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Building survey to catalog Oklahoma City downtown's past

by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: October 6, 2009 at 7:41 am •  Published: October 6, 2009
Is there a "lost Bricktown”? You bet.

Lost in the hype over Bricktown as a thriving urban entertainment venue is that the one-time wholesale district was once much bigger. A century ago one could find wholesale grocers, implement dealers and breweries in an area that is now home to the Santa Fe garage, the Cox Convention Center and Ford Center.

The assortment of warehouses disappeared with the advent of Urban Renewal in the 1970s, but hidden in a forgotten area south of Ford Center one can still find the remnants of "lost Bricktown.”

Not all of the buildings are easy to identify. They include the once ornate but now blighted International Harvester and Film Exchange buildings, and some others that clearly date to the early 1900s but provide no hint of their heritage.

Current redevelopment plans call for these buildings to be razed, potentially within the next few years. But are they historically worth saving? Could this be another mistake for a city that saw hundreds of its historic downtown buildings torn down by Urban Renewal?

Maybe, or maybe not. A historical survey would help, and such an effort is being launched by the city, thanks to a federal grant. The survey, being administered by the Oklahoma City Planning Department, will include more than 1,300 buildings in an area bordered by Interstate 235, NW 13, Classen Boulevard and the Oklahoma River.

It’s a big job that is expected to take five years, and here’s the catch: The buildings that may be in most jeopardy of being razed, "lost Bricktown,” are scheduled to be the last to be surveyed.

Preservation architect Catherine Montgomery and Planning Director Russell Claus say the scheduling is a judgment call that could be changed.

by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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