NOTE: This post has been majorly updated by THIS ONE which contains everything here but a lot more. I’ve left this one here for historical purposes. Also, this article is complemented by a later article which draws upon First National’s Archives.
Very few of us, if any, were alive during the “Great Race” (1930-1931) to finish 2 skyscrapers in Oklahoma City, the First National Bank and the Ramsey Tower. The Ramsey Tower (now City Place) won the race by a hair on October 3, 1931.
Until the early 1970’s and before, these two structures were the “signature” of downtown Oklahoma City’s skyline.
Following the “Oil Bust” in the early ‘80s and with the resulting July 5,1982, collapse of Penn Square Bank in Oklahoma City, many other “main line” banks fell in harm’s way, including the First National Bank, theretofore the state’s largest bank. Thereafter, notwithstanding its fine art deco grandeur, the First National Center entered into decline.
“The Beacon Club”, a prestigious private club which occupied the top 3 stories, moved to the Oklahoma Tower in 1997 … http://www.beaconclub.com/. The club’s history is presented here, http://www.beaconclub.com/history.php. The 1st National Center has languished badly since the 1980’s once you higher than the 3rd floor.
News, though, turned bright on May 5, 2006, with a California group’s purchase of the Center which includes more than one million square feet of leasable space. As reported in The Oklahoman and as discussed at OkcTalk.com, according to the agent that handled the transaction, the new owners have great intentions:
“Plans are to bring it back to its former glory as the crown jewel of downtown Oklahoma City. To fill it up – and dress her up and take her to the ball. Have a centennial ball in the Grand Banking Hall.”
See http://www.okctalk.com/okc-metro-area-talk/6387-first-national-center-sold-big-plans.html for much more about that.
Wouldn’t that be grand! Hopefully, you’ll be able to attend a Centennial Ball in that Great Banking Hall, dark and unaccessible for years, seen below when the lights were still on.
Go, Oklahoma City, GO!