A Garden Round-Up

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.

Will Rogers Gardens Exhibition Building
Will Rogers Gardens Exhibition Building
1963 Turnbull & Mills
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 36th Street and Grand Boulevard. Today the building is used for club meetings, educational workshops, exhibitions and flower sales. As we wandered the grounds it became apparent this building was a nice example of Oklahoma modernism- in great shape and relatively unmolested. Here are a few photos from our visit:


We were fortunate that afternoon to meet Leslie Johnson. She is a park worker who appreciates the building's unusual design- and was nice enough to show us around. The circular lobby is surrounded by meeting rooms, a kitchen and the titular exhibit hall. The ceiling of the central space emphasizes the exterior theme with indirect lighting and concentric wood batting. The exposition area is flanked by clerestory windows along the far wall and an entrance framed by the lobby's circular soffit.

One noteworthy modification to the building involves the display cases next to the exhibit entrance. If you look closely you'll notice they're exactly the same dimensions as a classic telephone booth. It's no coincidence! Sometime in the Eighties the pay phones were replaced with corkboard and cabinet doors. You'll notice another "improvement" as you enter the building. At the foot of the towering space-age sculpture are a couple of pieces of statuary that don't quite fit in. As is so often the case with such monuments the intentions are noble. But incorporating classical objects nearby (or in this case inside of) a Mid-Century Modern structure creates a stylistic crash that scuttles the whole. And it's typically done in the name of "sprucing up," which is the greatest irony of all.

Great Neon in Stroud

Snapped this on a recent Sunday ride to Stroud, Oklahoma.

Skyliner MotelThe 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.

Favorites: '80s Glam Sharpies!


Who would have ever dreamed the blunt permanent markers known as Sharpies would ever become hip?

It's true! The ubiquitous Sharpie is now offered in stainless steel, industrial-strength, even liquid pencil varieties. But that's not why it made our Favorites (insert thumping dance music). Sharpie gets kudos for creating a website filled with clever tips, artsy tricks and cool things you can do with their products. Check out Sharpie Uncapped for the coolest sampling of Sharpie Art and nifty how-to's from the Sharpie Squad.

'80s Glam Sharpies
Oh yeah. It's Glam Night in Sharpie Town, baby! What's your favorite color: Leg Warmer Orange? Valley Girl Violet? Argyle Green?

International Recognition for Bartlesville's Price Tower

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.

Favorites: Plan 59


One of my favorites sites to waste time on is Plan59.com. They offer the most impressive collections of lush retro graphics on the web. These images are taken from commercial artwork, most from the Fifties and Sixties. The high-res scans they create eventually become prints you can buy, clipart for Corporate America or eye candy for nerds like me to enjoy.


Plan 59.com

The site was created in 1999 as Ephemera Now. While I happened to like that moniker, it was deemed too cerebral for the average putz. In 2006 the site became Plan 59, which I can only assume is an homage to the year Detroit reached the pinnacle of tail fin technology: 1959.

But chrome and fins are only part of the story. Images scanned from Mid-Century ads include modern kitchens, wacky products and sporty swimsuits. There's even a section of artwork from vintage produce crates!




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