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Criticism and Memories

Some readers have indicated they are less than thrilled with the proposed design for an eight-story building at the gateway to downtown at NW 5 and Harrison, while others are sharing memories of the neighborhood as it once was a long time ago.

As reported earlier this week, the eight-story building is designed by architect Rand Elliott, who was dedicating himself to bringing the immediate area back to life long before anybody else.

Those emailing me criticism of the project did not wish to have their names used, so we’ll just summarize their criticism as being very unhappy with a design they called “atrocious” and “one of the ugliest conceptions” they ever saw. I will note I have also encountered people who think Elliott is striking a stake in the heart of the city’s past reputation for mediocre design by creating something so daring at the gateway to downtown.

Beauty, as always, is in the eye of the beholder.

Then there is the matter of history, and I always appreciate these gems shared by Lillian “Lil” Larwig, who has seen a lot more of our city’s past than many. And she has some special memories of the Heierding flat iron building across the street from the project Elliott is working on (and is home to Elliott’s firm, Elliott Associates).

Photo from Elliott Associates

“I’ve lived in OKC since 1937 and have witnessed the many changes from ‘way back then’. Spent my honeymoon at the Biltmore, brother worked the soda fountain at the Skirvin, spent many hours at WKY then located in the Skirvin Tower and flirting with the guys, teenage thrills. And as I read your story about the Flatiron building, what memories that has for me. When I was a teenager, the Heierding Brothers Meat Market was in this building. Mimi Heierding Kaspar/Rahn, daughter of one of the brothers, was widowed and left with two small children. Mimi did the book work at the store so I was privileged to live with Mimi and her two little ones, and I got paid too. Her house was at 625 NE 25th now with office buildings on the lot. I was treated like family. I walked to Northeast High School during the school year.

My parents lived in the east side of town, at 2132 N Jordan. Was a white old wooden house, now replaced with a brick house. With my first months pay from Mimi, I bought a bicycle so I could visit my parents more easily. After about three years, Mimi married Cecil Rahn and I was out of a job at her house. I continued to stay friends with the family. Little ‘Sookie’ died at age nine, which broke my heart as she was ‘my little girl’ Johnny died in 2015. I was so proud of him. He had a business on his property, feed store, kept a rooster in the feed store that would ‘talk’ and Johnny was asked to be on a TV show but could not leave his animals. He raised horses, he and his wife rode in parades on their horses.

How fortunate I was to have all these wonderful memories. After I married, my husband, Henry Larwig, he worked for the telephone company with offices downtown. In our early marriage, we had one car. In the morning, Henry took the city bus to work but in the evenings, our small children and I would head down town in the car to pick up ‘Daddy’ but always had to stop at Heierdings Meat Market to visit with the people working there and the children always got a wiener to eat, yes a cold one. To this day, my children remember doing this.

The Heierdings came from Germany. Many of the Germans coming to Oklahoma City back in those days, were hired to work in the meat market, including my father in law. This was their first job but as they learned the English language, most moved on to other work they were suited for.

I celebrated my 90th birthday this March and my kids surprised me with an open house where many of my friends came to visit me. What a blessed person I am. Thanks for reading this.

– Lillian “Lil” Larwig. Born on the farm near Bessie, OK that my grandfather homesteaded in 1891. He was a German from Russia, had a mercantile store in Bessie main street. The building is still standing and now home of the fire department of Bessie.


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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 ›