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The Latest Look for the Great Banking Hall at First National

If the 1931 Art Deco First National tower is considered the most historic building in downtown Oklahoma City, then the Great Banking Hall is sacred ground.

The building's days as a banking hub ended 25 years ago, but the Great Banking Hall, with its 14  marble and stone columns leading up to an ornate ceiling and glass skylight remain unchanged after all these years.

Four large murals look across the hall from each of its corners. Painted by Edgar Spier Cameron, of Chicago, each scene depicts something from the community's history.

The original banking counters, 42 teller's gates, and a large balcony at the hall's west end that once served as a waiting room for First National customers remain intact. Travertine stone used inside the room came from as far away as Italy. The stone was chosen for its wear and acoustics (Travertine does not ring when walked upon).

So yeah, pretend you're Gary Brooks who is has taken on the challenge to bring this temple back to grandeur as the lobby for a boutique hotel and upscale apartments.

Mr. Brooks has spent a lot of time thinking about this space. And "a lot" may not adequately describe his efforts. Maybe it's not quite at the stage of being an obsession. But yeah, he's given this space quite a bit of thought. Forget whatever renderings have appeared over the past year. Focus on the following rendering.

It might - might - just stick.

“It’s better than I thought – but it took us a long time to get there,” Brooks told me during a visit today. “We spent 500 hours doing 111 case studies getting to this point. You have to think about everything. Do you want 25-year-olds of 75-year-olds? What do they want? You have to think through every possible scenario. You need a place where Steve and Gary can sit (we are both in our 50s) or Brooke (his assistant, a brilliant Millennial) and her friends can sit?”

With demolition set to start next month on the 1971 office annex facing Broadway and renovations to follow, this rendering by Flick Mars of Dallas may be the winner of a very long contest for re-imagining of downtown’s greatest historic interior.

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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 ›