Thursday, May 01, 2008

First National Archives

This article complements and substantially expands upon my earlier 1st National article found here. A 3rd article, 1st National, 75 years later, is here.

An unexpected and flattering invitation was received last week from Alaina Harris, Account Executive with Saxum, handling public relations for the First National Center, and Emily Dobson, Property Manager for Milbank Real Estate Services which manages the First National Center ... Doug Dawg was invited to "come on down" and take a look through archival photographs and other delights to be had in the First National Center, and to bring my camera! Not a problem, I'm there! And so it was that on April 29, 2008, my every 1st National desire (almost ... I'll explain shortly) was handled most elegantly by these two charming ladies whose lovely photograph appears below ... and ... as usual, unless otherwise stated, click on an image for a larger view.

Alaina Harris (left) and Emily Dobson (right)
Looking Northwest from Emily's 3rd Floor 1st National Office

After getting a cup of coffee and introductions being made at The Buzz (I was amazed that Alaina had actually read, and remembered, the description I give myself as being "formerly Big Daddy D" ... and I explained those origins), we ventured up to Emily's 3rd floor office to sort of get a "lay of the land." Around her office were photographs of times gone by ... and sorry about the glare from the glass ...

Construction Photos In 1930-1931

Well, that's certainly a good start ... where do we go from here! I wanted to know if we could trek on up to the former home of the Beacon Club at the top of the building ... and that was my only disappointment, alluded to above ... no, that could not be done due to Oklahoma Department of Labor restrictions ... but I was promised that as soon as that could be done, I'd be there! (Now, just between you and me, I've navigated plenty of unsafe places to take photos, and I'd have relished the opportunity to do so on this occasion ... and I tried asking again ... no go!)

We walked into an adjoining room and saw "the safe" ... the repository for the photographic history of the 1st National Center ...

The Safe

The ladies had anticipated some of my desires by copying several photographs for me, like this one of the door of suite 2613, below ...

I may be wrong, but isn't that Mamie Van Doren,
center, above the disk jockey whose ship had just come in?

Woah! The 1st National Center must have been a cool place for a dude to work when this picture was taken of (among other things) the door of Suite 2613, KFNB-FM Stereo Radio, 101.9, it being the tenant there at the time! Actually, the "tenant" was the First National Broadcasting Company, owned by those who owned the bank. After getting FCC authority in 1961, the station began operating in 1962 as Oklahoma's 1st "stereo" station and its antenna was naturally on top of the building. Operations continued until 1978 when the station was sold to a San Antonio investor and the station became KLTE in 1979. The call letters are KTST today. A couple of Oklahoman ads appear below, followed by a pair of photos from First National's archives.

Larger images not available for the ads

1966 Oklahoman ad

1973 Oklahoman ad

Here are a pair of 1930 construction pics ...

Monroe Schells [sp?] in March 1961 (name was hard to read)
Possibly looking at his name in a very full directory

A few photos of First National employees

First National Management Corp. Uniforms ... 1950s?
Notice the presents on the floor and the ladies' corsages
A sports trophy case may be in the background

Bill McGee

Kiyoshi Kawahito in March 1963

First National had organized employee sporting groups
Below, a September 1960 ladies bowling team ... left to right,
Sammie Streetman, Bebe McCall, June Hunger, Orlene Blue, Pat Palmer, & Laverne Van Schuefer [sp?]

Bebe McCall, Secretary to Mr. Sprankle

With apologies to all if I have this wrong,
I think this shows Joe Littlefield in May 1958

Some photos showing changes in and about ...

After the 1957 east side expansion ... notice the old
"Auto Hotel" which would go in the next eastbound expansion

The parking garage on Main Street demolished
in 1970s Urban Renewal period

Planning for expansion of the Beacon Club (date unknown)
The Beacon Club, named for the building's "beacon" (visible for 50 miles) to warn airplanes, opened in late 1941 on the 31st floor, and would eventually occupy the top 3 stories. But, with the building's decline and it having no apparent prospects for revitalization, the club moved to the Oklahoma Tower in 1997. Maybe it will return to its namesake home, one day!

When construction stared recently in the entry/arcade area, an old newspaper was discovered under the tile. Though not in prime shape, it is usable enough to see a date ... the tile was added in the same year, 1950, as were the escalators to the Great Banking Hall ...

The last image I got from the archives on this trip (yes, I'm hoping for more!) was this cool photo, not really historic, but showing the 1st National and other buildings during an August 2004 lightening storm!

I was also furnished some very neat PDF files which contain some archival-type photographs. The extracted images appear below ...

The Great Banking Hall (undated)

Murals in the Great Banking Hall

In 1949, First National made a brochure in honor of Oklahoma City's 60th Anniversary, and the images below are in it, as are the "coin" images which appear later in this article.

Except for the 1st image below (apparently gratuitously included in the brochure in honor of the occasion), the murals shown below were painted by Edgar Spier Cameron (1862-1944) at the 4 corners of the Great Banking Hall. From Illinois, Cameron's biography is at this Smithsonian website from which the circa 1902 image shown below was found (and with credit to the Smithsonian for the image).

Larger image not available

The Murals (see below for photos I took)

A couple of other images extracted from PDF files show Suite 1810, perhaps in the 1940s, and an artist's rendering of the east-most expansion in 1972.


Extracted from PDF files furnished to me, the following show replicas of coins which are part of the bank's lobby decor, together with explanations. These images do not have larger views.

The last part of my visit was to take some photographs myself of the Great Banking Hall ...

From the 3rd Floor Balcony
Alaina Harris reports that the overhead was originally a skylight but that in 1959 the skylight was covered with a tar and gravel roof, that decision being made in lieu of replacing the 4,000 lights that comprised the skylight.

From the 2nd Floor Great Banking Hall

Looking Toward the 3rd Floor Balcony

Walking Around

The Murals

I had a magnificent afternoon and, once again, thanks to my gracious hosts, Emily Dobson and Alaina Harris, for making this contribution to Oklahoma City's history possible! Kisses to you both!

Go To Top


Jason said...

I would say another great post from you Doug, but that would be an understatement. Thanks to you and your gracious hosts!

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks for your kind comment, Jason! The ladies were amazing hosts!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if there are any ghosts there or if there is anything important about the 1th floor.

Doug Dawg said...

I'm not familiar with any ghost stories associated with 1st national ... maybe someone else will know.

OkieRover said...

Nice work.
Enjoyed this very much.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, OkieRover!

Mark L. said...

I helped move a buddy out of his office from the 24th floor. He originally got rent around $8 per sf/year. But they wanted to renew at $12. He got in on NWHW at $10 and it included free parking. He paid $100/mo at Main Street Parking. It was difficult getting to his office from the garage. You parked, went across the walkway, got into a bank of elevators and up a few floors. Got out, walked down a hallway to another bank of elevators in the tower section. To move him out, we had to use the freight elevator. They told us not to shut the doors to the hallway that lead to that elevator. They said the cushion of air would cause you to get stuck.
I do miss that place because of my memories of a bank executive I knew there.. I always felt like I was in NYC when I visited my friend and dined in the Beacon Club.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks for the memories, Mark. You'll find lots more 1st National photos at Retro-Metro's 1st National Center Collection.