Last week my commute took me down South Harvard under the unique pedestrian bridge near 56th Street. A City of Tulsa truck and work lift were parked nearby as a crew deployed safety cones. I thought nothing of it and continued on my way.
Then this week I noticed the entrances to the circular bridge ramps were blocked off. A sign read: BRIDGE CLOSED-NO TRESPASSING.
Later this month one of my favorite Oklahoma homes will be open for a look-see.
The stunning Jones House was the home of Robert Lawton Jones- a founding principal of the Tulsa-based architectural firm Murray-Jones-Murray. Here in Oklahoma MJM is synonymous with MCM. The firm designed Mid Mod icons such as Saints Peter and Paul Church & School, First Place Tower, Bishop Kelley school and the Tulsa Assembly Center.
About the time Jones penned this sleek example of International Style we had just broken ground on another MJM project: the Tulsa International Airport. It was 1959.
The efforts to save Stage Center continue. Buttons and t-shirts are being sold, a petition has been launched and Preservation Oklahoma has appealed the demolition ruling. On March 5, 2014 a lunchtime rally is scheduled at the site from 11:30 to 1:00 to motivate volunteers and encourage supporters to attend the appeals hearing the next day.
Life has returned to downtown Tulsa in recent years.
The concrete canyons, once deserted after 5:00 pm not so long ago, are now a mecca for nightlife and loft-loving hipsters. Condos now occupy what was recently an empty lot. Vacant office space is giving way to luxury apartments. And no matter what style the building might be– residential living in Tulsa's central city is a thoroughly modern affair.
Call it Mummer's Theater, Oklahoma Theatre Center, Stage Center- or Tinkertoy Town. The oft-maligned complex at North Walker and West Sheridan appears to be doomed. Recent plans call for a mixed use high-rise office tower to be built on the site.
One of the coolest things about a Sixties house is all the nifty built-in stuff.
Our favorite built-in features is a revolving toothbrush holder. That chrome door in the bathroom looks like a secret panel when closed. But rotate the magic metal marvel and a veritable oral hygiene command center is revealed!
These convenient accessories were popular in the Fifties and Sixties. A company called Hall-Mack offered an entire collection of bathroom built-ins to make your modern life easier. Our house also has a couple of their classic Tow'lescope retractable towel bars (which look like a horizontal radio antenna when extended over the sink). The most rare of all though is the fold-down bathroom scales!
Round buildings are cool. I mean, seriously, perpendicular corners are overrated.
That's why we were thrilled to discover this awesome place called Gabe's Motor Inn, a 13-story hotel built in 1963 located in Owensboro, Kentucky. The groovy circular building featured parking underneath and a rooftop restaurant with a retractable glass roof. It's known locally as Gabe's Tower for obvious reasons.
But as cool as this place is its future is uncertain.
Beginning this year efforts to condemn the building were under way. A grassroots movement has begun to save the landmark tower and preserve the unique history associated with it. Here's a great little video they put together...
Today new life breathed into one of my favorite structures in Downtown Tulsa.
A 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).
Tulsa's skyline lost another Mid-Century Modern element this week.
Demolition began at the Downtowner Motor Inn this Saturday. The motel at 4th and Cheyenne had been vacant for many years– save for the Coney Island in the ground floor. Oh, it's moving back across the street where it belongs by the way.
It was somewhat surprising to see this boxy example of Sixties roadside Americana coming down after some of the recent developments in Tulsa. The BOK Center has breathed new vigor into the west side of downtown, and two new hotels are currently in the works. Up the street on Boulder Avenue, the Holiday Inn has reopened after teetering close to the edge of seediness for several years. Then just last August the badly neglected Downtowner was one of two buildings featured on a Tulsa Preservation Commission training course on redevelopment tactics for preservation junkies!
Historic tax credits were in the news again here in Oklahoma. Unfortunately.
After placing a two-year deferral on the payments, state legislators revisited the program again last month with an eye on axing it entirely. This short-sighted approach has left developers in a quandary and projects on hold. Politicians claim they have no "hard evidence" of the benefit these incentives provide. But the proof is all around them.
The Tulsa Foundation for Architecture has compiled a compelling case for historic tax credits. A wide variety of properties across the state have been restored, updated and rescued by virtue of these funds. In Tulsa the benefits are evident on most any weekday evening. See all those people? Yes, there are people downtown after 5:00 pm. A scant ten or fifteen years ago that would have been unusual.
Libby Auld, the proprietor of Elote plans to open a new restaurant called the Vault. The futuristic 1958 bank has been vacant for many years and was most recently being remodeled as a lounge/sushi bar. Located at 7th and Cincinnati the complex features upstairs parking and a small meeting room called the Tom Tom Room, where Central High School alumni once met.
I just discovered a unique home only a few blocks away from us. And I discovered it on a blog published halfway across the country. So amazing, this Internet thing.
The house is a 3200-foot, 3 bedroom in Ranch Acres. It's one of those cool floorplans with two main wings that make a flying V. Inside it's full Zsa Zsa Colonial with harvest gold appliances and mysterious woodgrains. The fireplace set into the curved sandstone wall is also noteworthy.
But don't take my word for it- here's a link to the article on Retro Nation about this awesome find:
Long before it was known as the Quik Trip Center, the immense building at
Expo Square behind the Golden Driller was known as the Tulsa Exposition Center. Built in 1966 to provide an indoor space for the International
Petroleum Exposition, the building featured a cable-supported roof covering more than 10 acres. Distinctive orange steel supports rose up from the prairie to hold the cable system.
The architect for the project was Bert E. Griffin and David R. Graham
and Associates were the structural engineers. The clever cable system floating
3,500 tons of structural steel above the exhibit floor was so unique
several patents were filed. The visual impact of the building was modern, but very business-like. The wide stance of the outermost support pillars echoed the "spider legs" of architect Richard Neutra. Giant beams rose up from the roof to grasp cables, almost like a giant bridge had been covered.
The Bavinger House website now states the home is closed due to severe storm damage. Reports from architecture groups on Facebook indicate the owner may be willing to allow a photographer inside to document the damage. It was also reported he will be posting information about the house on a new blog.
For those unfamiliar with this unusual building, or this unusual turn of events, I'd recommend reading Masterpiece in Peril by Lynne Rostochil. I've also posted more photos of the Bavinger House from an architectural tour sponsored by the Oklahoma City Museum of Art in 2009.
Rumors began circulating Monday afternoon that the Bavinger House in Norman, Oklahoma had been demolished. Conflicting reports have been circulating today and confirmation has been difficult due to the heavily wooded area where the house is located.
Bob Bavinger, the son and steward of the Bruce Goff-designed house, contacted area galleries and asked them to remove any flyers or brochures related to the Bavinger House.
Shane Hood with Modern Tulsa contacted modernisti in the Oklahoma City area to confirm the rumors. Lynne Rostochil was able to contact Bob Bavinger who claimed the iconic structure was "torn down and hauled away" sometime last week. However, this morning Terri Sadler is reporting she can see the roof and support cables, which would indicate the house is intact.
Late Tuesday reports that indicate the house may have been compromised surfaced on Facebook. We'll continue posting updates on Facebook as we learn more.
Sitting smack dab in the middle of Oklahoma City at the Will Rogers Gardens is a gem of a building. It's a little jewel box that is easily overlooked. From the street the most noticeable feature is a three-spire metal sculpture that would look right at home on a Bruce Goff blueprint.
But as we pulled into the parking lot the red brick building became noticeably more interesting. The white concrete trim has distinctive markings- almost a Native American motif. A round rooftop rises up from the center of the building like a drum, vertical steel accents point skyward emphasizing the drum's height over an otherwise low-slung structure. We realized this was no normal rec center! Then we saw stainless-steel letters beside the entrance stating: "WILL ROGERS GARDENS EXHIBITION BUILDING."
We were intrigued.
Built in 1963 this unique building serves as the headquarters for the Oklahoma City Council of Garden Clubs. It is situated at the entrance to the park and gardens at NW 36…
Snapped this on a recent Sunday ride to Stroud, Oklahoma.
The Skyliner Motel is still operating here on the Old Road. The neon sign is fully functional, beckoning travelers driving both Route 66 and the Interstate. It's located at the junction of Route 66 and OK-99, near the point we Okies call Midway.
Anyone who questions the validity of architecture as a tourism generator in Oklahoma got a firm rebuke last week. The unique skyscraper in Bartlesville known as the Price Tower was included on a list of Frank Lloyd Wright structures nominated for international recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (mercifully known as UNESCO). Just the nomination is a huge honor, and recognition as a World Heritage Site would mean a huge boost in international visitors to the Price Tower. The 19-story skyscraper currently houses an art center, boutique hotel and a struggling restaurant.
We first told you about the unique Phillis Wheatley School in New Orleans, and the efforts of the World Monuments Fund to save it, back in October 2009.
The good news- the building is still there.
The bad news is the structure isn't getting any better, and a permit for demolition was recently requested.
A petition asking the Mayor of New Orleans, Mitchell Landrieu, to stop the plan to demolish the school building has been circulated. The letter cites the school's importance to the black community as well as its unique architecture. Currently the petition has nearly 1100 signatures.
Built in 1954, the school's cantilever design is unique to say the least. It takes advantage of its own footprint to provide much needed shade from the noon-day sun. A plan for a possible re-use of the site has even been proposed by DOCOMO-Louisiana.