We are off to a new adventure in design. Unlike the Chickasaw Visitor Center, we don’t always have a new empty site to begin our project. Sometimes you start with something old. In this case, it was something build in 1909. Our project is linked to Oklahoma High School built in what is now midtown Oklahoma City. The building was designed by architects Layton, Hawk and Smith. The architecture was in the Collegian Gothic style and the exterior envelope was limestone clad with a tower facing Robinson Street.
We discovered the original floor plans for Oklahoma High School in a publication of hisoric schools around the nation. click here to see.
It was in September 1910 that students first reported to Oklahoma High School. The school had an auditorium seating about 1500, a 2 tiered gymnasium, swimming pool and specially equipped classes for home economics and shop. In 1919 the name was changed from Oklahoma High School to Central High School with the advent of additional high schools being built in Oklahoma City. By the 1920’s there were 19 elementary schools, 5 junior high schools and 3 high schools (Central High School, Capitol Hill High School and Classen High School). Central High School functioned as a high school until 1968 after which it was used for other educational purposes. On November 7, 1976, Central High School was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was school board property until it was sold in 1981 to Southwestern Bell Telephone Company for the purpose of converting it to office space for its Oklahoma City headquarters. Following an infusion of $10 million to renovate and transform the facility which was completed in April 1984, the building became known as One Bell Central. The design captured a regional award from the American Institute of Architects and Southwest Bell was applauded for saving a building that may have been headed for demolition.
In 2005 after a long stay at One Bell Central, SWB decided to consolidate its downtown operations and move to its complex along Dean A. McGee Ave. Don Cain, president of SBC Oklahoma was quoted saying, “We’ve logged a lot of memories in the building on Harvey, including the role it played in the housing of search-and-rescue workers in the aftermath of the 1995 bombing tragedy. This move will help us to operate more efficiently and effectively and to better respond to our customers.”
The building was sold to American Farmers and Ranchers Insurance Company who in celebrating their centennial that year we was excited about relocating their offices to the downtown Oklahoma City area. However, the property was put up for sale in 2010 after determining the property was too large for its operations. Following an intense bidding exercise in 2012, the Oklahoma City University’s School of Law purchase offer was accepted in Early September 2012. Ironically their bidding competition came from the Oklahoma City Public Schools who wanted to repurchase the building it to locate its administrative headquarters after having sold the building 31 years earlier.
There is an active alumni association that recalls the glory days of Central High School and has created a memorable web site that recounts their days in the old school before its closing. After visiting the web site, Jean Winder Roberts added a comment saying, “This all brings a tear to my eye! I graduated in 1947 and loved that school and my friends with all my heart. This website is fantastic. Thanks.”
This new chapter for what was originally Oklahoma High School is where our story begins. Well almost…