The Architecture of Fred Pojezny
by Lynne Rostochil. Photos and ephemera courtesy of Lynne and Kirk Huffaker
Since we had our last Mod Squad gathering at the Sallis house, a modest mod masterpiece designed by local architect, Fred Pojezny, I thought I’d devote this week’s blog to more of his beautiful designs.
Pojezny (pronounced Poe-ez-nee) was a born in Oklahoma City on April 13, 1920 to recent Czech immigrants, Fred Sr. and Christine (Miskovsky) Pojezny. As a teenager, he worked in his parents’ grocery and also for the Acme Map Service, and after high school, he left his hometown for Oklahoma A&M (now OSU) in Stillwater. According to his biography in The History of Oklahoma (1955), Pojezny “worked as an illustrator for books being published by the head of the Technical Training School. He also worked for the college’s architect during the summer months.” Here’s a photo of a very handsome Fred (provided by his great nephew, Kirk) during his active college years, when he was president of the Sigma Tau fraternity as well as the Beaux Arts Society:
World War II broke out during Pojezny’s last year at OSU and he left college shortly before graduation to enlist in the Navy, spending the war years aboard the U.S.S Prometheus and as part of a camera party in Norfolk (he received his diploma in 1943 while in the Navy). During this time, he also sold many of his cartoons to Judge and Pic magazines. I’ve never seen any of his wartime cartoons, but here is one from 1988 that Kirk posted on Flickr:
At war’s end, Pojezny returned to OKC and began his professional career as a draftsman at Coston and Frankfort (now Frankfort, Short & Bruza). While there, he reconnected with a fellow OSU alum, R. Duane Conner, and the two decided to form their own firm, Conner & Pojezny, in 1946.
Over the next decade, the firm designed some very innovative and interesting buildings, including the First Christian Church complex:
Since the firm did so much great work during their scant nine years of existence, I’m going to devote an entire blog to their buildings in the near future. In the meantime, let’s focus on the work Fred Pojezny did after the firm dissolved in 1955. After he and Conner split, Pojezny opened his own practice, Pojezny & Associates, and a young architect named Bill Fearnow went along with him. One of Pojezny’s first designs as his own boss was for the unrealized Oklahoma Riviera Club, a rendering of which appeared in a May 1955 edition of The Oklahoman:
The planned $500,000 club was to be built on 13 acres near Lake Hefner and would boast a 3,500 sf dance floor that could accommodate 2,300 people. Future plans included adding a pool and tennis courts, but the whole project fell apart before it even began. A few years later, the Wedgewood Amusement Park would be located on this property (more about Wedgewood here: https://okcmod.com/?p=5349).
While that design never materialized, Pojezny’s design for the stunning Associated Glass building and warehouse the following year did. Here’s a rendering of the A-frame headquarters located at 124 NE 50th:
At some point, the design for the building was flipped, as you can see in a current-day photo of the building:
Love all of the great zig zags in Pojezny’s gorgeous design — even in those transom windows on the left side of the building. Such attention to detail!
Originally, there was a window looking into the warehouse portion of the building, as you can see in this photo from 2008:
A fire in 2009 in the warehouse caused quite a bit of damage, and the window has never been repaired. Inside, the building is as elegant as the exterior, with this amazing steel, wrap-around desk in the lobby (the front door to the building also contains this artistic embellishment):
And here’s a view of those zig zag windows looking outward:
Pojezny’s well thought out and refined designs are extremely elegant in a calm and relaxed kind of way. They are classic, friendly, and so well orchestrated that many of his buildings remain completely unaltered decades after they were built. Now that’s good design. However, even though they can be understated, it’s hard to drive by a Pojezny-designed building and not stop and admire it because what at first seems to be a simple bit of modernism reveals itself to be much more complex and detailed upon further inspection. Take the Sallis house that we blogged about last week, which was designed for Glen Sallis, who owned Associated Glass. Upon first inspection, the 1962 abode seems to be a pretty basic design, a simple L-shaped home like so many others you see around town. But, once you walk in the door and notice all of the great details, like the clerestory window that allows natural light into the galley kitchen or the accordion doors that let the owner configure the common areas in a variety of ways, you realize that every square inch of the home has been so perfectly planned and designed, giving this 1,700 sf gem the feel of a much larger and more expensive home:
Speaking of homes, here’s Pojezny’s design for his own home, which was built in 1951. The house has been added on to, so I’m not sure how much of the front is original. It’s pretty fantastic, though, aye?
Among his many other designs, one you may be familiar with is the Village Montessori on Britton just east of May, which was built in 1957. I’ve always loved this building and the way it sits angled on its lot. Again, it’s a very simple, elegant, and timeless building:
Perhaps my very favorite Pojezny design is the Oklahoma Disciples Center on the First Christian Church campus. Man how I love this building! It very subtly but perfectly mimics the thin-shell concrete dome of its much larger cousin next door while also incorporating low and lean, ranch style lines that give it a dramatic style all of its own. The result is a beautifully balanced building that is understated, classy, and pretty darned sexy. Here’s a rendering of the building, which was built in 1963:
And the real thing:
Here’s one of Kirk’s photos of the entrance:
A few years ago when the Humphreys family talked of redeveloping most of the First Christian Church campus into high density retail and living space, many a fan of this lovely building began thinking of ways to try to move or save it from the wrecking ball. Perhaps the only good thing to come out of the 2008 recession was that plans for this land were put on indefinite hold, and the building still remains. I hope it always will.
Speaking of buildings on the First Christian Church campus, Pojezny also designed another favorite, the William Alexander Youth Center. Here are a few photos I took back in 2008:
You can never go wrong with a pink bathroom, I always say:
My unflattering photos do not do this great, crescent-shaped building justice, that’s for sure. Here are some better images from the dedication program for the building from 1964:
Like the Oklahoma Disciples Center, the Youth Center nearly faced demolition with the Humphreys plan, but it, too, was spared thanks to the recession. Now, it serves as home to the Trinity Episcopal School and will hopefully be safe for years to come.
Here’s another beauty, the Youth and Family Services building in Moore. Originally constructed as doctors’ offices, the building has seen better days, but this lovely lava rock creation is pretty darned fabulous, I think:
I’m also in love with the Custer County Savings and Loan Building in Weatherford. This photo is part of Kirk’s collection:
The building has been expanded and is now an IBC Bank, but a few original elements remain: https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-98.7069719,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sNoiaoU21LdGRa9eu5p8VbA!2e0
During the ’60s and ’70s, Pojezny began to specialize in designing and managing/owning various shopping centers around town, including the Springdale Shops on NW 50th, built in 1962…:
… the deVille Shopping Center in Bethany at NW 23rd and Council in 1964…:
… the still-quite-original and very attractive Northpark Mall at NW 122nd and May in 1971 …:
… and the once-charming French Market Mall that has become a pretty ugly piece of bland and boring since it was “renovated” in the early 2000s. Here it is soon after it opened in 1972:
And here’s an ad for the mall, along with some of the original businesses that occupied space there:
Finally, here’s the French Market Mall as it looked in the ’80s when Kirk photographed it and as it is today — yuck! Sadly, very little remains of Pojezny’s original, much more spirited design:
Pojezny was also responsible for a late ’60s/early ’70s remodel of the interior of the First Christian Church in Henryetta, as you can see in this photo from Kirk’s collection:
These are just a few examples of Pojezny’s work in a career that spanned over 40 years until he retired in 1982 — he died in 1999 at the age of 79. Oklahoma City’s architectural landscape is certainly a lot more varied and interesting thanks to Fred Pojezny and his elegant designs. If you know of more of his work, please let us know!
I’d like to thank Fred’s great-nephew, Kirk Huffaker, for sharing his photos and for cheerfully answering all of my questions about his uncle’s designs whenever I pester him.