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Citizens and cars

Designed by Robert Roloff of Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson & Roloff
1112 NW 23rd, OKC
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The Citizens State Bank opened its doors on May 27, 1948 in its new facility at NW 23rd and Dewey with six employees.  This was the first bank to open outside the downtown area in decades, and its directors couldn’t have picked a better location than the rapidly developing northwest side of town along the bustling Uptown shopping district on NW 23rd.

In fact, the bank grew so rapidly that it was expanded soon after its completion to include more parking and the then-new “auto teller windows.”  However, within the next few years, the bank once again outgrew its space and looked to expand.  This time, a second building with department store space was added, but it was not enough, and the bank soon was in need of more room.

That’s when the directors decided that a completely new building was in order, and they agreed to purchase a block-long section of land down the street at the corner of NW 23rd and Classen where the recently-vacated Jefferson School sat.  The architectural firm, Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson & Roloff was hired to design a structure as optimistic and forward thinking as the bank itself, and Robert Roloff’s Buckminster Fuller-inspired geodesic dome was just the design the bank was looking for.

The Gold Dome, as the building came to be known, was completed in 1958, and Citizens vacated its old digs and moved its 86 employees into the funky, Space Age facility, which was one of the very first geodesic domes built for commercial use.

Citizens occupied the Gold Dome for several decades before Bank One bought it out.  In 2001, the bank decided to demolish the iconic domed structure and sell the land to Walgreen’s so that company could construct another bland, cookie-cutter drug store on the busy corner.  Galvanized by the recent loss of the beautiful YMCA building downtown, concerned citizens, activists, and preservationists immediately organized and formed “Citizens for the Gold Dome” to protest the proposed demolition and work with Bank One to find other options.

According to Robert Roloff’s son, Scott, “Bob Roloff wouldn’t show people his feelings. After several plans to demolish it failed, Walgreens’s plan was firm. He said nothing. Later he confided to (probably only) me that when people from the neighborhood went into the street to stop the wrecking equipment because they liked a job he’d done, it had been the most gratifying thing that happened to him. That’s saying a lot. He was gratified more than anyone I ever knew.”

Bank One’s president agreed to postpone the demolition so that a new buyer could be found, and after several months of weekly demonstrations across the street from the bank to keep attention focused on the situation, a group led by Dr. Irene Lam agreed to buy the Gold Dome.  In 2003, the iconic, Modernist structure was placed on the National Register, and in 2007, it was listed among the 100 best buildings in Central Oklahoma by that chapter’s AIA.  Yes, the future looked as bright and shiny as the Gold Dome’s reflective roof, and people flocked to the mid-century marvel to attend weddings in the perfectly preserved bank lobby, eat and drink at the very popular Prohibition Room, and wander around the small gallery located in the former bank’s vault.

The party was not to last long, however.  The new owners fell behind on loan payments to the City of Oklahoma City and property taxes, the Prohibition Room closed down due to continual problems with the owners, and, in August 2012, the Gold Dome went into foreclosure.  On September 12, 2012, developer David Box bought the iconic structure for $800,000 at auction and sought a demolition permit in March 2013 presumably to replace the Gold Dome with a gas station.  Yes, a gas station.

After loud protests from the community, Box backed off and ultimately leased/sold the building to TEEMCO, an environmental services company.  TEEMCO announced grand plans to restore the building, but other than painting the dome a ya-ha shade of yellow and painting parts of the facade a very tacky faux oxidized copper green, not much was done.  Soon, the company’s owner came under scrutiny in several informative OKC Talk articles here and here.  By the spring of 2015, TEEMCO was gone and Box was looking for a new owner.

In May 2015, developer Jonathan Russell bought the iconic Gold Dome and promised to transform it as he has The Rise on NW 23rd.  Read about the acquisition here.



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