Last month the first Oklahoma Modernism Weekend was held at the iconic "Church of Tomorrow" in Oklahoma City. The three-day event attracted a large crowd, who were treated to a swap meet, car show, home tour and vintage fashion show.
Oklahoma's first celebration of modern architecture and design will be held May 20-22, 2015.
The event will be hosted by the Okie Mod Squad, an Oklahoma City-based group that promotes the appreciation and preservation of Mid-Century Modern design. To drive home that point they have chosen a uniquely identifiable site to host this first-ever event: The First Christian Church of Oklahoma City.
A plaza in downtown Tulsa has gained recent notoriety as the hiding place for modern art. From street level the corner of 4th Street and Main looks like your typical abandoned gathering place. First Place Tower looms over the concrete planters and vacant benches. But it's the lower level that hides the treasure.
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...
An article from the Daily Oklahoman today shows photographs of the unique Norman home still standing- albeit in very poor condition. The Bavinger House was designed by Bruce Goff during his stint at the University of Oklahoma School of Architecture.
Oklahoma Modern reader JS from Dallas writes: Hi Rex and Jackie- I’m an Okie from Shawnee and I enjoy your Oklahoma Modern blog. I’m taking a photo trip/family visit to Tulsa in mid-April and want to check with you about what’s still around for me to enjoy. Here’s a tentative list:
Tulsa's largest suburb isn't usually associated with modernism, but if you look closely there are some unique examples of Mid-Century Modern. Here's a random sampling I snapped on a cloudy day in December...
By far the best known modern structure in BA would have to be this white
building on the hill. For decades this former church has been turning
heads near the Broken Arrow Expressway. Some people describe it as a
covered wagon, others see a cornucopia. But Jackie's nickname for it my favorite is. She has called it the "chicken church" since childhood.
We had been hearing about the unique hideaway called the Canebrake for years. I decided Jackie's birthday would be the perfect occasion to get out of town to sample their gourmet menu and spend the night in a cabin in the woods.
The Canebrake is located just east of Wagoner, OK on a peninsula overlooking Fort Gibson Lake. It's miles away from the city lights so it's a great place to "get away from it all."
For decades the neon sign at 15th and Delaware made this claim. Or variations thereof as certain letters burned out. But the Carpet City building recently changed hands and is currently being renovated for use as medical offices. The sign was one of the first things to go.
Unfortunately the sleek sandstone building is also losing some of its most unique characteristics. Namely, the swooping triangular carport that has been a landmark since 1948. Yesterday we drove past and saw the front of the building stripped of its Mid-Century charm.
Here's a photo of the building a from a few weeks ago. Today it's not quite as cool.
The terminal at Tulsa International Airport is a classic example of Sixties modernism. Built in 1963 it was designed by the local firm of Murray-Jones-Murray and was highly acclaimed at the time.
Just west of Tulsa International Airport's main terminal lies the less elegant general aviation area. This area is actually the original site of Tulsa Municipal Airport- the precursor to the sleek, jet-age airport most of us use today.
The general aviation area serves private planes and some military aircraft that stop in for refueling.
Near the corner of North Sheridan and Apache is where the original airport terminal building used to stand. Today on that site you'll find the local headquarters of the FAA and National Weather Service. This building is adorned with a variety of unique concrete forms on walls, benches and even this stylized windsock statue.
If you're interested in seeing what the original airport terminal looked like head north from here about a mile and visit the …
But have you ever ventured off US-75? If so, you may have noticed the Atoka County Courthouse.
The building is built of lovely sandstone and has those really cool swoopy concrete awnings. Sorry, but I don't know what they're really called- cool swoopy concrete seems appropriate. Maybe we can say CSC for short?
Anyway, the CSC theme continues along the side of the building, as shown below:
But look closely.
Almost as entertaining as the CSC shapes are the highly inappropriate porch lamps someone decided to stick on the side of the building. Not one, but a whole slew of lovely carriage lights! Can you say, gift card from Home Depot? So here's our nomination for the What Not to Wear category- congratulations to the Atoka County Courthouse!
In 1953 the Kansas City Power & Light utility company decided to build a model home to showcase the virtues of total electric living. The home was designed in the new "ranch style" and featured all the latest conveniences. They decided on a location in a suburb called Prairie Village, Kansas. The home was completed in 1954 and within six months more than 60,000 visitors had toured the model home.
Standing outside today you might wonder what all the fuss was about. The exterior is a typical ranch with wood shingles and a two-car garage. But step inside and you'll be transported to a world of Fifties high-tech.
Automatic night lights illuminate the living room and hallway. The large picture window is shaded by motorized curtains. A panel beside the sofa provides remote control of the television- which is hidden by a painting! The laundry room is outfitted with a combination washer/dryer (an appliance now popular for space-conscious apartments). Step into the garage and…
Weary travelers making a pit stop on the Muskogee Turnpike may think they've stumbled into a W Hotel. Alas, it's only a McDonalds.
As a child these travel plazas held a science fiction-like fascination. Gaudy signs and futuristic architecture invited you into a world of tomorrow. The best part of any road trip was the rest stop. Like an oasis on the endless ribbon of concrete, the travel plaza provided a much needed break from the monotony of transcontinental travel by car.
The new 15,000 square foot travel plaza, located in Wagoner County, replaced the existing convenience store and Mickey D from the Seventies. Both businesses are now located in one building which opened in April 2011. The decor is open and contemporary, what I'd describe as West Elm-ish. We especially liked the bright red Emeco 111 Navy chairs molded from recycled Coke bottles. Even the toilets are hip, featuring sleek waterless urinals and Dyson Airblade hand dryers.
Here's another great example of state park architecture in Oklahoma.
The Wister Dam was built in 1948 and this cool little structure provides a great view of the lake from the shade of its swoopy concrete awning. Originally offering restrooms for weary travelers, they've been locked long ago. But it's still a great little roadside gem.
Wister is located in Southeastern Oklahoma between Poteau and Heavener. The lake offers camping sites and cabins at the state park, not to mention nature trails and a boat ramp. More info on Lake Wister State Park is available on the OK Travel website.
Here's a slideshow with a few more photos from our visit...
We crossed the Oklahoma Panhandle on a recent trip to Black Mesa for a hike up to Oklahoma's highest point (but that's another story). I had read about the two private residences in Beaver, Oklahoma designed by Bruce Goff, so we decided to make a detour. We discovered a great little town and a number of interesting buildings!
Things you probably didn't know about Beaver, Oklahoma: Two homes in Beaver were designed by Bruce Goff (okay, that doesn't count) Hosts the World Cow Chip Throwing Championship Beaver Dunes State Park is nearby and actually has sand dunesThey still have an operating OTASCO*