Modern Homes: Johansen Acres

Looking for all the world like a Palm Springs motel, you'd expect to find a swimming pool behind that wall!

This low-slung modern abode is located in Johnston Acres, a Tulsa neighborhood between Sheridan and Memorial south of 21st Street. Homes in this area aren't just ranch-style, they really are ranches. Each home was originally on a one acre lot. Most are classic Fifties ranch or minimal traditional. You'll also enjoy a few flat tops and lots of sandstone brick.

McDonalds Moderne

The restaurant spanning the interstate near Vinita, OKSome people know this as the Glass House, others know it as the world's largest McDonald's. I remember it from childhood as a symbol of transcontinental travel.

It was built spanning I-44, aka the Will Roger's Turnpike, in 1958 as a Conoco gas station and the Glass House restaurant. Located near Vinita, Oklahoma, it marked the halfway point between Tulsa and Joplin, Missouri. It was the first restaurant in the U.S. built over a public highway. In addition to the distinctive steel arches, the windows were covered by large aluminum shutters that slowly turned throughout the day to shade the interior. The mechanism can still be seen today, but the shutters have long since been static.

Interior showing the metal shutters that used to follow the sun.The Glass House was an instant hit with tourists and well-to-do locals. Area high schools even had their proms inside the futuristic hall. It was not uncommon for confused visitors to exit on the opposite end and think their car had been stolen. Today exits are designated as "westbound" or "eastbound."

In the mid Seventies it became a Howard Johnson. It was later bought by McDonald's, and for a time held the dubious distinction of being the world's largest. This was a bit misleading because the actual restaurant (does that term apply to a McDonald's?) was no bigger than the average food court version you'll find in any suburban shopping mall. The title was based on the 20,236 square feet of the building- which includes a souvenir shop, ice cream vendor, etc. Today the largest is in Orlando.

Another view of the 1957 structure, originally named the Glass House.Oklahoma once had another turnpike span, also on I-44, located near Stroud. It was called Midway Plaza in reference to the halfway point between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. While aesthetically modern, it was merely an enclosed pedestrian bridge for motorists to cross over the highway. Midway was later torn down and a McDonald's was built between the highway lanes. No bridge needed.

Midway Plaza near Stroud.
Postacard showing the bridge and HoJo on the Turner Turnpike near Stroud.


Modern Home in the Osage Hills

Several years ago we noticed an interesting real estate listing. It was a home for sale in Osage County "only 15 minutes from downtown."

It was advertised as a custom-built home on 5 acres. Seems like it mentioned something about being designed by a well-known architect (although I do not recall or know who did design this house).

Oklahoma's Bank of the Future

Several years ago I came across an auction on eBay for a postcard titled "Oklahoma Bank of the Future" listing this card:
Vintage postcard of futuristic bank in Oklahoma City
My immediate reaction was, Zowee!

The Bank of the Future as it looks today.I assumed this was an artist's rendition of a bank that never was. Then I learned it was. And better yet, it still is! This past February we loaded up the Volvo and headed down the turnpike.

Today it's an Arvest Bank and you'll find it in Oklahoma City just north of the capitol complex on Lincoln. The building has experienced some blandishment through the years, but it's still definitely futuristic.

The layout of the structure is a diamond shape– but you'd never know it from the outside. The drive-thru has been extensively modified from the original vision of the future. Originally the tellers each had their own little "pod" to work from, this was a trend at early autobanks, but now they are seated together in the main building.

Jackie takes a relaxing elevator ride.The overall condition of the building is excellent. I have to admit I was expecting some crumbling concrete and exposed rebar rusting in the sunlight. It's actually in very good condition inside and out (we couldn't "officially" snap photos inside because the place is still a bank).

One feature that has not been altered is a novel circular elevator taht measures about 15 feet in diameter. It's like a lounge and elevator all rolled into one! The best part is it's still functional– notice how Jackie is lounging in circular comfort as she descends several feet!

Even the vent chimmney gets the futuristic treatment.Downstairs is the vault, safe deposit boxes and meeting rooms. A hallway on the drive-thru end appears to be (and I am guessing here) the original access route to the teller stations. I wonder if the original job application asked about claustrophobia?

All in all a true delight, and well worth the detour.

Contemporary Enid Office Park

A couple of years ago we were passing through Enid, Oklahoma and this office park caught my eye. The buildings are situated along a small creek, and built on stilts to take advantage of the fact.

I'm a fan of this rectilinear look and have always been a sucker for elevated structures. There are some office buildings in Oklahoma City along Classen that remind me of these. The OKC buildings even have the parking nestled underneath.

There was a plaque stating the complex had won a design award. It showed a date of early Seventies as I recall.

I don't remember all the details– guess we'll have to take another road trip!

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