Notes from the National Preservation Conference

Hip patio in Ranch AcresI am grateful to the Oklahoma Main Street Center for the opportunity to attend the 2008 National Preservation Conference. This was the first time I had ever participated in such an event and it was an inspiring and educational experience. Jackie and I attended a number of sessions and events.

Here are some general observations we made:
  • Tulsans don't realize how much wonderful architecture we have (or how much we've squandered).
  • The National Trust for Historic Places has recognized the relevance of Recent Past structures and design.

What happened to your downtown?

The awards presentation was held in the Will Rogers High School auditorium.This week Tulsa hosted the National Preservation Conference. The experience has exceeded my expectations in a number of ways. And I think it may have done the same for our City.

While most of the 1500 attendees came to Tulsa to learn, some of the real lessons came from observing these first-time visitors. They notice those architectural treasures we have become accustomed to. I think Tulsans may have a better appreciation for their hometown after this event.

But these preservation-minded tourists, most from larger cities, also observe that which is lacking. One attendee remarked, after walking across a sea of asphalt parking, "What happened to your downtown?" Another visitor asked if there had been a fire. The concept of tearing down a building to provide a handful of parking spaces is foreign to these outsiders. Hopefully a little bit of that will rub off while they're here.

Kudos to Modern Tulsa

Congratulations to Cole Cunningham, curator of the Modern Tulsa blog and website, and featured in Tulsa People magazine this month. The article is titled Endangered Tulsa, and lists the movers and shakers in Tulsa's architectural preservation community, including Rex Ball, LeAnne Ziegler and Herb Fritz. Cole's photo features him in front of one of my favorite endangered buildings- the futuristic branch bank complex.

Modern Bank is Backdrop for Comedy Video
The Auto Bank provides the backdrop for this 2005 amateur video featuring Scott Smith.
The mid-century marvel is often referred to as the Auto Bank, which makes sense as the drive-through lanes dominate the site (erroneously listed in the article as being located at Sixth and Cheyenne- it's actually Sixth and Cincinnati). But I recall it being called "branch bank" and "model bank" over the years. And indeed, it does seem like a suburban branch bank someone deposited in the downtown environ. Two huge tall doors open to the main lobby while the upper deck features a large parking area and a standalone office structure. I could see this being the prototype for the ideal suburban bank in the Atomic Age.

"Please pull forward."

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