View Full Version : SBC to sell old Central High School

06-15-2005, 11:59 AM
I didn't realize the OKC Museum of Art once wanted to move into this building. Wouldn't that have been neat! Oh well......I only hope the new owner continues to maintain this building as well as SBC has.

"SBC to sell OKC headquarters

by Ted Streuli
The Journal Record

SBC Communications will sell its Oklahoma headquarters building at 800 N. Harvey Ave. to Oklahoma Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. for an undisclosed sum. The transaction is expected to close later this year.
When the historic downtown building opened in 1910, it housed Oklahoma High School, later known as Central High School. SBC Oklahoma, then known as Southwestern Bell Telephone, purchased the building from the Oklahoma City Board of Education in 1981 for $2.7 million. The other bidder, the Oklahoma Museum of Art, hoped to turn the structure into an art exhibition hall.

The building underwent a $10 million renovation designed by local architectural firm HTB and became One Bell Central in April 1984. The design won a regional award from the American Institute of Architects.

"With the rapid updates in technology and the resulting changes to our business, we've decided to consolidate our downtown Oklahoma City operations to our longtime complex along Dean A. McGee Avenue," said Don Cain, president of SBC Oklahoma. "This move will help us to operate more efficiently and effectively and to better respond to our customers."

The building houses about 125 employees, who will be disbursed to four other downtown SBC office buildings. One Bell Central is home to the company's administrative offices as well as sales, marketing, external communications and some technical staff.

The building is approximately 160,000 square feet, said J.R. "Bud" Fulton, of J.R. Fulton and Associates, who brokered the deal.

"We've logged a lot of memories in the building on Harvey, including the role it played in the housing of search-and-rescue workers in the aftermath of the 1995 bombing tragedy," Cain said. "We're pleased that the building is going to a high-quality, well-respected company and one that is important to our state's economy."

Oklahoma Farmers Union employs approximately 230 people, 150 of them at the insurance company's headquarters at 6200 NW Second St. The insurer purchased the 45,520-square-foot building in 1984 and has listed it for sale with Fulton.

"Oklahoma Farmers Union and Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Company are celebrating our centennial this year and we are excited about relocating our offices to the downtown Oklahoma City area," said Ray L. Wulf, the company's president and CEO.


1892: Secondary education begins in Oklahoma City under the direction of Mary D. Couch in a one-room frame building at 313 W. California Ave.

1893: The school moves to a former U.S. military headquarters building.

1894: The building is destroyed by fire, but all 81 students continue their education at the Methodist Episcopal Church on Third Street.

1895: Oklahoma High School graduates its first accredited class, the first in the state. There are six graduates.

1910: The campus is finished in time for graduation, thanks to a $300,000 bond issue the student body actively helped instigate. The building was designed by Layton, Wemyss-Smith and Hawk.

1919: The opening of other high schools prompts the name to be changed to Central High School to avoid confusion.

1968: Central High School closes, but the building is used for other educational purposes into the 1970s when it is shuttered.

1981: Southwestern Bell Telephone bids $2.7 million for the building. The school board votes 4-2 in favor of the deal. Citing immediate capital needs, the board declined to wait for the Oklahoma City Museum of Art to raise enough money to match the offer.

1984: After a $10 million renovation, the building is dedicated as One Bell Central, with a Central High School museum in the foyer. It become the telephone company's Oklahoma headquarters.

2005: SBC Oklahoma sells the building to Oklahoma Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Co. for an undisclosed sum. The insurance company will occupy it; SBC employees will move to the company's other downtown offices."

06-15-2005, 01:27 PM
Since this is bring the insurance company's employees downtown, and SBC is moving there employees to another location downtown, this should increase occupancy downtown. Right?

06-15-2005, 07:29 PM
It should. Most of SBC's downtown staff are clustered around Dean A. McGee and Broadway, and there's plenty of room for more. SBC also used to own 707 N. Robinson, which is now the Department of Environmental Quality.

06-21-2005, 07:37 AM
Too bad this insurance company is already setting a bad tone among historians.....

This sucks......

"Loss of alumni museum dampens spirits

By Richard Mize
The Oklahoman

School's out forever for the Central High School Alumni Association when Farmers Union takes possession of the former Oklahoma City schoolhouse from SBC Oklahoma this fall.
The alumni museum, which has been in the east foyer of the historic building for 21 years, will have to go because of liability issues, said Paul Jackson, spokesman for Oklahoma Farmers Union Insurance Co., which is under contract to buy the historic building.

It was shocking news for the alumni association, said Vernon Forshee, Class of 1946, who is on the board.

"It just broke my heart. We've had the museum since 1983," Forshee said. "We would like to stay in the building. You're going to have a lot of upset people."

SBC Oklahoma, called Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. when it bought the school at 800 N Harvey, has allowed the museum to stay on "as a community service," spokesman Andy Morgan said.

"It was a handshake deal," he said.

Closing it will be a heartache for Forshee.

"To be honest with you, if our museum is moved out of the Central High School, it won't be worth a damn," Forshee said Monday.

Aside from the liability of maintaining such an area open to the public, Farmers Union needs space for its own history gallery, Jackson said.

"We hope to find some space in there to place our own historical artifacts. We've been around since 1905," he said. "One of the reasons we were interested in the property was the timeline reflects our own."

Forshee wants the museum, open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Fridays, to stay put. Barring that, he said he hopes the Oklahoma Historical Society will find space for the artifacts at the new Oklahoma History Center to open in November.

Not a problem, said Dr. Bob Blackburn, director of the agency and state historic preservation officer.

Blackburn lauded the energy and dedication of the alumni group, which operates the museum for the Oklahoma City/County Historical Society. Storing, cataloging and managing the artifacts could strengthen their value for posterity, he said.

Blackburn acknowledged that closing the alumni museum would bring a loss.

"Just having a little office in the building is nostalgic. But the building is still going to be there," he said.

In fact, the exterior of the Central High School building, known as Oklahoma High School when it opened in 1910, cannot be changed. When Southwestern Bell renovated and restored the schoolhouse in the early 1980s, it did so under a federal tax credit program that stipulated that the state historical society actually owns the facade, Blackburn said.

"We own the outside of the building," he said. "They can't change a window. They can't sandblast the limestone. ... We own it." "