When the sun set on this land on April 21, 1889 there was no town here. The next day when the sun went down there was an Oklahoma City with 10,000 settlers. At noon on the 22nd the federal government opened “unassigned lands,” land not allocated for Indian reservations, to homesteaders who raced to stake a claim around a single thread of track on the Santa Fe Railroad. The “Boomers” who participated in the Land Run organized themselves, operating without legal municipal authority for more than a year. Right from the start supplies and newspapers and religious services could all be obtained by the settlers from tents scatted around the new town. Despite the presence of only a makeshift government it was only a rare occasion when the federalies needed to be summoned to maintain order.
Unlike boomtowns born of gold or silver, Oklahoma City was not withering away. The town became a vigorous trade center for the new territory, serving farmers and ranchers. When Oklahoma joined the Union in 1907 the capital was wrested away from Guthrie and the population had increased sixfold from the original 10,000 by 1910. It was by far the biggest town in Oklahoma.
On December 3, 1928 oil was discovered within the city limits and hundreds of derricks sprouted in backyards and even on the lawn of the Capitol Building. By 1930 the population of Oklahoma City was approaching 200,000 and the town has not looked back since.
Not that there have not been missteps along the way. In 1965 the Central Business District General Neighborhood Renewal Plan drawn up by urban planner I.M. Pei, was formally adopted. The “Pei Plan,” as it was known, called for widespread demolition of a 528-acre swath of Oklahoma City to make way for “superblocks” of integrated housing and retail and office space. The plan was implemented for about 15 years after which the town had gained a convention center, a garden and scores of more parking lots but not much else. What it lost were hundreds of historic buildings, including a handful of cherished city landmarks.
In the 1990s a billion more dollars, much of it from a five-year penny sales tax, was pledged to redevelop Oklahoma City’s central core. This time wrecking balls were deployed more judiciously and the civic projects undertaken have met with considerably more favor. In the past decade Oklahoma City has attracted corporate headquarters, its first major league sports franchise and residents back to downtown. But before we see what managed to survive and what has been added to the Oklahoma City streetscape our walking tour will begin at the best thing to come out of the town’s checkered efforts at urban renewal...
Myriad Botanical Gardens
bounded by Reno, Robinson, Hudson and Sheridan avenues
In his comprehensive revitalization plan for Oklahoma City in the 1960s, I.M. Pei imagined a magnificent pleasure garden on the order of Denmark’s celebrated Tivoli Gardens that was created in 1843 with a variety of diverting amusements. Dean Anderson McGee, petroleum geologist and member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, was a leading cheerleader for the 17-acre park that broke ground in 1977. Set amidst the undulating landscape are landscaped plazas, serpentine paths, tree-lined lawns, public art installations and a sunken lake inhabited by trophy-sized koi.
AT THE CENTER OF THE GARDENS IS...
Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory
Myriad Botanical Gardens
The centerpiece of the Myriad Botanical Gardens is home to more than 2,000 varieties of plants that have been growing since 1987. The 228-foot bridge is fashioned from 3,028 translucent acrylic panels that cover 13,000 square feet of plantings. The highlight of the climate-controlled living plant museum is a 35-foot waterfall that plunges 80 gallons of water per minute over its rocky precipice.
EXIT THE BOTANICAL GARDENS AT THE NORTHEAST CORNER AT ROBINSON AND SHERIDAN AVENUES...
Colcord Building/Colcord Hotel
15 North Robinson Avenue at northwest corner of Sheridan Avenue
Kentucky-born Charles Francis Colcord contracted malaria when his family moved to New Orleans so his father sent him to recover on a friend’s ranch in Texas. By the time he was 17, in 1876, Colcord was running his his own herds on his way to a career that would lead him to becoming a range boss for the fabled Jug livestock brand and land him in the Cowboy Hall of Fame. In the Oklahoma land rush in 1889 Colcord wound up in Oklahoma City where he became the town’s first sheriff. In 1905 a search for Colcord’s lost hunting dogs led to the discovery of the Glenpool oil field that would become one of the world’s richest. Colcord tok his share of the profits and poured $750,000 into Oklahoma City’s first skyscraper in 1909. Architect William A. Wells designed the Chicago Style, 14-story tower using the first reinforced concrete seen in Oklahoma City. Wells was a disciple of skyscraper pioneer Louis Sullivan who created the molds for the ornamental terra cotta on the facade. Approaching its centennial, the Colcord Building received a makeover and re-emerged as a luxury hotel in 2006.
FACING THE COLCORD, TURN LEFT AND WALK WEST ON SHERIDAN AVENUE.
280 West Sheridan Avenue
It cost $750,000 to raise the city’s tallest building in 1909. A century later the price tag for the state’s tallest building next door was $750 million. Oklahoma-based Devon Energy Construction completed its 844-foot headquarters with 1,800,000 square feetin 2012.
5-11 North Hudson Avenue at northwest corner of Sheridan Avenue
Lucian Black poured $600,000 into this eleven-story, 200-room guest house in 1930. It was designed with an American Indian Art Deco motif, most noticeable on the upper stories. The pattern was continued on the eight-story building next door that served as a parking garage for the Hotel Black and also the American Motor Hotel that Oliver P. Kernadle operated in the building. It was one of the earliest hotels in Oklahoma City to cater to the emerging automobile traveler trade.
Greyhound Union Station
427 West Sheridan Avenue at northeast corner of Walker Avenue
In 1915 Howard Allen started running a bus in Kansas the twenty miles between Wichita and Augusta to carry workers to newly discovered oil fields. Allen moved his bus business to Oklahoma and in 1940 he convinced four other operators to go in together on this “union station.” In its early days the cobalt blue Art Moderne depot with glass block windows saw as many as 80 arrivals a day. The Allen family sold the bus operation to Jefferson Lines in 1986 but kept an interest in the station with Greyhound and Jefferson until it was sold in 2012 with plans to relocate bus service but keep the Art Deco depot standing.
TURN RIGHT ON WALKER AVENUE.
Montgomery Ward Building
500 West Main Street at southwest corner of Walker Avenue
Aaron Montgomery Ward’s catalog has been chosen on many lists as one of the 100 most influential American books ever published. One such nominating committee, the Grolier Club, stated: “The mail order catalogue has been perhaps the greatest single influence in increasing the standard of American living. It brought the benefit of wholesale prices to city and hamlet, to the crossroads and prairie.” In the 1920s the company expanded its presence in American downtown retail centers by constructing ten large department stores, including this Art Deco creation, infused with Mayan motifs, in 1929. Ward’s stayed here until 1966 as the surrounding neighborhood slid into decline; today it is a rare souvenir remaining from downtown Oklahoma City’s boom times.
TURN RIGHT ON MAIN STREET.
420 West Main Street
In 1911 Texans James F. Harbour and William M. Longmire went into business designing, manufacturing and selling furniture. The quality of their offerings caught the attention of William T. Hales, considered the richest man in Oklahoma City and his investment led to a spanking new factory and showroom in 1925. The result was an unusually elaborate commercial building. Local architects James Watson Hawk and Josepheus O. Parr tapped French and Venetian Gothic styles to decorate the dark brick and Bedford limestone structure. The inside was trimmed in walnut and marble with a series of overlooking balconies that made shoppers feel as if they were browsing in a cathedral instead of a furniture store. Harbour and Longmire retired in 1945 and sold the business; in 1980 the store was renovated into office space and is now owned by the City.
TURN LEFT ON HUDSON AVENUE.
105 North Hudson Avenue at northwest corner of Main Street
This building entered the Oklahoma City streetscape in 1920 as a three-story structure. When Frank Pearson Johnson, president of the First National Bank & Trust, purchased the property in 1929 he hired James Watson Hawk and Josepheus O. Parr to add another seven stories to the corner structure. Hawk and Parr created a skyscraper executed to resemble a classical column with a defined base (the oversized lower floors), a shaft (the unadorned central floors) and a capital (the ornate cornice). It was the way the first skyscrapers were built in Chicago forty years earlier and would seldom be seen again. Today the Hightower Building is the last Classical Revival high-rise in Oklahoma City.
TURN LEFT ON COLCORD DRIVE.
bounded by Couch and Colcord drives and Walker and Hudson avenues
Combining an injection of Depression-era stimulus funds and a city bond issue, Oklahoma City prepared a four-block development plan for its downtown Civic Center. The first city-wide plan was hatched by George E. Kessler in 1920 but after Kessler’s death in 1923 the project’s momentum stalled until it was revived in 1928 by the father-and-son landscape design team of Sidney and Herbert Hare of Kansas City. The Hares envisioned a grand City Hall tower but the Great Depression scaled back ambitions to a four-story home for the city government designed in a restrained Art Deco classicism by a consortium of eleven architectural firms known as Allied Architects of Oklahoma City. Dressed in Bedford limestone and embellished with American Indian-inspired motifs, the building was completed in 1937. Inside, the walls and floors were constructed with seven types of marble.
Municipal Auditorium/Civic Center Music Hall
201 Channing Square between Colcord and Couch drives
The Municipal Auditorium that bookends the western side of Civic Plaza was completed in 1937 with a budget of $1.25 million. James Watson Hawk and Josepheus O. Parrdrew up the plans for monumental Art Deco structure that included a 6,200-seat theater and a 250-seat Little Theatre. A massive concrete pipe organ entertained patrons. In addition to performing arts the building hosted basketball tournaments, farm conventions and more. A 1966 facelift spruced up the entertainment center and brought a new name - the Civic Center Music Hall. Another total interior renovation was finished in 2001. Today the arts center is home to multiple theater companies and arts organizations in Oklahoma City.
WALK ACROSS THE SQUARE TO THE NORTH SIDE ON COUCH DRIVE AND TURN RIGHT.
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Drive between Hudson and Walker avenues
This complex began life in 1947 as the 1,600-seat Centre Theater designed by the Boller Brothers of Kansas City. When It closed in the 1970s the theater became the core of the multi-million dollar Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Among other collections the museum boast the world’s largest permanent exhibit of work from American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly, including a 55-ft tall glass tower. The movie house survives in a more intimate form as the Noble Theater, screening international, independent and classic films.
CONTINUE ON COUCH DRIVE AND BEND RIGHT BEHIND THE MUNICIPAL BUILDING AND CROSS HUDSON AVENUE ONTO PARK AVENUE.
300 Park Avenue at southeast corner of Hudson Avenue
In 1901 Scottish-born industrialist Andrew Carnegie sold his steel company for $400 million and became the world’s richest man. He set out to give away all his money and one of his pet projects was public libraries. He funded over 2,500 of them around the world, including 24 in Oklahoma, most of which were in communities that had no existing public library. Oklahoma City got the state’s first and largest - $60,000 - Carnegie grant. Its eye-catching Beaux Arts Carnegie Library at McGee and Robinson boulevards was razed in 1954 and and the collection moved into this space in 2004. James Henry Nordick was in the printing business before serving two terms as Oklahoma City mayor between 1959 and 1971.
Oklahoma County Courthouse
321 Park Avenue between Hudson and Harvey avenues
Art Deco was the architectural style of choice for substantial government buildings of the 1930s - and the 13-story Oklahoma County Courthouse from 1937 stands as a prime example. This is the second courthouse for the county, replacing a 1901 Victorian house of justice. Solomon Layton, Oklahoma’s top architect with over 150 designs, including the state capitol, provided the much-admired design of the courthouse. Composed of Indiana limestone and Minnesota granite, the tower steps back and narrows as it rises. The base is enhanced with some of Oklahoma City’s best stone carvings, many of of an agricultural nature.
Fidelity National Building/Park Harvey Center
200 North Harvey Avenue on northeast corner of Park Avenue
The Fidelity National Building was one of the largest office buildings constructed in Oklahoma City in the aftermath of World War II and is the best example of an International Style tower in the town. Completed in 1957 on plans drawn by the Oklahoma City architectural firm of Sorey Hill and Sorey, the building was not planned as a bank but Fidelity National Bank was in the market for such a building and signed on as a tenant before completion so final plans were altered for use a banking house. Fidelity stayed here until 1972.
Perrine Building/Robinson Renaissance
119 North Robinson Avenue at southwest corner of Park Avenue
James Kendrick Perrine hailed from a Rockford, Illinois farm and left to plow his own fields in Iowa. In 1891, at the age of 36, he arrived in Oklahoma City and purchased this corner lot for $2,150. On what was destined to become one of the choicest pieces of real estate in the city he erected a wagon-yard and then stables for a livery. Perrine began an undertaking business on the next block and his land here was developed with two-story structures. After Perrine’s death in 1922 his widow Ruby erected one of the city’s grandest office buildings. Go-to architects James Watson Hawk and Josepheus O. Parr designed the twelve-story, U-shaped building around a central light well to provide necessary air flow in the era before sealed, climate-controlled buildings.
First National Center
100 Park Avenue at southeast corner of Robinson Avenue
The Chicago architectural firm of Edwin Delos Weary and William Hedley Alford, specialists in large banks, created this Art Deco tour-de-force in 1931. Standing 446 feet, the tower was the fourth highest west of the Mississippi River when completed and stood as the tallest building in Oklahoma City for four decades. With a price tag of $5 million, it was the most expensive project undertaken during Oklahoma City’s oil boom years. The Deco design is executed with polished aluminum that included an aviation tower which housed a rotating beacon visible for 75 miles. The 33-story skyscraper has spent most of its life as a banking house but recent financial uncertainty has left the iconic tower’s future in flux.
Ramsey Tower/City Place Tower
204 North Robinson Avenue at northeast corner of Park Avenue
W.R. Ramsey and his brother William gained a reputation for finding oil where others couldn’t be bothered to look. In 1930 W.R. Ramsey became embroiled with Frank P. Johnson and his First National Bank in the “Great Race” at this intersection to construct the city’s tallest tower. Ramsey won and topped off his 33-floor Art Deco structure, designed by Clair Drury, a few months earlier in 1931 but the more stylish First National Tower finished three feet higher. The heady times for Ramsey would end shortly during the Great Depression, as would the Oklahoma City skyscraper boom. One distinction the Ramsey Tower attained was the world’s highest skywalk between its 16th floor and the Dowell Center, which was the town’s tallest building before the Great Race.
TURN LEFT ON ROBINSON AVENUE. LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT AS YOU PASS THROUGH “ROBINSON CANYON” TO SEE THE ELEVATED SKYBRIDGE AS YOU GET BEYOND RAMSEY TOWER.
123 Robert S. Kerr Avenue between Robinson and Broadway avenues
This 393-foot office tower began life in 1971 as the headquarters of the oil and gas exploration company Kerr-McGee, founded by businessman-turned-governor and United States Senator, Robert S. Kerr. Under the ownership of SandRidge Energy Corporation in 2010, a $100 million renovation took place that included the demolition of several surrounding buildings for its landscaped plaza.
324 North Robinson Avenue at southwest corner of Dean A. McGee Avenue
Thomas E. Braniff built this classically flavored office building for his prosperous insurance business in 1923. The town’s most prestigious architectural firm of Layton, Hicks and Forsythe designed the ten-story building with a buff brick exterior placed above a limestone base. That same year Braniff’s 26-year old brother, Paul Revere Braniff, was receiving his pilot’s license from none other than Orville Wright who had flown the world’s first powered airplane twenty years before. Paul had gotten the flying bug after enlisting with the Army Air Corps in 1915 as a mechanic. After competing in air races and stunts Paul Braniff persuaded his brother and four other investors to purchase a five-seat Stinson Detroiter Cabin Plane in 1928 for $11,000. That year Braniff Airlines began with three round trip flights a day between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Paul Braniff was the only pilot and also sold the tickets, loaded the baggage and swept out the plane. One of the ways Braniff made money was by flying low and tossing out issues of the Daily Oklahoman to farmers. From these beginnings would grow Braniff International Airways, one of America’s leading airlines until its demise in 1982. Paul Braniff would leave the airline for other interests but Tom Braniff would run Braniff Airways from this building until 1945 when all operations were moved to Dallas.
TURN LEFT ON DEAN A. MCGEE AVENUE.
U.S. Post Office and Courthouse
215 Dean A. McGee Avenue between Robinson and Harvey avenues
The federal government announced its presence in Oklahoma City in 1912 with the construction of this block-swallowing edifice. It wasn’t this big when the plans came from the office of James Knox Taylor, Supervising Architect of the U.S. Treasury Department. The classical Beaux Arts structure, rendered in limestone, has been enlarged twice, a stylistically sympathetic 1919 addition that doubled the original size and an Art Deco tower that came along in 1932. In 1933 Prohibition gangster George Celino Barnes, aka “Machine Gun” Kelly, was tried in these courtrooms on charges of kidnapping of Oklahoma City oil tycoon Charles F. Urschel. Kelly’s gang collected a $200,000 ransom and Urschel was released but after 56 days Kelly was tracked down in the first major case solved by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. His trial here was the first ever to be filmed by movie cameras. Kelly was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, first at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco and then at Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas where he died of a heart attack in 1954 on his 59th birthday.
Federal Reserve Bank
226 Dean A. McGee Avenue at southeast corner of Harvey Avenue
The Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City conducted its first business on August 2, 1920 on the second floor of the Continental Building at the corner of Second and Broadway avenues. In 1923, the Fed got its own digs in this Neoclassical vault from the distinguished Chicago architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White that was the largest architectural firm in America under one roof during the first half of the twentieth century. The final cost was $447,060. In 1958, when the building was expanded the original limestone quarry in Arkansas was sought out to provide as seamless a match as possible.
Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company Building
southwest corner of Dean A. McGee and Harvey avenues
The history of electricity in Oklahoma traces back to 1889 and the original land run. The aptly named Oklahoma Ditch and Water Power Company was organized to do just that - dig a ditch and supply power. A six-mile canal, 32 feet wide and ten feet deep, was gouged out from the North Canadian River to a power plant in town. On its journey the water dropped 32 feet, enough to generate the electricity. On Christmas Eve 1890 the sluices were raised, water turned the generators and a few light bulbs flashed on at the plant. And that was about it - the engineers apparently did not account for the sandy soil in the canal sucking up most of the water before it could make it to Oklahoma City. By 1902 the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company was formed and lives on today as Oklahoma’s oldest chartered corporation. This headquarters, dressed in Bedford limestone from Indiana above a base of polished pearl gray Minnesota granite, arrived in 1928. It was originally a six-story structure but Solomon Layton designed the Gothic Revival structure so an additional six stories could be piled on top, which indeed happened in the 1950s, although with windows grouped in twos rather than threes.
Elks Building/Key Building
401 North Harvey Street at northwest corner of Dean A. McGee Avenue
The Benevolent Protective Order of Elks were founded in New York City in 1868 in the theater district. At first they referred to themselves as the Jolly Corks. The Oklahoma City Lodge, BPOE #417, organized in 1898 but did not have the cash to construct a suitable meeting hall until 1925 when members pledged $500,000. The local architectural firm of Sorey, Hill and Sorey planned a grand 12-story Italian Renaissance Revival lodge but the money dried up with only five stories constructed which accounts for the strange conformation of the building with an ornate lower half and and a plain upper half that looks like it is begging to keep rising. The onset of the Great Depression forced the cash-strapped fraternal organization to sell their lodge to William Shaffer Key, a World War I hero and prison warden turned oilman, in 1932. In 1947 the property was acquired by the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company.
TURN RIGHT ON HARVEY AVENUE.
St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral
225 4th Street NW at northwest corner of Harvey Avenue
Catholic services were held in Oklahoma City from the get-go in 1889, first in a tent and then in a small 24 x 40 foot wooden meeting house. The first Mass was celebrated in St. Joseph’s Church on August 4. The current Gothic Revival brick church was raised in 1904 and became the first cathedral in Oklahoma a year later when the Diocese of Oklahoma City was established by St. Pius X.
TURN RIGHT ON 4TH STREET. HALFWAY DOWN THE BLOCK, ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE STREET, WALK THROUGH THE WALL AND UP INTO THE...
Oklahoma City National Memorial
bounded by 4th Street and 6th Street and Harvey and Robinson avenues
On April 19, 1995 Timothy McVeigh, a resident of Kingman, Arizona, seeking to respond to the government’ siege agains the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas two years earlier, parked a rented Ryder truck with 5,000 pounds of explosives in front of the north side of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on NW 5th Street. At 9:02 a.m. McVeigh detonated the bomb in a blast that claimed 168 lives and injured 680 more. The Memorial for remembrance of the victims, operated by the National Park Service, was funded in 1997. The 3.3-acre site includes the Field of Empty Chairs with 168 hand-crafted chairs arranged on the site where the Murrah Building once stood, symbolizing the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the victims’ families.
WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED AT THE NATIONAL MEMORIAL, RETURN TO 4TH STREET AND TURN LEFT TO CONTINUE THE TOUR.
First United Methodist Church
131 NW 4th Street at northeast corner of Robinson Avenue
First Church comes by its name honestly - it held services on this site the first Sunday after the Land Run in 1889. there was a proper church operating here by October of that year. The Romanesque-flavored brick church, trimmed in stone, dates to 1904.
Oklahoma Publishing Company Building/E.K. Gaylord Building
500 North Broadway at northeast corner of 4th Street
Solomon Andrew Layton was born into an Iowa family of carpenters and builders in 1864. In his early twenties Layton hung out his architect’s shingle in Denver and in 1902 he relocated his practice to Oklahoma. For the next 40 years Layton carved out a career as the “Dean of Oklahoma City architecture,” designing sixteen county courthouses, several buildings on the university of Oklahoma campus and the Oklahoma State Capitol. This splendid Beaux Arts confection was one of his most notable early projects, completed in 1909 for the Oklahoma Publishing Company which turned out the Daily Oklahoman. The five-story building is ringed with fluted Corinthian pilasters and is faced with marble excavated from Batesville, Arkansas quarries. The fifth floor frieze is accented with oval glass lights and the composition is topped with a classical balustrade, although it was originally intended to be several stories higher. Edward King Gaylord purchased an interest in the Daily Oklahoman in 1902 and became its business manager. Gaylord built the newspaper that had begun publishing in 1889 into a state institution and after becoming president of the parent company in 1918 he added the state’s first radio station and then first television station to the operations. E.K. Gaylord remained at the helm until his death in 1974 at the age of 101 and The Oklahoman resides still in the Gaylord family.
TURN RIGHT ON BROADWAY AVENUE.
Southwestern Bell Telephone Building
411 North Broadway at southwest corner of 4th Street
With the explosion of residential and business telephone use in the 1920s and 1930s telephone companies were forced to construct brawny downtown operations facilities and the favored style was almost always Art Deco. Southwestern Bell absorbed the Pioneer Telephone Company and its building next door in 1915. This new headquarters came online in 1927 from the drawing board of Solomon Layton. The yellow brick tower features such hallmarks of the Art Deco style as setbacks, an emphasis on verticality and fanciful terra cotta elaboration.
Pioneer Telephone Building
401 North Broadway Avenue at northwest corner of McGee Avenue
The first telephone calls in Indian territory were placed in 1886 over a line run from Tahlequah to Muskogee by E.D. Hicks, one of the first telephone lines west of the Mississippi River. In 1893 the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company began small exchanges in Oklahoma City and Guthrie. In 1897 John M. Noble and J.N. Coulter formed the Arkansas Valley Telephone Company with service between Perry and Pawnee and began service the next year with about 100 subscribers. It was a scrappy outfit and was called the Pioneer Telephone Company when it arrived in Oklahoma City in 1904 to compete with the Missouri and Kansas Telephone Company. Within a year Pioneer had bought out its older rival and in 1907 it moved into this handsome new headquarters that was heralded as the state’s first steel-framed high-rise building. William A. Wells, the state’s leading architect, crafted the orderly Chicago Commercial Style structure with limestone and terra cotta ornamentation.
1 Park Avenue at northeast corner of Broadway Avenue
William Baiser Skirvin was an original 89er but he left almost immediately for Galveston, Texas where he made his fortune in real estate and oil. He moved his family back to Oklahoma City in 1906 and began laying the groundwork to construct the town’s definitive luxury hotel. Skirvin had in mind a six-story guest house but architect Solomon A. Layton talked him into a ten-story hotel with 225 rooms, which greeted its first guests on September 26, 1911. Over the years floors and wings were added until the room count climbed to 525 in 1930. After Bill Skirvin died in 1944 from complications after an automobile accident the hotel was sold out of the family and operated until 1988. After a 19-year vacancy the property was acquired and re-opened as a Hilton hotel and operates now as the city’s oldest.
Skirvin Tower/101 Park Avenue Building
101 Park Avenue at northwest corner of Broadway Avenue
Inside this modern glass curtain office building beats the heart of a classic Art Deco tower. With his optimism untarnished by the Great Depression Bill Skirvin broke ground on a planned 26-story luxury apartment complex in March of 1931. The next year his money ran out with 14 levels constructed and work was halted. He was able to get crews back on the job in 1932 and with an underground tunnel between the Skirvin Hotel and the Skirvin Tower the tower opened in 1938. The building never found its stride and in the 1970s the Skirvin Tower received a complete makeover into it current appearance.
Medical Arts Building/100 Park Avenue Building
100 Park Avenue at southwest corner of Broadway Avenue
Here is another Solomon Andrew Layton creation, albeit stripped of its classical ornamentation. It was created in 1923 to gather over 100 physician offices in a central location. When it opened in 1923 the twelve-story building was the tallest in Oklahoma City.
100 North BroadwayAvenue at northeast corner of Main Street
First National Bank spent forty years reigning over the Oklahoma City skyline until it was replaced by this tower in 1971, erected for Liberty National Bank and Trust Company. The 500-foot skyscraper had a forty-year run as the city’s Sky King as well before it was passed by Devon Tower.
Cox Convention Center
bounded by Robinson Avenue, Sheridan Avenue, Reno Avenue, and EK Gaylord Boulevard
This multi-purpose entertainment complex was the crown jewel of the Pei Plan to revitalize the city. Armed with a $23 million budget ground was broken in 1970 after the removal of large swaths of the southern downtown area. The convention and meeting facility also features a 15,000-seat performance hall and an arena that has played host to hockey, basketball and indoor football teams.
TURN RIGHT ON SHERIDAN AVENUE TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT AT MYRIAD BOTANICAL GARDENS.