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Uncertain Future for the Walcourt

When the Walcourt Apartments first opened in 1928, the complex was the pride and joy of its developer, H.E. Mussen. The city was in the midst of an economic boom, and all across America it seemed as if good times were going to last forever. Mussen, a consulting engineer, took out a full page advertisement in The Oklahoman to boast of the meticulous attention spent on details. The building would feature the latest in “Kelvinator Electric Refrigeration,” Kohler plumbing fixtures and Murphy beds. He hired architect Joe Davis to create a building unlike anything else in the city.

“Have you noticed that no two angles of the Walcourt are similar?” Mussen wrote. “Doesn't its unique design, its very differentness fascinate you? To Joe Davis, architect, goes the credit. While Mr. Davis specializes on designing school buildings throughout the state, he condescended to work out my architectural plans and specifications…”

The Walcourt still captures the public’s attention – though it is far from the proud triumph of 1928. Decades of neglect have taken their toll on the building at NE 13 and Walnut Avenue.

A few weeks ago the building and an adjoining, less memorable wood frame home (both belonging to the same owner) ended upon the city’s dilapidation list. It’s a scary listing – one that could prompt demolition by the city. But sometimes, and maybe in this case, it’s the only case of tough love that might prompt something to be done. I’ve talked to numerous credible developers with experience in rehabilitating historic buildings who have sought to buy the property from its owner without any luck. A look at the building shows the time of sitting and doing nothing is over. If nothing is done soon, based on my years of observation of similar buildings, nature and neglect will make the Walcourt beyond saving (only a precious few like the Hotel Marion at NW 10 and Broadway get miracle reprieves).

After the property was placed on the dilapidation list, I spoke to someone who seemed to be having some success in getting a purchase deal done. But all communication by the owner went silent. And then the bulldozer appeared.

The good news, if there is good news, is this bulldozer is not hired by the city. I am told this bulldozer was sent out by the owner to tear down the far less important one story home that also was in bad shape. And I’ve been reassured by the city’s neighborhood housing division is continuing to work with the owner on a resolution that won’t lead to demolition of the Walcourt.

Today’s rain doesn’t make me feel any less anxious – that building is flooding right now, mold will become an issue…. I really, really hope a resolution comes soon.

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›