Okie Mod on the National Register
by Lynne Rostochil
With the news that Bruce Goff’s Comer House in Dewey might soon find its way on the National Register of Historic Places, I thought it would be fun to compile a list of all of Oklahoma’s modern buildings that are currently on the Register. Because they are among my favorites, I’m also adding a few mom and pop places and Streamline goodies, too. Finally, I’ve included links to each building’s National Registration information when possible, so just click the building name to learn more. Enjoy!
Sugg Clinic – 100 E. 13th St. This knockout of a building was designed by local architect Albert S. Ross and was built in 1947. While it originally functioned as both office and residential space, I believe that the entire building was converted to condos about 10 years ago.
Sugg Clinic (Matt Goad)
Ardmore Municipal Auditorium – 220 W. Broadway. This delightful example Streamline Moderne architecture was designed by local architect J.B. White and his son Ben as part of a larger WPA project that also included the Hardy Murphy Coliseum and an addition to the library. It was completed in January 1943 and remains in largely original condition today.
Lustron House – 1554 SW Rogers. This yellow, two-bedroom Lustron Westchester model retains most of its original features.
Lustron House (David Marshall)
Price Tower – 510 Dewey. Frank Lloyd Wright’s only realized skyscraper is not only on the National Register but it has also been nominated as a World Heritage site, the only structure in Oklahoma to ever receive such consideration.
Price Tower (Lynne Rostochil)
During WWII, William Caudill, a recent OSU graduate and lecturer at Texas A&M, wrote “Space for Teaching,” a look at how to design and build more efficient modern schools in the future. After the war, booming Blackwell took the bait and enlisted Caudill’s fledgling firm, Caudill, Rowlett & Scott (CRS), to initially design two schools, Huston and Washington, with Northside and Parkside later added to their project list. Huston and Washington schools were the firm’s first-ever designs and were so revolutionary that thousands of schools throughout the nation and beyond were later designed in their mold. Also, Julius Shulman made his first trip to Oklahoma in 1949 to photograph Huston and Washington schools for Collier’s and was so enamored with the architecture being built here that he made semi-annual photo trips to the Sooner State for the next 30 years. All four of Blackwell’s early CRS schools are on the National Register:
Huston Elementary School – 304 Vinnedge Ave.
Huston School (Jeffrey Beall)
Northside Elementary School – 730 W. Doolin Ave. Sadly, this school was demolished in 2009.
Parkside Elementary School – 502 E. College.
Parkside Elementary School (Jeffrey Beall)
Washington Elementary School – 723 W. College.
Washington Elementary School (National Register)
Beard Motor Company – 210 E. 9th. Drivers along America’s favorite nostalgic byway, Route 66, rarely fail to stop when they spy the gigantic and beautifully rusting Plymouth sign in Bristow, and I’m sure that they are so taken with the sign that they miss the quite impressive Streamline building sitting quietly in its shadow. That’s too bad because it’s pretty darned nice, even in its mostly abandoned state.
Beard Motor Company (Lynne Rostochil)
Chelsea Motel – Route 66 and 1st. There are several Route 66 mom and pop motels on the Register, including the little-changed Chelsea Motel. Although it looks a bit sad these days, the Chelsea’s fading neon sign has become a Mother Road icon and tourist stop for photographers out to capture the essence of days gone by.
Chelsea Motel (Abe Ezekowitz)
Bassett House – 1100 E. 9th Pl. Designed by Coston & Frankfurt and completed in 1954, this gorgeous International style home was built for Dr. Clifford Bassett and is one of my very favorites in all of Oklahoma. Coston also designed the Bassett Clinic in town for the doctor — it’s worth checking out, too.
Bassett House (maveric3641)
Gillespie Drilling Company – 317 W. Broadway. Taking after his mentor, Bruce Goff, Blaine Imel used materials that were readily at hand — in this case, oil pipes — to construct this unique polygonal-shaped piece of modernism at the tail end of the downtown area. Oil pipes make up the guttering, outer fence, and sculptures and give the building a whimsical and funky vibe that makes it a true standout in Oklahoma.
Gillespie Drilling Company building and pipe sculpture/fence (Lynne Rostochil)
Comer House — 1316 N. Creek. After years of neglect and sitting unoccupied, this lovely Goff design from 1957 has recently been restored and was placed on the National Register in June 2015.
Comer House (Mid-Century Corbin)
Hopewell Baptist Church — 5801 NW. 178th St. Things are looking up for the teepee-shaped Hopewell, as restoration efforts finally appear to be moving ahead.
Hopewell Baptist Church (Lynne Rostochil)
Y-Chapel of Song – University of Central Oklahoma campus. If you haven’t been to this sweet chapel, add it to your must-see list. The stained glass windows are really something else, as is the fascinating story of the chapel itself.
Y-Chapel of Song and stained glass windows (Lynne Rostochil)
West Winds Motel – Route 66 just west of downtown. Even though it’s not MCM, this photogenic mom and pop motel with its fading neon sign of a cowboy atop a bucking bronco is a great example of ‘40s and ‘50s roadside motels.
Ed Galloway’s Totem Pole Park – Hwy 28A 3.5 miles east of Route 66. No Americana road trip along Route 66 is complete without a stop at the Totem Pole Park, which boasts the largest concrete totem pole in the world … how many can there be?
Hotel Dale — 118 NW 16th St. According to the National Register, “the construction of the hotel marked the successful completion of a nearly five year long community effort led by the Chamber of Commerce to encourage economic growth in Guymon after World War II. Jess Moore, the operator of the Calmez Hotel in Clinton, Oklahoma, successfully negotiated with the Chamber committee to build the hotel with E.A. Lewellen, a local contractor.”
(National Park Service)
National Guard Armory – 600 NW Cache Blvd. Architecture doesn’t get much more Googie than this Paul Harris-designed gem! It’s definitely one of my very favorites. While you’re in Lawton, you’ll also want to check out the Harris-designed McMahon Auditorium.
National Guard Armory and garages (Lynne Rostochil)
McMahon Auditorium (City of Lawton)
International Temple, Supreme Assembly, Order of the Rainbow for Girls – 315 E. Carl Albert Parkway. Added to the Register in 2013, this perfectly preserved building is surely one of the best examples of Streamline Moderne architecture in the state.
Supreme Temple of the Rainbow Girls (Lynne Rostochil)
Riviera Courts Motel – one mile west of Main on US 69. Although boarded up and no longer in use, this 1937 mom and pop typifies the quaint lodging travelers could find all along old Route 66.
Bavinger House – 730 60th Avenue NE. Sigh…. The stunning, Goff-designed house is still there and it’s still on the Register, both of which are good things. However, without proper care, Oklahoma’s best example of organic modernism will surely be entirely claimed by the elements within a few years.
Ledbetter House – 701 W. Brooks. Thankfully, another Goff design in Norman is fairing much better, the Ledbetter House next to the OU campus. What a thrilling house it is!
Oklahoma Center for Continuing Education complex (OCCE) – Kellogg and Maple between Asp and 4th. This cluster of buildings on 20 acres on the main OU campus includes administration, housing, and cafeteria buildings, as well as a cluster of “cabins” along the western perimeter of the complex. According to the National Register nomination form, “the university’s architect Richard Kuhlman and his assistant R.C. Dragoo prepared the initial concept and design for the OCCE campus starting in 1957. As the plans grew, two architectural firms (both from OKC) were added to the project: Reynolds & Morrison and Wright & Selby. Early in the process, representatives traveled to visit the United Nations Building, the General Electric Institute for Advanced Management and the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. Each of the facilities influenced the campus design. The General Electric facility was the influence for the Hall of Advanced Studies, Aspen the influence for the Forum Building, and the United Nations for the entire democratic process.
OCCE cabins and the Thurman J. White Forum (Lynne Rostochil and David Dobbs)
Citizens Bank Tower – 2200 N. Classen Blvd. Modeled after FLW’s Price Tower in Bartlesville, this stunning Robert Roloff design has been converted to condos and was added to the Register in 2010.
Citizens State Bank – NW 23rd and Classen. Who doesn’t love the Gold Dome? Hopefully, the roller coaster ride this popular building has been on for the last 15 years will come to an end with the new owner. Fingers crossed!
Fidelity National Building – 200 N. Harvey. Taking a cue from International style towers, such as the Lever House and the Headquarters of the United Nations, popping up in New York City at the time, local architects Sorey Hill Sorey decided to design their own curtain wall building in the heart of downtown OKC. The result was a gleaming 18 story beauty that definitely holds its own among much newer buildings downtown.
First Christian Church district – 3700 N. Walker. The entire First Christian Church complex is on the Register, including the church buildings, the amphitheater, the William Alexander Youth Center (now Trinity School), and the Oklahoma Disciples Center. Googie doesn’t get much better than the beloved egg!
First Christian Church, William Alexander Youth Center, Oklahoma Disciples Center (Lynne Rostochil)
Mager Mortgage Company – 231 NW 10th. This cute, cute, cute building, which is now home to Midtown Vets, is another Sorey Hill Sorey design. You’ve got to love that sexy concrete block screen!
Main Public Library – 131 Dean McGee. Built on the site of the original Carnegie library, this building was designed by local firm Winkler & Reid (who also designed the Capitol Hill branch around the same time) and opened in 1954. It closed 50 years later when a new library was constructed and remained vacant until recently being converted into Carnegie Centre, a mixed use development of commercial and living space.
Main Public Library (Lynne Rostochil)
Pollock House – 2400 NW 59th St. Goff’s only Oklahoma City design is a standout in a neighborhood filled with much more traditionally styled homes. That green zig zag roof is the best!
Pollock House (Lynne Rostochil)
Tiffany House Apartments — 5505 N. Brookline. This building is one of just three high rise apartment towers constructed during the 1960s. The 12-story residential building was constructed in 1966 and joined the National Register in 2016 as it was being renovated into luxury condos.
United Founders Life Tower – 5900 Mosteller Dr. Founders Tower, with its revolving restaurant, quickly became an OKC icon when it opened in 1964 and it remains so today.
White Cloud Lodge – 820 E. 146th St. Elmira Sauberan Smyrl was a rarity in her day, a practicing architect and architecture professor. While getting her master’s degree at OSU, Smyrl was one of the lucky few who actually had the opportunity to see her thesis project — a “school for family living” — come to fruition. She designed the thin shell concrete structure in 1955, but it wasn’t completed for another 11 years and, sadly, is closed and just used for storage today.
Pocasset Gymnasium – ½ mile south of Dutton Rd. and Hwy 81 junction. Designed by Walter T. Vahlberg, this unusual Streamline building made entirely out of rock was completed in 1941 as a WPA project. Vahlberg also designed an equally interesting sister gym in Hennessey. Pocasset Gymnasium (crimsonedge34)
Hennessey Gymnasium (Lynne Rostochil)
Pond Creek Masonic Lodge #125 – 126 Broadway. Architect Dow Gumerson designed several Masonic lodges throughout the state, including this one in 1953. He also designed the lodges in Guthrie and Oklahoma City, among others.
Guthrie Masonic Lodge (Lynne Rostochil)
Sallisaw High School – 200 W. Creek. Designed by Joseph I. Davis, this Streamline school was built as a WPA project in 1939 and remained a school until a new building was constructed in 1987. The old school was then converted into a museum, but the entire structure burned to the ground in 2004. Bummer.
Sallisaw High School (National Register)
Frank House – 1300 Luker Ln. Bruce Goff makes another appearance on the National Register with this lovely residential design for the Frank family of Frankoma Pottery fame. The unique house, which was built in 1955 and remains in the family, features one-of-a-kind Frankoma-glazed tiles and bricks.
Joyce House — County Road 1620 EW, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) west of US 183. Architect Herb Greene’s only entry on the National Register is this beauty out in the middle of nowhere. Designed for John and Evelyn Joyce, owners of a quarry outside of town, the octagonal-shaped home with wings looks like it’s ready to take flight at any time.
Josephine Reifsnyder Lustron House – 2119 Sherwood. Only a few Lustrons were built in Oklahoma, with just three great examples remaining today, one in Bartlesville, one in Cushing, and this one. All were built in 1949 and at least two are on the National Register.
Rock Café – 114 W. Main St. A true Route 66 icon, the Rock Cafe has been around since the ‘30s and in addition to owner Dawn Welch being the inspiration for Sally in the Disney Pixar film “Cars,” you can get one of the best burgers in the state at this friendly roadside eatery.
Travertine Nature Center – Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Perhaps the newest building on the Register is this 1968 design by the Houston firm of Mackie and Kamrath, which is a beautiful example of organic architecture that blends seamlessly with its surrounds.
Cities Service Station #8 — 1648 Southwest Boulevard. This oblong box station along old Route 66 is the second station built at this busy corner. An original ‘20s-era station was demolished and this one replaced it in 1950. I’m glad no one replaced this one!
City Veterinary Hospital — 3550 S. Peoria Ave. This sweet Joseph Koberling design has remained a vet hospital since it was constructed in 1942. It was added to the Register in 2008.
Jones House — 1916 E. 47th St. If you like glass-encased Miesian boxes, then you’ll love the Jones House. It’s certainly one of my favorites! The house was designed by Robert L. Jones of Murray-Jones-Murray as his personal residence, and he and his family lived here until 2005. The home was lovingly restored a few years later and is a definite showplace:
The Jones House (Nathan Harmon)
Mayo Motor Inn – 416 S. Cheyenne Ave. One of downtown Tulsa’s sexiest structures isn’t a Deco tower or cool bank building — it’s the low-slung Mayo Motor Inn, which was designed by Leon Senter and built in 1952. That neon sign is the best!
Oil Capital Historic District — between 3rd and 7th and Cincinnati and Cheyenne. A whopping 69 buildings make up this district and not all of them are modern. There are, however, several examples of mid-century architecture that are worth checking out, including the Fourth National Bank, Ponca City Savings & Loan, and the Renberg building, among many others. Go to the link associated with this entry for a list of modern buildings in the district.
Ponca City Savings and Loan (Lynne Rostochil)
Ranch Acres Historical District – E. 31st and S Harvard between S. Delaware and S. Florence. Tulsa has an entire neighborhood of ranch homes — many in true MCM style — on the National Register. Lucky dogs!
Riverside Studio – 1381 Riverside Dr. Here’s another great Goff entry on the National Register, which unfortunately also made the 2015 Engandered Buildings list put together by Preservation Oklahoma. The Deco delight is in need of some serious maintenance, it seems, which is why it made the list, but it’s still great eye candy even in its rather sad state.
Tulsa Civic Center Historic District — 3rd and Denver, 6th and Houston. You’ve got to love this cluster of recently revitalized modern buildings on the west side of downtown, which is comprised of the Convention Center, the Tulsa County Courts and Offices building, City Hall Tower (now an Aloft Hotel), the downtown Tulsa Library, along several others in the complex. Long unappreciated, most now recognize these buildings as the architectural treasures that they are, and the entire complex was added to the Register in 2012.
Rendering of Tulsa Civic Center complex (Tulsa Foundation for Architecture)
Tulsa Monument Company – 1735 E. 11th St. If you have to go shopping for tombstones, this is a pretty fantastic looking place to do it!
Westhope – 3704 S. Birmingham St. Westhope is one of only three Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings in the state – the other two, Price Tower and the Harold Price, Jr. house, are in Bartlesville. He designed the mostly glass brick home for his cousin, Richard Lloyd Jones, whose family lived here for over 30 years. Wright’s experimental construction methods and use of materials are one reason why the home made Preservation Oklahoma’s 2014 Most Endangered Buildings list — those glass bricks and water have not been kind over the years.
I think that’s it. Please let me know if I missed a building and I’ll be sure to add it to the (hopefully) ever-growing list of modern Oklahoma buildings to make it onto the National Register.