A quirky Oklahoma City landmark since 1930, the milk bottle grocery building at NW 23 and N Classen is being restored to its original appearance.
“The windows have been boarded up for a long time and they are going to completely redo the inside and get it ready for another tenant,” said Catherine Montgomery, preservation architect at Preservation & Design Studio, who has assisted with the renovations.
After removing a sheet of plywood covering one of the building’s windows, owner Elise Kilpatrick discovered it had covered an original transom window dating to the 1930s with one pane of glass still intact.
“I said ‘we need to uncover this,’” Kilpatrick said. “We are trying to take the building back as close as we can to when it was first built.”
New windows, light fixtures, awnings and a new mahogany door are being installed in the little grocery store building as part of the project.
The nearly 400-square-foot triangular building has been vacant since the Saigon Baguette sandwich shop closed its doors after occupying the space since the late 1980s.
The restorations are being done with the help of historic preservation tax credits.
The milk bottle grocery was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. The structure was built to sit on the old Belle Isle streetcar stop that ran diagonally across Classen Boulevard, which was part of U.S. Route 66’s original Oklahoma City alignment.
Lots of tenants
Over the years, the building has been home to a grocery store, a fruit stand, a laundry service and a barbecue stand. The large, sheet-metal milk bottle that sits atop the building wasn’t added until the 1940s, when the building became known locally as the “milk bottle grocery,” according to National Register of Historic Places documentation. The milk bottle has been painted over the years to reflect advertising from various businesses, and now bears the Braum’s Ice Cream and Dairy Store logo.
Kilpatrick inherited the milk bottle grocer from her father, the late businessman and civic leader John Kilpatrick Jr.
“He just loved old things with character, so he bought it,” Kilpatrick said.
Kilpatrick hopes to announce a new tenant for the space soon.
“It’s going to be something really special and unique to Oklahoma City,” she said.