While uncovering a historic facade isn’t unheard of in Oklahoma City, finding two in one location is relatively rare. That’s exactly what happened to property developer Jonathan Russell, who’s renovating the neglected buildings on the corner of Walker Avenue and NW 23rd Street into The Rise shopping center.
Several buildings on the site had long been regarded as eyesores, so Russell’s initial plan was to raze them. Then he uncovered a 1920s-era cast stone and brick facade on the building at 2415 N. Walker Ave. Now another intact historical facade has been discovered on the old Hotel and Motel Furniture Liquidators store facing NW 23rd Street.
Beneath the modern upgrades added beginning in the early 1970s lies a 1940s-era cut-granite facade that’s almost completely intact, right down to the suspended awning. The three western buildings of the complex are all adorned with this vintage facade.
The old facade is in the Streamline Moderne style, an approach that developed in the 1930s, late in the Art Deco period. Smooth curves and sweeping horizontal lines characterize the style.
A Rare Beauty
Few retail buildings are blessed with facades of such high quality and aesthetic appeal. Creating a cut-granite facade requires investments in materials and highly skilled labor that isn’t financially feasible for most retail establishments.
Because of this, many retail developers in Oklahoma City opt to replicate historical facades with synthetic stucco. While this reduces costs, it also leads to a bland monotony in shopping center architecture.
By uncovering a historic facade, Russell has revealed a feature that will help differentiate The Rise from other shopping centers, as well as contribute to the conservation of local cultural heritage.
Russell told The Oklahoman that he’s slowed down development plans to ensure the facade will be properly preserved. This may call for a restoration specialist to assist in uncovering the historic facade without damaging it, repair any hairline cracks and restore the granite to its original shine.
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