At the corner of W. Main Street and Fred Jones Avenue on the west side of downtown Oklahoma City, 21c Museum Hotel glistens with its giant windows and beautiful brick façade that hint at the building’s past.
The allure of a hotel in a former Model T Ford automotive plant, which dates back to 1916, is what first strikes observers. Next, and perhaps even more noticeable, are the cursive green letters on the building, which read “Fred Jones MFG Co.”
About 101 years ago, a young man from Tennessee landed at that very corner and entered the new plant, offering to work for two weeks at no cost to prove his worth. That young man, Fred Jones, went from time card keeper to running Blackwell’s Ford dealership over a four-year period.
From there, he very quickly established himself as the largest Ford dealership in the Southwest, said Fred Jones Hall, grandson of the legendary automotive businessman and Hall Capital chairman.
Fred Jones’ success in the automotive industry, through diligence in his profession and confidence among Henry Ford and other Ford Motor Company leaders, led to Fred Jones’ company acquiring the building in 1967.
“He was so proud of starting there as a time card keeper to becoming the CEO of his company,” Hall said. “In 1968, he called it his Camelot.”
The name “Camelot” comes from the 1960s musical of the same name based on King Arthur, when the king says, “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, there was known as Camelot.” Just as first lady Jackie Kennedy used the phrase to refer to her late husband’s presidency in the 1960s, Fred Jones declared the factory his castle and court.
It would once again become his Camelot.
“We decided as a family that it needed some polishing,” Hall said, “and that maybe there was a better use than as an auto manufacturing plant.”
That decision led to a conversation with 21c Museum Hotels, a growing luxury hotel brand that combines hotel accommodations with a contemporary art museum and fine-dining experience. One hundred years after Fred Jones arrived in OKC, a large crowd gathered for the opening of 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City in 2016.
“This was the gem to polish that gem,” Hall said. “We thought, ‘If we are going to do a hotel, let’s do a development.’”
This summer, The Jones Assembly, a new venue offering an innovative approach to music and dining, opened in a restored warehouse neighboring 21c Museum Hotel. Fred Hall and his brother Kirkland partnered with restaurateur Brian Bogert, national recording artist Graham Colton and chef Brittany Sanger to develop the unique concept in OKC. Blocks from the Film Row district, The Jones Assembly is a dining and live entertainment destination offering exceptional food and handcrafted cocktails.
Hall Capital, led by all three brothers — Fred, Brooks and Kirk — is now focused on the mixed-use development of West Village, which will deliver 345 apartments and several retail spaces for stores, art studios, restaurants and coffee shops to the area in 2018. Construction started last winter at 835 W. Sheridan Ave. and continues east, south and north of 21c. Hall Capital is partnering with Oklahoma Citians Mark Beffort, Andy Burnett and Zach Martin on the development. Since the West Village announcement, more than 200 requests have been made for one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units.
“People are wanting to live in that village,” Hall said. “It’s music and restaurants. … We loved the whole combination holistically of music, art and for it all to be in one area. Someone who lives here could enjoy music and art every day of the week.”
Allison Hall, Fred Hall’s daughter and the great-granddaughter of Fred Jones, assisted on The Jones Assembly and West Village developments. The apartments, with proximity to Film Row establishments and other popular districts, is a draw for young people like herself.
“I can’t think of anywhere else I would want to live,” she said. “From the rooftop pool, you will see into the courtyard of The Jones Assembly and you can hear the concerts.”
The apartments, located just down the street from John Rex Charter Elementary School, have also attracted young families, Hall said.
The Jones Assembly, 21c Museum Hotel and West Village not only add to the burgeoning Film Row district but are establishments unmatched in the nation, Hall said. While all three are sure to attract crowds, Hall wanted something more. In a city that has been fostering revitalization of its urban core for two decades, Hall wanted to not only attract the next generation but also keep younger generations from leaving OKC.
Hall envisions city leaders sending new recruits to the hotel for accommodation followed by a drink or dinner at The Jones Assembly with a job offer. Just like that area anchored Fred Jones in his endeavors, it will have a similar effect on the next generation.
“We are the anchors for a renaissance of west side Oklahoma City,” Hall said.
Added Allison Hall, “Fred Jones gave us a great gift.”
“We consider ourselves polishing that gem, his Camelot,” Hall said.
Print headline: Polished gem; One family’s master plan for revitalizing downtown Oklahoma City’s west side began with an automotive factory and is fueled by the legacy of Fred Jones.