photos and text by Lynne Rostochil
After years of bust and stagnation, Oklahoma City has revitalized itself in a way that has made it the envy of many other urban areas throughout the country and has made this Heartland town one exciting place in which to live. One of the few downsides to such a glorious comeback is the often short-sighted notion that the old must come down to make way for the shiny and new … a new that is often a bland, homogenous replacement that adds little architectural value to the landscape.
You’ve likely already heard the rumblings around town that potential buyers are looking to replace Stage Center with an office tower or that the new owner of the Gold Dome wanted to demolish the landmark geodesic structure and replace it with a gas station.
Luckily, neither has happened (so far), although both buildings are still very much in danger of being torn down as unceremoniously as the old YMCA building was over a decade ago (for a parking lot) or the Classen Terrace Office Building was last year.
In addition to Stage Center and the Gold Dome, the Founders National Bank (now Bank of America) building on busy N. May is for sale and, according to two sources who know such things, is being eyed by hungry developers. Designed by Goff student, Bob Bowlby, and built in 1964, the bank is one of the best examples of mid-century architecture in town due to the two arches that seemingly arise from the heart of the building and protectively tower above it.
Although the bank has been altered, many of its original elements remain, and it was named one of the Top 100 buildings in the Metro area by the Central OK AIA a few years ago. However, the bank sits on a large lot that I’m sure developers would love to fill up with more fast food restaurants, chain drug stores, or mammoth box stores … as if we need more of those.
Located at the “most dynamic retail intersection in North OKC”* across from 50 Penn Place and Penn Square Mall sits the former Salvation Army building, a two-story, concrete-block laden marvel that is vacant and has been for sale for awhile now.
It was originally called the Allied Building and was designed by local firm Wright & Selby in 1958 as a multi-tenant office space and their own headquarters. The Salvation Army moved in a decade later and stayed until the mid-2000’s. The site is prime real estate and is likely priced accordingly, which is probably the only reason why it hasn’t been redeveloped.
Two other buildings that will be gone shortly but deserve to be celebrated before they pass into history are also associated with the Salvation Army — the zig zagged building on SW 4th and Hudson and the organization’s two-story office building around the corner. Designed by Hudgins, Thompson & Ball and constructed in 1950 on the outer edge of downtown, the elegant and still-modern-looking office building is a great mix of red brick and flagstone offset by inverted L-shaped dividers.
In contrast, the smaller one-story building, which was designed by Robert D. Stone and built 11 years later, throws quiet elegance away in favor of fun and funky and light-filled Googie goodness.
It’s a real shame that these buildings are coming down (as part of Core to Shore), but at least they aren’t being replaced with a McDonald’s or a strip center or something equally banal.
* According to the listing agent for the property — http://www.priceedwards.com/properties/index.php?option=com_hotproperty&view=properties&layout=property&id=1894&Itemid=5