A 91-year-old building that was originally home to the Oklahoma Cotton Growers Association is undergoing a $1.3 million renovation by its new owner, the Oklahoma City Geological Society.
After being hidden on the ninth floor of the First National Center for 13 years, the organization, founded in 1921, was looking for a centrally located space with parking, enough room to house their 12,000-square-foot library and additional room for events and continuing education.
Mike Harris, chief executive officer of the Oklahoma City Geological Society, said his organization was looking not just for a new home, but also a fresh start with a younger generation of geologists.
“The society has been a relatively unknown organization to the city,” Harris said. “Unless you are in the older generation of the oil and gas industry, you may not know we exist. The new building will help increase our visibility as we also begin to implement strategies to reach and serve a new generation of geologists and other natural resources professionals interested in the earth sciences.”
After a search for properties throughout downtown — a search assisted by brokers Marc Weinmeister and Bert Belanger – the society on Jan. 31 paid $1.36 million for the former cotton growers building and adjoining parking spaces.
Before the sale, the two-story building with a full basement at 10 NW 6 was stress-tested to ensure it could support the approximately 100,000 pounds of the society’s library. The library houses 500 file cabinets containing more than 1 million well logs and other historic well records dating back to the early 1900s.
Those well records gives the society its edge over online information providers, Harris said.
“The function of the society is twofold,” Harris said. “The society holds functions for networking and education … We produce a bi-monthly publication. The second function is the library. It’s the historical well records that go back to the early 1900s. These records are proprietary. They are here in our library.”
When the oil bust hit in the 1980s, it cut off the flow of students seeking geology degrees. A new generation of geologists rose up as the industry rebounded in the 1990s, but, Harris admits, “they don’t know we exist.”
Harris hopes that by moving to a more visible location with easy parking and access, the society will connect with the younger geologists.
“Our long-term goal is to get it imaged for online access, but it will be a long time to get it done,” Harris said. “This will give our people a home. This is like a country club for geologists.”
The renovation, being overseen by Mass Architects and Clyde Riggs Construction, is expected to be completed by October.
New features, including glass garage doors surrounding the conference room, will be incorporated into the interior design. Original features including the exterior plaque listing the Cotton Growers’ 1923 board members will be maintained.
A walk-in safe, also still intact, will be incorporated into one of the office spaces. And the building’s original skylights, which were sealed by a previous owner, will be restored.
“We’ve learned there were strict regulations over the cotton industry that specified cotton was to be graded by visual inspection under a north-facing skylight at 10 a.m.,” said Greg Flournoy, board president. “There are many interesting details about this historic building, and it’s rewarding to be a part of the rebirth of the area.”