In Memoriam: Buildings We Lost in 2017 … and a Few Saves, Too
by Lynne Rostochil. Vintage photos from the History Center collection, modern-day photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated.
Every year, more and more of our iconic mid century buildings are coming down to make way for new development and while it’s not always a bad thing, sometimes we lose some real gems. Here are a few of those gems that we lost in 2017:
Designed by Wright & Selby, the concrete block-covered Allied Building was a long-time favorite of mod lovers around the city.
After the Salvation Army moved out of the building a few years ago, the mod marvel languished and many knew that unless it was saved soon, it would be gone. Alas, it wasn’t saved and the building came down in March as you can see in this photo by OKCTalk’s Pete Brzycki:
Pete also posted plans for the site, which may include a Starbucks:
In 1952, WKY opened a high-tech and very modern studio on Britton Road that rivaled others in much larger urban areas:
Here, the finishing touches are being completed on the interior studio:
By the 2000s, however, the building was looking pretty outdated and tired and KFOR (successor to WKY) decided it was time to build a new one. I went to the old studio last year for an interview, and I have to say that the place was looking pretty darned tired and more than a little depressing:
Owners approved this design by Rees Associates, who did a great job of retaining the modern feel of the original (photos from KAUT):
Operations continued in the 1952 building while the new one was being completed next door (photo from KFOR):
When the new studio opened in the fall, the older building was demolished.
Putnam City High School Gym
The quonset hut-style gym at Putnam City High School was completed in 1957, just before the rest of the school was finished in time for the 1958 school year. There’s a little debate in my family about the designer of this building. Hudgins Thompson Ball (HTB) designed the school and, I assume, the gym. But my mother is adamant that her dad, R. Duane Conner designed the gym and HTB did the rest of the school. I haven’t been able to find any proof of this, but my mom is usually right in her recollections of such things, so I’m inclined to believe her. Anyway, here’s the gym under construction:
Just three years after it was completed, the gym was hit by a tornado and had to be partially rebuilt:
This building has hosted many a nail-biting basketball game and festive dance over the years, but it is being heavily altered to create a new entrance to the school. Here’s the dreaded fence surrounding the building … but, luckily there’s not an orange painted MW sign anywhere:
And, here’s the interior of the gym that’s is undergoing asbestos removal before demolition begins:
From what I’ve learned, the shell of the building will remain and a new entrance to the school is going to be created from the gym. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a photo of what the finished project, designed by Sparks Reed Architecture and Interiors, will look like. We will know soon enough when the project is completed, I guess.
UPDATE: I should have known that Pete Brzycki at OKCTalk would have the lowdown about the gym. Here’s a note I received from him:
Lynne, I have the PC gym rendering and the details on the plans. They are renovating the ‘old’ gym (the original that was built with the school) and it will go from being east/west oriented to north/south. The new entrance will take you into the lobby then fans will go upstairs on either side, then descend to the seating below. I’m working on getting some interior renders but I’ve seen all the 3-D models. So the old gym will once again become the main gym and the ‘new’ gym will be kept as a secondary structure. If you can’t tell, there will now be 3 entrances to the school on that side: 1. existing entrance to the east gym; 2. existing entrance to ‘Pirate Hall’ and the main entry to the school for people parking in the lot and riding the bus; and a 3rd entrance to the renovated gym lobby which will sit between the other two entrances.
And here are two photos he sent of what the gym will look like when construction is complete:
John A. Brown at Quail Springs Mall
Okay, so this one isn’t exactly mid-century modern, but it was the last even remotely original looking and somewhat cool building left at Quail Springs Mall, so I’m including it. John A. Brown was an original tenant at the mall when it opened in October of 1980 (photo from thedepartmentstoremuseum.org):
Over the years, the store became Sanger-Harris then Foley’s and finally Macy’s, which closed last year.
Soon after, Life Time Fitness bought the building and razed it to make way for a gigantic new center, complete with tennis courts and a pool:
Pretty boring replacement, aye?
Oh, how I hated to see this beauty go.
It would have been nice to see the older building incorporated into the much-needed larger library, but that didn’t happen and the Bethany branch was demolished over the summer. Construction has begun on its replacement, which should open in 2018:
This charming little clinic next to Raspberries & Cream on N. May was where I fantasized having our Okie Mod Squad headquarters and archive.
Here’s a photo of the whole building, which was constructed in 1957, that I “borrowed” from the OK County Tax Assessor website:
The size was just right and the building was so mod and cute, but my dreams were dashed when I drove by the long-vacant clinic a few months ago and found this:
I don’t know what is going to replace it, but I do know that it won’t be as sweet as the little clinic.
The Suntide was once one of the most impressive motels in Oklahoma City, probably because it boasted the most giant, space age sign in the metro:
I mean, really, can a sign get any better than this?
The motel served the public until 1976, when it was converted into a minimum security prison. In 1999, the old motel became the Kate Barnard Correctional Center for female inmates. The facility was closed and auctioned off in 2015. After years of use and minimal maintenance, the old motel wasn’t looking very good when I photographed it at that time, but that amazing slanted awning still provided plenty of drama:
While out taking photos of the motel, I ran into the new buyer, who told me he planned to construct an office building on the site. I haven’t seen any photos of what he’s planning to do, but I did manage to take a few last photos of the Suntide as it was being demolished in November. Adios, cool awning:
Among the buildings that we need to keep an eye on in 2018 are the still-for-sale Founders Bank:
and the First Christian Church complex:
I never like to end a post on a sad note, so let’s finish up with some great saves in 2017. First up is the remodel of the Tiffany House apartment building:
Constructed in 1966, the 12-story tower was designed by Memphis architects McGeehee and Nicholson and was one of only three residential high rises built in the era (the other two are the Lakeview Towers and Regency Tower). The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016 and became eligible for tax credits to help fund the renovation. Once the renovation and addition are complete, the Tiffany will offer 152 luxury apartments with all of the amenities, including a pool, an entertainment area, a fitness center, a coffee bar, and controlled entry. And, best of all, the Tiffany sign will be restored:
Another OKC icon that is being restored is the lovely Yale Theater in Capitol Hill. No, it’s not mid-century mod — in fact, the building dates back to World War I — but a post-World War II renovation makes this still-attractive building worth mentioning here, I think.
The building has been vacant and deteriorating for years — here’s a photo from Cinema Treasures of the theater when the sign was still there:
And here’s one I took of the theater back in 2008:
Recently, Aimee Ahpeatone and Steve Mason purchased the building and plan to restore it to its full Art Deco glory:
I can’t wait to see the finished product!
Of course, 2017 saw the beautiful renovation of the Flamingo, which we covered on a Mod Blog in the fall:
But, definitely the biggest save of the year was the fun and funky Donnay Building at Classen Circle:
Thanks to all of you in the Mod Squad and fans of the long-time businesses in the building — Hi Lo, Drunken Fry, Charlie’s Records, and the neighboring Classen Grill — we were able to work together to convince Braum’s that this was not the most friendly location for their new store. Soon after they backed out, a new owner came forward and plans to restore this OKC icon. After losing so many of the Metro’s mid-century modern icons, it was a very sweet victory, indeed, to get to save this one for future generations.