The properties sit on the southwest corner of N.W. 37th Street and Olie
“That is one of the most famous Art Deco buildings in Oklahoma City,”
says Swift, owner of Brent Swift Design Build. “I’m in the business of
salvaging old properties in a mindful and meaningful way.”
fourplex, with its tan- and black-brick accents, corner windows and a
glass cube feature above the entry on the second floor, had not been
occupied in decades. In that time, it sustained weather damage,
vandalism and deferred maintenance that left it a shell of its former
In 2008, it was included on Preservation Oklahoma’s Most Endangered
Historic Places list. The main threat to the building at that time was
listed as “deferred maintenance.”
After years of neglect, the city
got involved. In 2009, the city was looking at demolishing the garage.
Catherine Montgomery, historic preservation architect for the city, says
the fourplex — with its caved-in roof and decaying condition – likely
would not have been too far behind for demolition. But that was not the
ideal solution with it being in a Historic Preservation neighborhood.
“It’s not like the city wants to tear these properties down,” she says. “We’re not anxious to do that.”
Swift entered the picture, he brought with him Hans Butzer and Jeremy
Gardner of Butzer-Gardner. The pair has an ongoing relationship with
Swift and designs his projects in Norman. Butzer says that since 2008,
three clients came to him independently to discuss possible plans for
the Art Deco fourplex.
When Butzer joined forces with Swift, he assessed the properties and
determined that, indeed, the garage would need to go. But rather than
leave a hole, he came up with a design that would construct a building
similar to the garage that would include one condo. In addition, he made
plans for two additional units to be constructed running south of the
garage to include about 2,700 square feet. His plan sought to create a
happy marriage between old and new.
“It’s really about the new building, and learning from the existing
fourplex to develop an identity that is inspired by the original
fourplex, and that allows the new structure to create its own
personality,” Butzer says.
Plans for the structure call for putting Humpty back together again.
Swift says he will have succeeded if it is renovated to look exactly as
it did when it was built in 1936. He has made similar efforts in Norman
for historic residential and commercial properties.
“The goal always for me is to put it back the way it was,” he says.
budget for the entire project easily will top $1 million, and is set
for completion by next summer. Swift is targeting selling the units
starting at $179,000 and going up to about $250,000.
With a large gash in the fourplex, and a pile of bricks out back, he
began interior framing. He plans to use the original brick and matching
brick from the garage to reconstruct the back of the building. The
steel-framed windows are being cleaned and restored, and he is looking
for matching glass blocks for the front of the building.
On the duplex, he is restoring the original wood-framed windows.
“On both buildings, every window will be salvaged,” Swift says. “They’ll be essentially new, but they’re old.”
brought his plans to the Historic Preservation Commission Aug. 3. One
concern was the replacement garage. He received approval from the
commission, with the condition that he produce more detailed drawings of
the new building, and that the new garage is consistent and compatible
with the historic district. Looking at his plans, Montgomery says it
looks like he’s on the right track.
“The new garage really does respect the historic character of the original garage,” she says.
says the project will be a challenge, but he welcomes the opportunity
to bring the building back to its former self, be a good neighbor, and
let the end result speak for itself.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to the product you produce,” he
says. “For me, coming up here and doing this project is a big deal.”
Editor’s note: Visit okgazette.com
to learn about the history of this property.