In Memoriam: Buildings We Lost in 2015
text and photos by Lynne Rostochil. Vintage photos from the History Center’s collections
Even with the major drop in gas prices in 2015, the economic boom in OKC continued unabated through the year with lots of new restaurants and shops opening up all over town. While it’s always exciting to see locally owned businesses sprout up throughout the Metro, we’ve paid a hefty price for the boom with the loss of several of our most iconic buildings. Let’s take a moment to remember some of the distinctive architecture we lost last year in the name of progress:
Salvation Army Building
Designed by Robert D. Stone, this building on the outskirts of downtown was a MCM gem with its light-filled space topped off with an unusual zig zag concrete roof. So sexy!
The building was completed in 1961 as a welfare and transient center, and it continued to serve that function until it closed early in 2015. It was gone by July, and the site will become part of the downtown Central Park.
Salvation Army Offices
Located around the corner from the Salvation Army building was the organization’s offices and citadel:
This elegant brick and stone structure was designed by Hudgins, Thompson & Ball and opened in 1950. Like the Salvation Army building above, the offices were in continual use until early 2015, when everyone moved out and its beautiful horizontal windows were boarded up.
And here it sat, quiet and forlorn, until — brick by beautiful red brick — this still-sturdy building was unceremoniously knocked down in July:
Until the last minute, I held out hope that at least one of the Salvation Army buildings would be saved and repurposed as a restaurant or shop space for the new park, but no such luck — darn it.
Yes, this spiraled house was funky, not entirely practical, and even may have been haunted — at least that’s what hundreds of local teens in the ’80s hoped when they slowly cruised by the secluded house out in the middle of nowhere in search of a rumored but rarely seen ghostly spectre. The Zuhdi House was surely a standout:
It was also a one-of-a-kind architectural gem designed by Robert Roloff that went on the market in 2013 and, sadly, received nary a nibble for a year until a Houston-based oil company bought the home and surrounding land in September 2014. By the spring of 2015, the distinctive house had completely vanished from the landscape just like the illusive ghost so many searched for and never found.
An oil rig occupies the lot now.
Fox & Horn
There were few more beautifully designed buildings in the Metro than the Fox & Horn in SWOKC:
Designed by one of the masters of organic modern architecture, Gary McCowan, the Fox & Horn combined stone and wood to create an eye popping but also very inviting space that, for a time in the ’70s, was the premiere upper scale restaurant in OKC:
By the ’90s, the building had been converted into medical offices. Over the years, some of the original detailing was removed, but the building’s bones were still enough to make it one of the most impressive structures in the south part of the city:
The building sustained some damage in the 2013 tornado that swept through that part of town and that is what likely sealed the fate of this beauty. In the spring of 2015, the building was demolished and a much less attractive building (see rendering below) was being constructed in its place:
Adult Learning Center
Built in 1964, the Adult Learning Center was located on NW 13th and Classen next door to the endangered Villa Teresa convent and school:
The building was demolished over the summer to make way for Classen Commons, an affordable senior housing development. Great cause, really bland and boring architecture:
Union Bus Station and Pals
Unlike Tulsa, OKC can’t boast of having a lot of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne architecture, but downtown’s Union Bus Station, designed by Noftsger & Lawrence, was surely the exception.
The low-slung ocean blue, vitrolite-studded beauty with its complimenting vertical neon sign was a refreshing standout — and a photographer’s delight — in a downtown increasingly comprised of tall towers with little character and absolutely no sense of fun. It was such a photogenic building:
Sadly, all preservation efforts failed to save the bus station and eight of its friends, including the beloved and longtime downtown favorite, the Lunch Box, which I photographed several months before it closed in 2012 and again at the beginning of 2015…
The old Black Hotel, as you can see from the two photos below, received a pretty bland remodel in its conversion to an office building in the early ’80s, but it had such great restoration potential. Also note in the vintage photo that the neon sign on the corner of the hotel bookends the Union Bus Station neon sign at the other end of the block:
And the Black Hotel’s next door neighbor, the Motor Hotel, which had one of the best ghost signs in all of OKC:
The doomed buildings juxtaposed with the new:
Also, several buildings were demolished along the only block of original downtown architecture left on Main Street, including the beautifully detailed Deco deliciousness that was once the Carpenter Square Theater:
All of these treasures are now history:
Here are some images of these beauties in the days before they were claimed by the wrecking ball and implosion:
What do we get in return for losing these downtown treasures? Another office tower and parking garage. Woo hoo … not.
Southwestern Insurance Company Building
We lost this beauty on N. Western in the waning days of 2015:
Designed by Jack L. Scott and built in 1957, the building sat vacant for several years after Taylor Publishing left. I’ve always hoped that someone would see its potential and save it but with skyrocketing property values in the area, the land became much more valuable and the building is now history. Here’s the building all fenced off before demo:
And here’s the site now:
And, although the building is still there, let’s bid a fond farewell to the Boulevard Cafeteria, an OKC institution and the last of these unique family-owned eateries that once made the Metro the Cafeteria Capital of the World:
Finally, to end things on a positive note, I’m really excited to hear news that one of my very favorite buildings in town, the original Citizens Bank building on NW 23rd, is about to be renovated and turned into shops and a swanky basement bar. Here are a couple of shots of the original building, which was added onto twice before the bank constructed its new building, the Gold Dome, just a few blocks away in 1958:
And here’s the long-vacant building now:
The architects plan to preserve the facade, which makes me a very happy girl!