Stan Lingo can finally sleep again when storms, strong winds and earth tremors hit the city overnight. But for months, the salvation of the Marion Hotel was anything but certain for the builder and the landmark’s owners.
The 110-year-old, three-story building is the oldest downtown, and was empty and boarded up for two decades before it was purchased by the Midtown Renaissance Group in 2006. It didn’t take long before partner Chris Fleming discovered why a series of owners abandoned any efforts to restore the hotel.
“The first thing we sought to do was to mitigate any deterioration that had happened,” Fleming said. “So when we bought it, we wanted to put a new roof on it to stop the water that was leaking into it. But there was so much damage that the structure couldn’t support a new roof.”
The developers discovered they would have to spend $1.5 million just to provide the structural reinforcement needed to replace the roof.
“The question was whether that would be throwing good money after bad,” Fleming said. “We determined it had stood this way for decades. There were other issues we had to address to make it viable, parking for one thing. And then we had to talk to neighbors to secure support for construction staging.”
‘We’re scared of this building’
The pieces came together last year when the city agreed to provide financing assistance for construction of a garage across the street that provided some justification for renovating the Marion and two large decades-old dealership buildings at the intersection of NW 10 and Broadway – the Buick Building at 1101 N Broadway and the Pontiac Building at 1100 N Broadway.
Lingo’s company Lingo Construction won accolades for its delicate handling of restoring the historic west facade of the Braniff Building at 324 N Robinson Ave. while tearing out the east alley brick wall and replacing it with a modern glass facade. Lingo also rebuilt the old Plaza Theater, now the home of Lyric Theater, in the 16th Street Plaza District.
Warnings about the Marion’s delicate state emerged immediately as Lingo talked with demolition subcontractors about how best to gut the inside of the hotel.
“The guys who have nerves of steel are the demo contractors,” Lingo said. “And when the demo guys say ‘We’re scared of this building,’ it’s time to perk up and pay attention. And as we were undoing this building, the masonry walls were such that we could just unstack the bricks without any equipment. They were just stacked and not bonded. The mortar was gone.”
Original plans called for using steel bracing to ensure the walls stayed intact. That plan fell short, and several new plans were attempted before Lingo, himself a structural engineer, determined the best plan of attack was to tear out the core of the building first, and then tear out rooms adjoining the outside walls one segment at a time.
Over the first few months, both Lingo and Fleming worried about whether the hotel would survive the renovation – and Oklahoma City’s sometimes harsh conditions.
“Right as we started demolition, we had some early spring winds – 50 to 60 miles per hour,” Lingo said. “There was many a night where I wondered what I would see the next morning.’
The slow and tedious process of tearing out one wall section at a time, rebuilding sections of those floors, and then moving on to the next section, continued through early spring.