1930s, art deco, chic kasha, concord hotel, first national bank building, franklin d. roosevelt, grady county courthouse, lady sylvia ashley, neoclassical architecture, new deal, oklahoma city, santa fe train station, waldorf-astoria hotel, works progress administration
First National Bank Building, Oklahoma City
I just returned from a business trip to Oklahoma City. Like many mid-western towns, much of its design and development took place during the post-depression era of F.D.R.’s New Deal. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) employed not only contractors and workers but also artists and architects from 1933-1936 when Art Deco was at its peak. Fortunately, much of the development that took place was the construction of public buildings like courthouses, postal facilities, schools and government offices—buildings that stand to this day. Many privately owned hotels—like the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan–adopted these modern design elements, but sadly, most of the hotels have been demolished as both the styles changed and the properties changed hands.
First National Bank Building clock, Oklahoma City
Santa Fe Train Station, Oklahoma City
I stayed at the Colcord Hotel, built in 1910 as Oklahoma City’s first skyscraper at twelve stories. Its geometric details in the lobby’s metalwork and fixtures hint at an Art Deco future. Walking downtown, I discovered the First National Bank Building from 1931 with its polished aluminum details and shiny black marble accents. The clock jutting out over the corner at Park Avenue reminds me of a vintage watch I used to own.
Grady County Courthouse, Chickasha, Oklahoma
detail at Grady County Courthouse, Oklahoma
Grady County Courthouse ceiling
The Santa Fe train station in downtown Oklahoma City was opened in 1934 as was the Grady County Courthouse in Chickasha—both of which I was able to experience on this trip. The boxy, subtly chiseled exteriors of the two buildings only hint at the glorious Art Deco features to be revealed upon entry. Everywhere one finds the Neoclassical elements like chevrons, fiddle-harp ferns and Grecian-style figures. Walls, doorways, floors, windows, ceilings and fixtures are a dizzying array of sumptuously streamlined modernity. As usual, when I am surrounded by this sort of visual elegance I think of Silky. She was the epitome of her era: sleek, graceful, classic and modern.
Lady Sylvia Ashley, late 1920s