In Memoriam: Buildings We Lost in 2018 … and a few saves
text by Lynne Rostochil. Photos by Lynne Rostochil, Sunshine Gadbury, Bob Bowlby and courtesy of KFOR and the Oklahoma History Center.
It seemed that the wrecking ball in the metro area was pretty quiet for most of 2018, but when it started swinging in the fall, one iconic Oklahoma City structure after another toppled, leaving many long-time residents shuddering with shock and anger. No doubt about it, we lost some irreplaceable treasures….
The demo fest began at the end of August with the demise of the Carlisle Motel on NW 39th. Many would say that the motel really died when its iconic neon sign was removed back in 2013 and replaced with a real yawner of a plastic sign:
The motel was constructed on a then-rural stretch of Route 66 around 1943 and named Carlyle Court:
Such streamlined goodness! In the 1950s, the garages were converted into rooms, the office was enlarged, a pool was added, and the whole place received the more ranch modern look that we were accustomed to. I always dreamed to buying the Carlyle and sprucing it into a fun and very retro wayside inn that could be a destination spot in OKC. All of those dreams came to an abrupt end beginning August 28th, when the Carlyle began to disappear, gobbled into oblivion to be replaced with an On Cue:
So long, Carlyle….
Next up is a place that we all knew was on the chopping block but still had hopes that it would be saved. I’m talking about the sprawling mod Parker-Black House at 6900 N. Country Club Drive, pictured here when it was still happy in 2009:
The 6,200 sf beauty was constructed in 1958 for banker William M. Parker and overlooked the OKC Golf and Country Club golf course. The Parkers were very social folks — he with civic and fraternal organizations and she with the Junior League:
The impressive yet very comfortable home they built featured tons of glass and flagstone as you can see in this photo Mod Squadder, Sunshine Gadbury snapped a few months before the home came down:
The Parker family lived in the home until the early 1970s, when it was purchased by businessman R.K. Black, who owned it until 2004. OKC oilman Larry Nichols then bought the still-glorious home and then did nothing with the rancher for the next 14 years. In October, the whole place came down:
Such a loss.
But that wasn’t the worst of it. Just a few days later, we learned that Midwest Wrecking was sitting at the beloved Founders Bank anxiously awaiting the approval of a demo permit so they could begin knocking down one of OKC’s most interesting and popular buildings. Here’s the lighter-than-air Founders in its early days:
… and a couple of years ago when Bank of America occupied the space:
The bank wanted to remain in the building and offered to buy it, but the greedy guys at Austin-based Schlosser Development refused their offer and several other interested buyers because, well hell let’s just come out with it, because they are money grubbing jerks.
I don’t know how the demo approval process occurred without anyone knowing about it … and in a matter of mere minutes … but it did and the wreckers began gashing into the building the minute they received the okay.
At least the building’s iconic arches didn’t topple easily and the vintage safe was even more difficult to dismantle and took weeks to be taken down.
So, what are we going to get to replace this beauty? Another architectural wonder? A beautiful new apartment or office building? Nope. It looks like the far-sighted guys at Schlosser have decided they can make more money by subdividing the land and building ugly boxes with even more bad fast food chicken restaurants or dime-a-dozen vape/CBD shops. Lucky us.
As if the loss of Founders wasn’t enough, we lost one more OKC icon in 2018 that hurt to the bone, the fabulous Space Tower at State Fair Park:
Since the semi-centennial celebration in 1957, there has been a tower at this spot at the fairgrounds, beginning with the very atomic Arrows to Atoms sculpture:
When that sculpture was dismantled a decade later, it was replaced with a revolving lookout that let views capture sweeping views of the fairgrounds and city beyond:
I’m sure I’m not the only parent who instructed young kids to meet me at the tower in case they got lost, nor am I the only one who took yearly photos of her family sweating to death as they rode to the top:
Weren’t they cute? Sadly, we didn’t get a photo at the 2010 fair because the same spring storm that flooded Stage Center that year also did damage to the engine room at the Space Tower. It never ran at the fair again, but it remained as a sculptural element and nod to the fair’s glorious mid-century modern past, a past that has been whittled away over the years with the demolition of the City Arts Center building, Grandstand, and monorail. Well, now you can add the Space Tower to that list. Citing concerns that the tower would topple because they haven’t maintained it and it’s rusty, fair officials had it dismantled in just a couple of weeks:
While State Fair of Oklahoma representative, Scott Munz said that the original Arrows to Atoms finial would be saved, I’m very dubious about that, especially since fair officials also said they’d save one car of the monorail as a memorial, which they did and then unceremoniously trashed a few years later.
Nope, I don’t trust those guys one little bit. During my conversation with Scott, I also asked what would go in the tower’s place, and he said he didn’t know. There’s no money in the budget to replace it, so for the first time in over 60 years, we will be going to the fair without a tower to tell our kids to meet us at if they get lost.
The next building on the demo radar at the fairgrounds is the round arena…
Rumors are swirling that it will come down and be replaced with something bigger in the near future.
Last of all, even though it wasn’t mid-century modern, we bid farewell to Hubcap Alley in 2018.
Now that the entire west side of the street has been scraped and all of the hubcaps are gone, what’s the point in calling this area Hubcap Alley now?
I’m sure going to miss those quirky buildings and businesses….
So, 2018 was a heartbreaking year for mid-century modern architecture in OKC, but there were some great saves, too. I mean, how fun is it that the Tiffany has been updated and looks better than ever?
And I love how the long-vacant movie theater/office building at 1212 Hudson was transformed into the shiny, new Elk Valley Brewing.
Also, several mod homes hit the market in 2018 and were purchased by MCM fans who plan to update them while keeping their mod goodness intact.
Let’s hope that we will have many more successes to celebrate in 2020 and way fewer buildings to mourn.
Cheers to that!