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What is the most historic building in Oklahoma City?
The Petroleum Building PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Lackmeyer   
Sunday, 15 February 2009 23:01

Another building lost to the ravages of time? Not quite... the Petroleum Building still can be found in the downtown Oklahoma City skyline. You just have to look... 








Before First National Tower, before Ramsey Tower (now City Place), the Petroleum Building stood alone. For just a few years it was the tallest, grandest building in Oklahoma City. Once First National and Ramsey appeared, it wasn't long before an oil derrick was added to the roof to ensure the Petroleum Building, home to Republic Drilling, would remain a prominent fixture in the downtown Oklahoma City skyline.

Kerr-McGee bought the building in 1963 and converted it into its second corporate home the following year. The conversion into the Kermac Building would include adding a matching 20-story tower to the east, removing the original building's Art Deco facade, and completing it with what was then described as the most modern design of its time.


But that overhaul also would lead to the tower's ultimate demise; Kerr-McGee built the east side of the tower on a long-term ground lease, and covered the new steel addition with asbestos.   

The Kermac Building served as the headquarters for Kerr McGee through most of the 1960s until the company embarked on building an even bigger tower. Executive offices moved to the new 30-story Kerr McGee Tower at 123 Robert S. Kerr Ave. in 1973. No longer would the bust of Robert S. Kerr preside over the long table in the all windowed top floor board room at the Kermac Building.


The building was sold again to Midland Mortgage, which renamed the tower Midland Center. In 1986, the tower was still full — so much so that managers later said, "We were literally renting janitorial closet space." That year the building was sold again to Prudential Reality. But two years later, with the economy faltering, occupancy was down to 50 percent. The property, still anchored by Midland Mortgage, was sold to Texas investors. With asbestos declared a threat to public health, the building value was dropped from $7.2 million to $2.5 million in 1988. Midland moved to the suburbs in 1990, and two years later owners closed the tower and abandoned it, letting it go to auction for back taxes. Even as it was being abandoned, it still had 40 percent occupancy with a clothing store on the first two floors.

The building is currently empty, though it may have a brighter future under the ownership of Rick Dowell, who has removed asbestos from all but four floors and has consolidated ownership of the building's two sides.


Last Updated on Sunday, 05 April 2009 18:14