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Rock Island Plow Building Up Close

by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: August 30, 2013 at 12:40 pm •  Published: August 30, 2013

Another busy week, but one story I hope wasn’t lost in the mix was the upcoming renovation of the Rock Island Plow Building in Bricktown.
First, consider that this building, boarded up for more than 30 years, is in sweet spot downtown.


The building is also a standout among the historic structures downtown, built in 1909 and in operation through the late 1970s. It also was one of the first buildings Bricktown’s original developer, Neal Horton, sought to turn into one of the area’s crown jewels. Here’s a snippet of color from my book OKC Second Time Around, in which architect Don Beck and Horton first toured the building in 1980:

The Rock Island Plow Building provided a doorway into the past. Walking inside, they viewed teller lines still set up, typewriters on the desks, and files waiting to be returned to their cabinets. To Beck, it was as if the employees locked the doors as they went home on a Friday and never returned.

The public assumed the area was unsafe, but the developers quickly realized crime was not really an issue at all. Bricktown was its own, little island with no real residents and very little ongoing business activity. Bricktown simply did not have anyone around to carry out muggings or assaults …


The Rock Island Plow Building can be seen to the right of the now vanished MKT Train Depot in this vintage mid-20th century photo (courtesy of the Oklahoma Railway Museum)
The Rock Island Plow Building can be seen to the right of the now vanished MKT Train Depot in this vintage mid-20th century photo (courtesy of the Oklahoma Railway Museum)

The Rock Island Plow Building can be seen to the right of the now vanished MKT Train Depot in this vintage mid-20th century photo (courtesy of the Oklahoma Railway Museum)

The Rock Island Plow Building now serves as an incredible symbol of Bricktown’s past. It reflects the area’s early industrial glory days, but it also is ghost of when Bricktown was filled with boarded-up buildings, unremembered and unloved.

As I mentioned previously, the current owners, Avis and Scaramucci, are to be credited with the building even still standing. Without their emergency repairs, the building was set to collapse in the same way we saw the demise of the Hale Photography Building on Broadway.
Only so much can be included in the daily story – and I know there are those among you who want to know EVERY detail of this upcoming renovation. So here goes:
First, the grand scheme:

The long vacant, boarded up Rock Island Plow building at Reno and Oklahoma is set to be renovated into offices next year.
The long vacant, boarded up Rock Island Plow building at Reno and Oklahoma is set to be renovated into offices next year.

And now for a look inside, now and future:

The building will have multiple entries. First, the main entry to the parking lot:

Entrances also will be added along Oklahoma Avenue:

It’s also interesting to note how the basement will be lit up and included in the update:

The building also will see extensive landscaping added:

That’s it folks. Hopefully, in about a year or so, we will see this vision come true.
by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter and columnist 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 Metropolitan...
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