A landmark that reaches 286 feet and flaunts a gold star on Oklahoma City University's campus has remained unfinished for nearly 60 years — and it probably never will be completed.
The Gold Star Memorial Building opened in 1953. Its 200-pound star can be seen as far as 10 miles away. Administrators tout that the facility once had the country's largest arc-welded steel framework.
“When I see it, I know I'm close to home,” said student Krystal Rajkowski, a dance management major.
The facility, labeled “School of Religion,” was built to honor Methodists who died in World War II. It was created to house the university's United Methodist religion department, but never served that purpose.
Administrators aren't sure why the religion department never was established in the building, which currently houses the university's law library and law faculty offices in its first three floors and basement.
“I get quite a few questions about the tower,” said Lee Peoples, law library director. “People usually ask if they can climb it or how tall it is.
“I've climbed it before. Once was definitely enough.”
Planning for the future
Administrators talked with an architect last year about remodeling the tower, but their first priority is to reseal the entire building, said Brian Holland, chief financial officer.
The need was magnified last summer when heavy rainfall resulted in water damage. Resealing the building would cost $3.5 million, but officials haven't secured donations to carry out those improvements, he said.
Refurbishing the tower also would require installing a new elevator, Holland said.
“It would be very expensive per floor and not very much square footage,” he said. “The ceilings aren't very high and the walls are made of concrete.”
The tower's elevator stops at the third floor. The remainder of the climb only is attainable by foot.
Making the climb
Victor Zungia, university facilities worker, unlocked the secured door to access the building's dusty, concrete stairwell.
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