Evolution of a building: 106-year-old building has survived all of downtown Oklahoma City’s transitions intact
If you’ve been around a few years, you know that downtown Oklahoma City has changed a great deal.
The 1960s and ’70s were years of transition when many older buildings were torn down to make room for new buildings that reflected the architectural ideal of the time.
At Main and Robinson, time sort of stands still: A building built in 1904 still stands after surviving several remodels. It still serves its tenants well.
In February 1903, when The Oklahoman sent a writer to report on a new building being considered for construction on the northeast corner of Main and Robinson — “a five-story business and office building
on this site, which is considered the heart of the business district, would not lack for tenants” — he probably had no clue that 106 years after the building was built, it would still be there.
On Aug. 18, 1903, The Oklahoman announced: “The plans have been completed for what will be the handsomest building in Oklahoma City’s business district — the Lee office building, to be erected on the northeast corner of Main and Robinson, site of the old Lion store building, which was destroyed by fire last spring.
“Architect D. Turbyfill yesterday exhibited to a representative of this paper the completed plans for this beautiful building, which will be a mammoth six-story and basement structure, dimensions 50 by 140 feet, constructed of St. Louis grey brick, trimmed with Carthage white stone and corniced with terra cotta. The entire ground floor frontage will be of plate glass. The ground floor will be divided into eight business rooms, all of which leased in advance.
“The grand entrance to the structure will be located about the center of the building on the Robinson
Street side. It will be very handsome, will open into a lobby and commodious hall floored with tiling and wainscoted with marble.
“At the rear of the hall will be an electric elevator with a landing on each floor.
“The five floors above the first will be divided into office rooms, 22 on each floor, making a total of 120 office rooms, a grand building exclusive of the basement.
“Throughout the building will be furnished with steam heat and electric lights, while a toilet room will be provided on each floor.
“The building, when completed, will be entirely fireproof.”
Construction began in June 1904, and the building built by Oscar G. Lee had five stories and a basement when completed. In February 1905, businesses were announcing their locations in the new Lee Office Building.
Liberty National Bank moved in and bought the building in 1918, renaming it after itself. The bank remained in the building until 1952.
The building was sold in July 1952 and again in January 1953. The new owners gave it a new facade and a new name: Oil and Gas Building.
The building was sold again, and in an article in The Oklahoman of March 30, 1980, Neal Horton of the
Horton Co., one of the new owners, said that while the new owners had hoped to restore the building to its original look, so much had been lost during the 1953 remodel that they decided to make a change, saying, “The new facade will give the stable feeling of the original brick structure, while allowing us to create a pleasant first-floor retail space.”
If you go downtown today, you can judge if the owners succeeded. And if you use a little imagination, 1904 won’t be far away.