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Crumbling Capitol


An annual list of Oklahoma’s endangered historic buildings includes a surprising addition this year.

Tim Farley April 16th, 2013

Once considered structural jewels, some of Oklahoma City’s most iconic buildings, including the state Capitol, are falling apart.

Oklahoma State Capitol
Credit: Shannon Cornman

That’s why they’ve been included on this year’s list of Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Historic Places. Preservation Oklahoma Inc., a private nonprofit, unveiled its 2013 selections April 10 during a presentation at the Capitol.

Gov. Mary Fallin attended the event, thanking Preservation Oklahoma for including the Capitol on its list. She wants state lawmakers to appropriate $10 million for repairs and renovations with $8 million of it for the outside of the building. The remaining $2 million would be spent on interior priorities.

Pieces of limestone have fallen from the exterior while most of the building’s infrastructure — including sewer, plumbing and electrical systems — are outdated or need repair.

“This is a living museum, a place of government,” Fallin said. “This is a place where we establish public policy and laws. It is important to maintain the Capitol and preserve it as the face of state government.”

She also stressed a safe work environment for the estimated 700 people, including lawmakers, who work in the building during the four-month legislative session.

“We’ve neglected it too long,” the governor said. “There’s a general agreement the Legislature will give some funding toward repairs.”

The Capitol was completed in 1917 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Not so golden
Other notable OKC structures on the endangered list include the Gold Dome at N.W. 23rd and Classen Boulevard, Stage Center at 400 W. Sheridan Avenue and the former Villa Teresa Catholic School at 1216 Classen Drive.

Admirers of the 55-year-old Gold Dome believe it should be preserved because of its unique construction, geodesic dome pattern and landmark status. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

However, current owner David Box has said he has few options since the structure would require an estimated $2.5 million in repairs and renovations. Box, owner of The Greens Country Club and Box Talent, purchased the former bank building at a foreclosure auction last year for $800,000. At one point, he considered tearing the building down but is now exploring alternatives to preserve it.

Box said he had no plans for the building when he bought it. The building, which once housed The Prohibition Room restaurant and a few other tenants, sits empty and is costing him about $10,000 a month in payments and maintenance.


Bowed out
Stage Center, which was built in 1969 as Mummers Theater, is located in a prime downtown OKC business district and could be demolished. The performing arts center has undergone several ownership changes and renovations over the decades, but a flood in 2010 caused $1 million in damages and forced its closure.

Stage Center
Credit: Shannon Cornman

The Oklahoma City Community Foundation, its current owner, is trying to sell the property. The former theater reportedly costs OCCF $100,000 a year to maintain and no longer has a working heating, ventilation or cooling system.

The original Mummers Theater was designed by John M. Johansen, who received the American Institute of Architects highest award in 1972 for his work.

At the time, it was described as a “modern sculptural building” because of its unique construction that placed the mechanical systems on the outside, allowing more room and flexibility for the actors.


Villa Teresa
For 80 years, a group of Carmelite nuns operated Villa Teresa in the city’s Midtown area, but since its closure in 2012, the former school buildings have been placed on Preservation Oklahoma’s watch list.

David Pettyjohn, executive director of Preservation Oklahoma, acknowledged the property does not face demolition but said local preservationists will continue to monitor the situation in hopes the structures will be preserved.

As the school grew over the past eight decades, several nearby historic structures were acquired. But last July, increased operating costs and needed repairs to the buildings proved too much for school officials.


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