:

The first prize for the best brand name obviously goes to the oh-so-fun and very ’50s Foodarama.  (I think just about everything back then had an “orama” attached at the end.  Here’s more information about the origins of this oft used mid century suffix.)

As for these particular appliances, I have to say that, even though the Foodarama wins in the Best Name category, I like the sleek styling of the GE and Revco fridges quite a bit better, with the Revco beating out its GE rival because the flexible built-ins could be configured either horizontally like the GE fridge …

… or vertically as a standard refrigerator:

In the Cody House, the refrigerator is stacked vertically and angles toward another set of very rare appliances, the glorious and very rare in-the-wild GE Wonder Kitchen.

The GE Wonder Kitchen was introduced just in time for the construction of this home in 1956 and was the very latest in design with an all-in-one unit containing an electric range/stove, dishwasher, and combo washer/dryer all united by a long stainless counter and sink.  These marvelous Wonder Kitchens came in such enticing colors as Canary Yellow, Turquoise Green, Petal Pink, Cadet Blue, and, in the Cody home, Woodtone Brown.  The Cody House kitchen also features a custom-made vent hood:

Another feature of the Wonder Kitchen is built-in storage running along the top of the stainless counter:

I didn’t get a great shot of the GE Wonder Kitchen in the Cody House, so here’s a better photo of a pink one from Retro Renovation:

You can read some history about the GE Wonder Kitchen here.  At some point, the Codys replaced the Wonder Kitchen dishwasher, but I’ve done a little research and because these “kitchen centers” were internally plumbed and wired, the appliances in the Cody house could be refurbished and restored.  There’s no doubt that, if I were the lucky buyer of this home, I would be doing that exact thing.  Same for the very rare Revco fridge, too.  Nope, no doubt about it at all.

Moving on with the tour, to the right of the Revco is an angled bar and another set of wall panelling that pops open to reveal a very generous pantry:

I know I’m repeating myself here, but this all-original kitchen is so rare and beautiful and I really hope that the new homeowner strives to restore it rather than knock it out and “modernize” it.  If it has survived practically untouched for 60 years, it deserves to stay, if at all possible.

Okay, with that preservation emphasis made, on the way out of the kitchen is another panelled wall that opens to reveal a second pantry:

Let’s take a look at the view from the kitchen into the living room:

I mean, honestly, does it get any better than this?  And, yes, that is beautiful and much-coveted terrazzo flooring that runs throughout the common spaces of the home:

On the other side of the fireplace is the aforementioned den:

Oh, did I happen to mention that the new owner may have the chance to buy some of the sofas in the house?!  Well, this beauty is one of them!  Sit … back … down … and try very hard to avoid the temptation to start jumping up and down again.  If you’re calm now, we can continue….

Atop a round table in the corner sits a half-finished and very detailed homemade model of the Cody House that Bill worked on during his final years:

Maybe the new owner will be as meticulous as he was and decide to finish it someday.

On the far wall of the den, once again hidden by the panelling, is another treasure … a built-in bar with an original tiled countertop:

Off of the den, you’ll find two bedrooms separated by a Jack and Jill bathroom.  Each bedroom is identical in size and features built-in twin beds and desks:

Each bedroom also boasts a unique sliding shoji screen style door:

The huge master suite is at the end of a small hall off of the den:

A panelled wall on the other side of the room includes a built-in bench and a pop-open door for a TV:

Another wall of panelling hides two closets just before you get to the master bathroom:

So, that’s it for the house itself.  Yes, it needs love but it has SO much potential, don’t you think?

Here’s a bonus.  When Bill and Marian moved back to Oklahoma City, he started his own company and as it grew, he decided that he needed much more room than the home office could provide, so he designed and built a much larger office and storage space in a separate building next to the house that nicely compliments the home’s unique design.  The two-room office definitely needs a lot of love but could be fully functional again with a little elbow grease:

I know, I know, it looks scary but there’s a lot to love about this space, especially the very cool table on the right.  There’s a protective glass top covering it, and I think the table could be completely restored:

And now you’ve seen the Cody House inside and out.  Bill and Marian lived in this beautiful home very happily together for over 40 years until Bill died at the age of 84 in 1999.  In typical independent style, Marian stayed on here by herself until her death in 2014 at 96.  Their children and grandchildren enjoyed so many years of great times in the home that Carol and Mike haven’t had the heart to sell the place until now.  However, I’m sure they will be very relieved if the second owner of this unique property full of history and love will restore this unique abode to its original glory — I hope that happens, too.

Finally, in her waning years, Marian composed a lovely piece of prose about the home and land she and her family loved and enjoyed so much for over six decades.  Enjoy!

A Place That We Love

A beautiful house of glass and wood,

Held up and about by rock;

Moored to the ground on staunchions of steel,

With wood roofs free to fly.

 

A nurturing house set into the land,

Seeming to grow one with it.

The feeling of space, the wild wide open space

Of being untethered and free.

 

A gentle house to solace the soul,

Of colors to us that bring joy;

Of sun and shadow, to excite and calm down

A place to delight the eye.

 

Almost fifty years new, we’ve lived with its spell,

And watched as the cloud pictures changed.

The violent storms, the zig-zag sky streaks

That thundered to earth with a crash.

 

Snowflakes in winter, red-gold leaves in the fall,

Summer’s clear-blue azure sky;

White scuttling clouds playing touch-tag with each other

The tall towering nimbus as well.

 

A liveable house

To meet changing needs,

As our lives changed each decade of years.

And each decade of needs

Was beautifully matched,

Our beloved house supplied all of these.

 

The old oaks that surround it

The old willow that fell

To the pond one long-ago day;

The cottonwoods rustling and singing their song,

The bamboo of delicate grace.

 

A charming house, a solace, a joy.

A place we love to come home to.

A shelter, a center, a haven, a base.

The calm in the eye of the storm.

 

The spirit, the joy, the elan of this place,

Has been ours to have had, to have held.

The spirit, the joy, the elan of this place.

Has been ours to have had for awhile.

                                                                               MCC

 

The Cody House is on the market for $205,000, and you can call Susan Granger at Metro First Realty to schedule a showing — 684-1338.  No need to be calm and collected now.  Jump up and down, get giddy, give Susan a call, and be the lucky person who gets to call this solace in the woods home.