The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

17 February 2007

Saturday spottings (in anticipation)

Nine days from now is the scheduled opening of the Skirvin Hilton, and it looks like they'll come in on time: when I wandered by this afternoon, they were about halfway through the process of restoring the pavement in front of the entrance, which indicates that they're not expecting any more heavy equipment on the site. From my first post on the subject, four years ago:

Opened in 1911, four years after statehood, Bill Skirvin's hotel in downtown Oklahoma City was the unquestioned social center of town. By 1930, with an oil boom underway, the Skirvin had grown to 14 stories and 525 rooms. Bill Skirvin died in 1944, his children decided to sell the property, and while the hotel did well for the next two decades, an ill-advised search-and-destroy urban-renewal program in the Sixties caused everything downtown to suffer, and by 1969 the Skirvin could keep only a third of its rooms filled.

Things picked up in the 1980s, as urban renewal took a new form: restoration and preservation of the remaining historic structures downtown. The Skirvin was now on the National Register of Historic Places. Still, a succession of managements could not make it profitable, and after Oklahoma City government decided that it was worth saving, the city last year acquired the property from its most recent owners for just under $3 million.

And the city committed $18 million to the restoration of the hotel, which began in the summer of 2005. Total investment in One Park Avenue (which you have to admit is a pretty spiffy address) is $51.3 million. I have promised myself at least one night's stay, probably this summer. If you're curious about the early history of the Skirvin, historian Bob Blackburn can fill in the details.

Meanwhile, there's apparently been a stay of execution for Purgatory, the one-time Episcopal church turned death-metal venue, which was slated for demolition last year and which now bears a modest (albeit red) For Sale sign out front. I'm guessing the plan for a strip mall on the site fell through. (Update, 26 March: And the wrecking ball has been summoned. Darn.)

And speaking of "fell through," there are enough potholes on Classen near this site and for blocks to the south to make you wonder if your car is going to fall through the pavement.

Surely this has been up for a while, but I hadn't seen it until today: a billboard by former DA Wes Lane, thanking the citizenry for allowing him to serve in that capacity through last year. There's a small-print reference to Psalm 100 along the bottom; Lane was occasionally a controversial figure, and maybe getting out of the public eye was an opportunity for him to make a joyful noise. At any rate, it's a classy gesture, especially in view of the general nastiness of the last electoral campaign.

Finally, a tip of the synthetic-materials hat to the newly-named Metro Alliance for Animal Life, about whose beginnings I wrote here (last paragraph).

Posted at 7:06 PM to City Scene