Andrei Strizek

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Exploring OKC: The First National Building

One of the things I like about being in a new city - and that I appreciate about the Grinch tour, having a week in each location - is spending some time exploring, wandering around the city, and seeing what pops up. I'm sure it drives my walking companions crazy, as I pause to read signs and take pictures and espose trivial facts. Heading into our first full week of shows, I knew of a few places in Oklahoma City that I wanted to go to (the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the botanical gardens, Bricktown), but today I stumbled upon the First National Building and its second-floor bank lobby.

I don't know much about this bulding (all I really know is what is on the Wikipedia page...): the third-tallest in the OKC skyline, the bank lobby isn't in use anymore except for, apparently, the occasional party and ball. (Although, based on the shape it's in, I'd imagine it takes a lot to spruce it up. There was also a random Suzuki "Disklavier" piano there, roped off.) It was weird that the lobby was open to the public; no need to sneak past security and climb over fences to visit this place. (Although the esclators had "no public entry" signs posted, but the main staircase is wide-open with nothing blocking entry upstairs.) Practically empty, it still has an aura of its grander days, when it was no doubt full of people tending to their fiduciary matters.

Part of my personal attraction to this space is its Art Deco styling. I'm honestly not sure I'll ever tire of that style of architecture. Built in 1931, it was erected during the beginning of the Great Depression but before the Dust Bowl swept through the Great Plains. The unique tower at the top of the building was an airplane beacon. When it was built, it was the fourth tallest building west of the Mississippi River.

Some of the bars on the teller windows are cracked or missing; some doors are done; the carpet in an office area is shabby; but the marble - which basically covers the entire space, and makes up beautiful columns (and drinking fountains) - still holds its sheen. There are four paintings in the corners: two depicting the land runs in Oklahoma, one showing the Shawnee Trail, and the fourth portraying the Louisiana Transfer, when the area that makes up Oklahoma became part of the United States in 1803. There are numerous "tokens" on the walls of the space. I'm not sure what any of them mean; there were too many for me to look at for later exploration, but based on the paintings, my guess is that they are related to Oklahoma heritage.

Next to the stairs, on the ground level, is a gate that led to where security deposit boxes were held. I'm sure it was better lit in its heyday, but today it looks a little foreboding, like it should be part of a horror film or The Strain. The clock above the staircase is permanently stopped at 12pm. (Or 12am?)

I'm not certain, but I believe the building has normal business hours. (The ground floor has a host of shops and restaurants that are worth visiting.) The building is showing its age and lack of tenants, particularly some of the other entrances, but next time you're in Oklahoma City, take a few minutes to check this area out. It's a unique piece of history in the middle of the city that is working to redevelop and grow.

I have a few more pictures here. If you have any more information about this building, let me know!

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