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Autobank Now Dispensing Lunch

Today new life breathed into one of my favorite structures in Downtown Tulsa.

Flagpoles and RoofA new eatery opened in the space originally known as the First National Autobank. Built in 1959 the complex was a model for suburban banking- back when "suburban banking" meant four blocks from the main bank. When the bank opened it was an instant landmark. It was designed by local firm of Mc Kune, Mc Kune & Associates who gave Tulsa many modern additions to its skyline (Petroleum Club Building, McClure Hall, Holiday Inn).

Located across the street from Central High School there was no need to point out the contrast of styles. A folded-plate roofline with ziggy-zaggy blocks played up the hugely popular space-age theme. The drive-thru lanes were the first in Tulsa and a Bertoia fountain out front greeted walk-in customers (and gave them a gentle dousing, so the story goes). An upstairs parking terrace added to the Tomorrowland vibe.

Senior class photos were snapped on the steps. There was even a popular picture postcard that featured the entryway (and that pesky fountain). The Autobank was indeed a hit.

But the years- and ensuing bank mergers- had not been kind to the futuristic complex. Rumors of demolition had circulated for years. Neglect was taking a toll.

The Vault as it appears today.
Courtesy Facebook
I'm relieved to see this building still standing- let alone returned to its former glory. Restoring the bank's Mid-Century Modern look and feel must have been a priority- because much of the damage done in recent years has been rectified. The new restaurant is appropriately named The Vault and a product of Elote founder, Libby Auld. The interior is tastefully adorned with Eames shell chairs and period artwork. The menu is a throwback collection of Sixties fare and retro cocktails to match the Sixties ambiance.

But I am relieved that some of the practices of that era were left in the past. For instance, there is no smoking section.


The Recent Past

The Bruce Goff House in Vinita

We were recently surprised to learn about a Goff-designed home just an hour away from Tulsa in Vinita, Oklahoma. Vinita is probably best known to OK Mod readers as the home of the Glass House on I-44, also known as (shudder) the World's Largest Largest McDonalds . Anywho, turned out the Goff house was on the market, and the owner was more than happy to let us have a look around. We took a short drive up the turnpike one Sunday afternoon to meet the realtor, snap some pictures, ask some questions and enjoy another one of Bruce Goff's unique creations. The home is known as the Adams House and was built in 1961. The 3,700 square foot home is arranged in a circular floor plan with a large sunken "conversation pit" at the center. Rising up from this pit is a large metal fireplace, its chimney surrounded by skylights, which dominates the entire house. Rooms surround the perimeter with folding accordion doors acting as walls. To maintain some semblance of privacy an inner

The World Museum

The widening of I-44 through Tulsa will soon claim another mid-century building (see Modern Homes Make Way for I-44 ). This unusual landmark near Peoria, once known as the World Museum, is being emptied in preparation for demolition. The concrete complex was built in 1963 by the Osborn Ministries as a museum and "Interstate Temple." Self-proclaimed minister, T. L. Osborn, and his wife, Daisy, traveled the world as Christian missionaries and collected art and artifacts on their journeys. The unusual La Concha-esque building housed their partial collection and distracted motorists touring along the new Skelly Bypass (aka I-44). The exterior of the building is adorned with maps of the world's continents. In its heyday there was a good deal more- a giant outline of Jesus was on one wall. The inscription below it, "REX," provided one of my earliest Latin lessons when I asked Dad why that building had my name on it. There was also a large globe that once stood out fr

Visit to the Prairie Chicken House

This unique house on the edge of Norman, Oklahoma is known to most as the prairie chicken house. Designed by Herb Greene in 1960, he preferred to call it simply the Prairie House .  Thanks to the  Prairie House Preservation Society  (PHPS) it is now possible for the public to experience one of Oklahoma's most unusual architectural treasures.