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What is the most historic building in Oklahoma City?
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Written by Steve Lackmeyer   
Tuesday, 21 July 2009 02:30

Don Rice was looking down in the dumps - even more so than usual. The grizzled old newspaper man had spent 30 years covering downtown Oklahoma City and was facing sudden eviction from his office in Bricktown. The old slaughterhouse on Sheridan Avenue, owned by Jim Brewer and Walter Gillespie, was going to be demolished.

Nonsense, I responded when Rice told me of this plan. I too had become a bit of a veteran covering downtown for The Oklahoman since 1996 (Rice, meanwhile, had covered downtown since 1977). So many things had to happen first before this statehood building could be torn down. I checked with the chairman of the Bricktown Urban Design Committee and a city planner and they both assured me no applications had been filed for the required review in the historic old warehouse district.

Rice insisted his eviction wasn't merely a lark on the owners' behalf. And he was right. A couple weeks later crews began work overnight and in the early morning and had the building torn down before anyone could say anything. Gillespie, Midwest Wrecking, the city planners - they all insisted that the illegal demolition was due to mistakes made by a planning clerk, the wrecking company and owners who had been in Bricktown long enough to know what the rules were.

Like Rice, I was now very skeptical.

Rice cleaned out his office, never to reopen again. He was in the midst of throwing out a lot of his old copies when I asked him if I could rescue some of them. Sadly, he had already dumped several loads, but some critical issues from 1982 to 1984 survived.

Those issues will now be a part of the ongoing "This Week in OKC History" series.


The Downtowner was published by Edelgard Hatfield, who during the 1970s and early 1980s ran Downtown Now, an earlyday version of Downtown Oklahoma City Inc.

The newspaper began publishing in 1977 as a bi-weekly tabloid with a circulation totaling 5,000. The publication went to weekly in October, 1980, at the height of the oil boom and circulation hit a very respectable 14,000 a week.

Rice, formerly a reporter and editor at the Oklahoma Journal, worked with a fellow veteran of the Oklahoma Journal, Claude Long.

During the 1980s, with downtown fading fast, Rice and Long's coverage often served as the only real source of day-to-day information about the central city. Their newspapers are a rare glimpse at the hopes, struggles and turmoil that dominated downtown as the oil boom turned into a bust.

Don Rice, if you're out there, give me a call. Neither Claude Long or anybody else who knew and admired you have heard from you. These newspapers provide but a glimpse of the history that you witnessed first hand over three decades. In the meantime Jack and I will do our best to share your stories from just a brief period of your long career.

- Steve Lackmeyer