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Showing posts with the label preservation

Is the Page Belcher Federal Building worth saving?

There is a possibility that in several years the Page Belcher Federal Building might be vacant. In the event that happens an obscure city commission wants the building gone. Or if not removed, at least re-skinned.

It was mentioned the building looks "out of place" compared to the BOK Center. I almost found that amusing. Next to the stainless steel skin of Pelli's arena it's hard for me to picture what might not look out of place. An aluminum dirigible? Or maybe a four-story mockup of a food processor?

But there's nothing amusing about the Council's intentions. They appear to be poised to level the 1967 structure to make way for something less out of place. At a meeting last October several people voiced their opposition to the idea of tearing it down- which seemed to surprise the council.

It's no secret that plenty of Tulsans think the building is an eyesore. I mean even the name is a handicap! Many like to compare the Page Belcher to the previous Federa…

Tulsa Roller Coaster Pops Up on eBay

Bit of sad news comes to us via Facebook today. A piece of Tulsa history is up for sale on eBay- the Zingo roller coaster from Bell's Amusement Park.

Zingo Roller Coaster on eBay

While not what most people consider "architecture," I consider a wooden roller coaster built in 1968 an intriguing piece of design. Not to mention a historically significant piece of local history, and roadside Americana!

Bell's was opened on Tulsa Fairgrounds in 1951. They were forced to close in 2006 after a squabble over the amusement park's lease. Efforts were under way last year to relocate the park to Coweta, but the deal is still in the formative stages.

If you'd like to test drive Zingo before you bid here's a video filmed in 2003...

Light Bugs: Fascination with Neon

Tulsa has some great neon signs. Unfortunately we had a whole heck of a lot more. That was before many of these metal, glass and argon works of art were scrapped, bulldozed or "updated" out of existence. But a new publication celebrates the survivors, and strikes a blow for preservation in this never-ending war against the supposedly outdated.

A soon-to-be-released booklet from the Tulsa Foundation on Architecture (TFA) is called Tulsa Vintage Neon. It features photography by Ralph Cole and is printed on durable, high gloss stock. The booklet is the result of a citywide inventory of Tulsa's glowing billboards. Copies are available for only $7.95 from TFA.

Efforts like this not only raise awareness within our community- they sometimes attract nationwide attention. Such was the case when the magazine Signs of the Times printed an article about Tulsa's inventory of classic neon, and TFA's efforts to preserve it. Tulsa neon was even featured on the cover!

One of Tuls…

Prairie Church Matters

This Place Matters: Oklahoma church building featured on National Trust for Historic Preservation website.

The unusual Hopewell Church in Edmond, OK was designed by Bruce Goff in 1948. Often referred to as the "tepee church," it was completed in 1951, but has sat vacant since 1989.

But the National Trust hopes to preserve such iconic structures. You can learn more about the Hopewell Church, or help save it by spreading the word or making a financial contribution through the Trust's Community Challenge.


Photo courtesy of Preservation Oklahoma

SandRidge Demolition Stalled

The proposed SandRidge Commons project was put on hold Thursday by the Oklahoma City Board of Adjustment. The board cited a lack of information and granted the appeal instigated by Preservation Oklahoma.

The next round in this ordeal is scheduled to take place June 17, 2010 at 1:30 pm.

Full article from the Daily Oklahoman.

OKC Development Threatens Historic Buildings

A recently proposed development by SandRidge Energy in downtown Oklahoma City has preservationists jumping into action.

There appears to be two parts of this story that have brick huggers hopping mad. First off is the planned demolition of OKC's oldest structure, the 1902 India Temple building. The second, less obvious part of the controversy, is the process by which the development was approved by the Downtown Design Review Committee.

I don't pretend to know much about either topic, so I'll use the magic of the world wide interwebs to silently transport you to information nirvana....

To learn about the buildings being threatened refer to Doug Loudenback's recent blog, What Have We Got to Lose.

To learn more about the controversial decision and the effort to appeal it visit Keep Downtown Urban.

All of this is building up to an appeal hearing on Thursday, May 20, 2010 before the Oklahoma City Board of Adjustment. We'll keep you posted.

Tulsans Enjoy Another Mod Moment

Modern Tulsa's second Mod of the Moment event was quite a treat for the folks that attended.

From curbside the house looked moderately interesting. The only real hint this was a notable mid-mod abode was the carport in lieu of the usual garage. But once inside the magic happened. Small windows and ceiling lights featured butterflies and leaves encased within the glass. Terrazzo floors throughout and an open floorplan made this a worthy stop for this ongoing series of open houses. I've included a few photos to give you an idea of just how cool this house really is.

Mod Moments
The "Mod of the Moment" is a series of open house events showcasing modern and contemporary homes that on the market, or soon will be. These events are a great idea for a number of reasons.

First off, fans of these "unusual" homes get to tour them along with others who appreciate the contemporary aesthetic. It's not just camaraderie though- networking like this is fun and educational…

OKC's Unique First Christian Church

The Church of Tomorrow

Oklahoma's state capitol dome was added some 88 years after the capitol was built, finally completed in 2002. But not far away is another dome that has been turning heads since 1956. It's the First Christian Church of Oklahoma City.

Call it a wigwam, igloo, earthbound spaceship or dome- no matter how you describe the shape of the sanctuary, it's definitely eye-catching. The thin-shell concrete dome is massive, with seating for 1200. Connected to the dome is a four-story administrative building and a 185-seat theater. Dedicated as "The First Christian Church of Tomorrow," the architecture caught the attention of local newspapers, as well as Life magazine (Feb. 1957). Last summer I had a unique opportunity to explore these interesting buildings.

The main complex was designed by R. Duane Conner in 1953. Conner was a member of the congregation and offered three different designs for the church. Credit is also attributed to his partner, Fred Poje…

Tulsa Survey Finds Plenty of History

Last December the results of the "Downtown Tulsa Intensive-Level Historic Resources Survey" were published. In plain English that means an inventory of Tulsa's downtown architecture.

The last such evaluation dates back to 1978, but this recent survey is much more exhaustive. Every building within the Inner Dispersal Loop (IDL) was reviewed. Structures were evaluated for their architectural and historic value- as well as structural integrity. Why go to all this trouble? According to the Tulsa Preservation Commission...
The purpose of the survey project was to document all properties inside the IDL in order to identify which portions of downtown are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, which would in turn make the properties eligible for Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit incentives.
The final document identifies 88 structures that merit acknowledgment for their historic status. It also lists fourteen districts that deserve recognition for their c…

Tulsa Treasures Not Half Bad

Try as they might, the organizers just couldn't get the management people to let us into the "modern block" buildings.

But a much larger than expected group of hardy building buffs showed up for TulsaNow's inaugural Tulsa Treasures Tour this morning. We counted more than 70 at one point, a hefty turnout considering the morning temperatures were in the twenties.

The four buildings on the tour included two Art Deco gems and two modern postwar buildings. Sarah Kobos emceed the tour with Rex Ball, who provided outstanding play-by-play highlights of each building on the tour- and a few others. Before we ventured out, Amanda DeCort from the Tulsa Preservation Commission, offered a brief summary of the recently completed Downtown Tulsa Architectural Survey.

Unfortunately we didn't get to go inside the two modern buildings, the First National Autobank (now labeled Chase) or the Ponca City Savings & Loan (last occupied by Smith Abstract). But we still enjoyed seeing th…

Mod New Orleans School Needs Help

I admit, New Orleans is a long way from Oklahoma. But this story struck me as important enough to share.


This 1954 school building is endangered and could easily become the latest victim of Hurricane Katrina. The Phyllis Wheatley School  featured an elevated design that provided a shaded recreation area under the building, not to mention protection from rising water. Today the building is looking pretty sad- but there is hope.

World Monuments Fund: Phyllis Wheatley School

Fascination with the Neon

El Rancho Grande is a local fixture here in Tulsa, having been in their current location on Old Route 66 since 1953. A few weeks back they decided to spruce up their vintage sign that hangs on front of the building. Last night we dropped in for a "lights on" ceremony as they fired it up for the first time.


The get-together was sponsored by Modern Tulsa and I was happily surprised by the attendance.

Muy bueno!

Letter from Dallas

or Everything's Bigger in Texas.We recently visited Dallas for a few days of wining, dining and shopping. Our hideaway for this excursion, the Abby Brown Guest House, put us close to Knox-Henderson, Greenville and North Park Mall. Here's a few notes from the trip... One of our first stops was Design Within Reach. As you can see they have a Texas-sized version of the classic adjustable desk lamp. I enjoyed a mod pit group while basking under the glow of the giant lamp. I also visited my favorite chair, the Eames LCW. While we were at DWR we met David Goltl who showed us around the store, explained some of the finer points of modern furniture and printed off some maps of Mid-Century and modern neighborhoods in the Dallas area. This turned out to be wonderful information because... ..we soon found ourselves touring an area known simply as the "Disney Streets," because all the streets have names like Snow White or Peter Pan. This neighborhood was not only full of cool…

ORU Upgrades Not All Good

Love it or hate it, the architecture of Oral Roberts University is nothing if not unique.

For years I've heard that ORU is the most visited tourist site in Tulsa. I have no idea if that factoid is true. But I do know from my own personal experience that out-of-state visitors often ask me to drive them past the futuristic campus on South Lewis.

What happens when Tomorrowland runs headlong into cold, hard reality?

I think that's exactly what's happening at Oral Roberts University lately. Recent work on the space-age complex has mostly involved improvements to infrastructure- widening a creek, improving drainage, building a bridge. But some of the so-called improvements are more destructive.

Until earlier this week the area around the base of ORU's famous Prayer Tower was a geometric plot of gardens and bubbling water fountains surrounded by tall trees. The garden was an integral feature of the futuristic complex, strategically situated below Tulsa's most unmistakable s…

More Oklahoma Lustrons

We've been fascinated by the metal homes made by Lustron for many years. In fact, one of the very posts on this site was to document two examples here in Green Country (see Lustron: the Power of Steel). Now, here's an update to our search for Lustrons in Oklahoma. Turns out there are three Lustron homes in Oklahoma on the National Register of Historic Places. Two are in Stillwater and one is located in Cushing. All three are grey and appear to be the two-bedroom model. These are the two Lustrons in Stillwater. They're pretty similar except one has a mysterious aluminum patch near the entry. The real prefab gem from this trip is this beauty in Cushing. Note the contrasting trim and optional Lustron garage out back. Very nice! To locate Lustrons near you visit Lustron Preservation.org and use their handy, dandy Lustron Locator.

Church Blows its Top

Parkview Baptist Church is located on South Sheridan Road just north of 61st Street. Like many churches it grew in stages. The original sanctuary is a curly roof building from the Sixties (shown in the foreground of this photo). Later a larger sanctuary was built with a pyramid hip roof and a large wooden steeple.

But now that steeple is gone.

Yesterday I noticed workmen and a large crane were busily working on the distinctive box that adorned the rooftop. I was curious so I stopped and asked the pastor what all the fuss was about.

Turns out the structure had caused roof problems for many years. Each corner was a 16" beam and the elements had not been kind to them. Rot had eaten into the massive wooden uprights and allowed rain to get through to the sanctuary below. The congregation had decided to remove the steeple. I couldn't help but wonder if any consideration had been given to repairing it.

Looking up at the commotion I couldn't help but picture the steeple in a park or …

Oklahoma State Capitol Bank

On the Trail of Julius Shulman: Stop 2

"This is a bank," the sign outside the futuristic building read. According to legend a prankster added a strategic question mark and echoed the sentiment of many passers-by: "This is a bank?"

That was back in 1964 when it opened. Today the Arvest on Lincoln Boulevard looks a bit less Jetsonian, mostly due to replacement of structural glass below the "saucers," but it's still an unusual bank. Designed by Robert Roloff of the architectural firm Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson & Roloff, the State Capitol Bank caused quite a stir in Oklahoma City when it opened. Heck, it's still pretty shocking today!

Originally the flying saucers appeared to hover above the building (as seen in this vintage postcard). All the glass that made that effect possible also made heating and cooling an expensive proposition. Security concerns also mandated replacement of those windows with solid materials and small square portholes you see…

St. Luke's Methodist Church in OKC

On the Trail of Julius Shulman: Stop 1

St Luke's United Methodist Church is located just north of downtown Oklahoma City at 15th and Robinson. The church sits at the edge of an area where low-rise commercial and brick apartment buildings give way to a residential neighborhood. A round chapel and unique bell tower command a dominating view of these nearby homes.

The striking lines and choice of materials offer clues to the building's age. But step inside and there's no doubt about it. The pendant lamps and marshmallow chairs confirm this is a Mid-Century Modern!

Truett Coston was the principal architect and an active member of the church. Dedicated in 1956 the church has been well maintained, and additions or improvements have kept in step with the original design. Even the Fifties lighting in the lobby is still intact.

Entering the main lobby I was struck by the ORU-ness of the detailing. Maybe it's just a natural reaction I have to gold anodized aluminum? But my favo…

35,000 and Counting

The Tulsa Foundation for Architecture is celebrating.

And you're invited!


TFA was recently honored for their role as Tulsa's only architectural archive. The collection of more than 35,000 architectural drawings, bound periodicals, books and artifacts documenting Tulsa's built environment attracted the attention of Save America's Treasures, a program offering grants to protect nationally significant intellectual and cultural artifacts. In fact, they were so impressed they presented the local non-profit a five-figure grant to keep up the good work!

To celebrate this very noble honor the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture invites you to join them for their White Glove Revue and open house on January 15th.

4th Annual White Glove Open House
January 15th 4:00 to 7:00 pm
Tulsa Foundation for Architecture Archives
321 South Boston
Lower Level 01

That's in the basement of the Kennedy Building, conveniently located across the street from the dirigible mooring mast atop the 320 Boston…

Free Mid-Century Modern Posters

Merry Christmas from Oklahoma Modern!

Here's a special mod and hip Christmas present for all you fans of Mid-Century buildings- compliments of Uncle Sam!

Modern-Era Building Posters from the General Services Administration

The General Services Administration (GSA) manages about a zillion square feet of our Nation's floorspace. Everything from courthouses to salt mines used for underground storage. Many of these government complexes were built in the postwar era. Minimalist and free of excess adornments, they appeal to a modern aesthetic. Most are not what your Average Joe would consider "purdy," but many are important examples of modern architectural design.

But the good news is the GSA got the memo! Beginning in 2000, primarily due to outrage over a planned renovation to Denver's Federal Building, the importance of Mid-Century Modern was made clearly evident. Since then the GSA has realized the historic importance of many of the federal buildings under their manag…

Modern Choices