View Full Version : Petoleum & Petroleum Club Buildings - 2 Downtown Obscurities

Doug Loudenback
03-03-2007, 03:56 PM
I've decided to join the two of these similarly named buildings together into an upcoming blog post even if they have distinctly different histories ... one is relatively old (Petroleum, to become Kermac, eventually to become the Dowell Center, dating to 1926-27) and the other a more contemporary building immediately to the Petroleum Building's east side, dating to 1957. But, since they are next door to each other and since both are relatively "unknown" in the 21st century, I've decided to combine them in an upcoming blog post, not yet done since my research is not yet done. For now ... this preview ...

The original Petroleum Building (1926-27, 18 stories) (to become the Republic Building) was acquired by Kerr-McGee during one of its own expansion periods and the building was expanded in 1964 (apparently roughly doubling the east-west depth and adding 2 stories) to become the Kermac Building (subsequently known by various other names, notably the Midland Center, now the Dowell Center). The "rebuild" in 1964 was apparently a rebuild as much as was the Skirvin Tower was when it became the 101 Park Avenue Building -- not a facelifting or facade at all, but a building stripped to its core, and then, the addition of what one might call the "east wing", and, as well, by the addition of 2 stories to make it 20.

Kerr-McGee, of course, moved on with its Kerr-McGee Tower. Midland Mortgage eventually acquired the building and it became the Midland Center. However, asbestos (whose idea was it to use asbestos, anyway?) has been the nemesis for this building's prominence and survival even though the 1st floor remains operative today in the "Dowell Center" building. 19 floors of the 20 story building were dropped from use in 1992 when it was the Midland Center (apparently because of the cost associated with asbestos removal). From what I've read so far, this building was built/rebuilt very nicely in 1964 and with excellent materials (probably even good asbestos!) ... I've been in the building many years back and, from what I observed, it struck me as very nicely done. I have NO doubt that it was a much better building than the 1926-26 original Petroleum Building, but for the high quality asbestos!

Anyway, here's a comparison of the "old" and the "new" ...

Original photos are from the Oklahoman archives (I've tried to clean them up but that's hard to do very well) ... I'm looking for better original photo images than are shown here and other than the "postcard" images which are in my vintage website pages (not shown here) ...

Taken in 1931 ... at 18 stories and not that "deep" east/west ... when the building was built in 1926-27, it was then the tallest OKC downtown building ... the distinction ended in 1931 with the completion of Ramsey Tower & 1st National Center and it was relegated to 3rd place ...

It got a very close lick with fire from an empty hotel next door in 1947 but escaped any serious damage ...

Taken in 1964 (very bad image) after expansion and becoming the Kermac Building, expanding its breadth east/west and height to 20 stories ... a wholly new structure emerged but for the remnant "core" elements of the original Petroleum Building ...

These were taken this morning ... it ain't that bad a building, imo, at all! When I do my blog article, I'll describe why I think as I do in more detail ...

But, the other building, the one hosting the original Petroleum Club, was called the Petroleum Club Building and was built by Liberty Bank when Liberty still occupied what we now call City Place. As far as I'm aware at this point, the Petroleum Club Building (don't yet know what it's name is today) is pretty much unchanged ... it once was Sonic's home and also an insurance company (1st Life Assurance?) and it has not substantially changed (except that the drive-through tellers for Liberty Bank which occupied much of the 1st floor are no longer there) and, of course, the Petroleum Club which occupied the top 2 floors moved with Liberty Bank to the new Liberty Bank (Chase) when it opened. It was an original 16 story structure in 1956-57.

Below are a couple of grainy Oklahoman images from 1957 Oklahoman articles or advertisements and a couple of pics that I took this morning ...

North Side

South Side

The original Petroleum Club occupied the 2 top floors (taken from the south side) ...

That's it for the preview! The blog post should be done in a day or three, after I've finished my research. If any of you have any historic knowledge (or just want to talk), chime in!

Comm'l Real Estate Guy
03-05-2007, 11:04 AM
I have quite a bit of info on this property, but would rather tell you than type it all out here. Post your email or phone number, and I'll fill you in on what I know.

03-05-2007, 11:06 AM
Good post Doug, on another note, you should do an article on Rick Dowell himself, the silent giant of downtown real estate. Amazing how he rarely gets any press.

03-05-2007, 11:52 AM
The Petroleum Club Building is SO ugly...

03-05-2007, 01:50 PM
Isn't most of the east addition an automated parking garage?

Doug Loudenback
03-05-2007, 03:07 PM
Good post Doug, on another note, you should do an article on Rick Dowell himself, the silent giant of downtown real estate. Amazing how he rarely gets any press.
Thanks, Metro ... my "people" blog posts are pretty much restricted to those who have historically established their prominence ... pretty much a "past tense" kind of thing ... but, as far as Rick Dowell is concerned, he may well become one of those people after time moves on and he does the same, past tense ... THAT SAID ... a good MIDTOWN post, w/o focusing on Rick, is in the works ... this area is clearly one of the most potentially vibrant developments in recent Okc "downtown/midtown" stuff ... but ... it's in its infancy so, since my crystal balls NEVER work ... I'll focus, for now, on what "is going on" rather than personalities, in this context, if that makes sense.

Hell, my momma's doctor before I was born officed in the Osler Building and I was born in 1943 in a vintage St. Anthony building (which part, I don't know). So, yes, this area has a personal interest to me! But, beyond that, the Midtown developments fostered by Rick Dowell could well become the things that history talks about ... I'm certainly hoping so. We shall see.

I'm just shaking free of some other obligations, but this general topic is the next on my list, after I finish the "Petroleum" buildings stuff.

I love this town!

Doug Loudenback
03-05-2007, 03:37 PM
The Petroleum Club Building is SO ugly...
I strongly disagree. When it was built in 1957, the perspectives then were very positive ... and I personally still think that it's good looking ... even if it's pretty much obscure today as to "what it is", relegated, in most people's eyes, to nothing more than a parking garage, nothing more and with no ties to history. In my opinon, it's a very postive piece of Okc history, and, as well, a good looking piece of the status quo.

But, even if you're assuming this place to be nothing more than a parking garage, can you tell me another "parking garage" in Okc that is better looking?

Do it! :bow:

Doug Loudenback
03-06-2007, 10:13 AM
The 1st installment of my blog post, "Petroleum Building & Petroleum Club Building - 2 Obscurities", is in place at Doug Dawgz Blog: Petroleum & Petroleum Club Buildings ( . I'll edit the post to add the history of the Petroleum Club Building built by Liberty National Bank in 1957 in a day or three but most of the pics are there now.

And, to note, I've received 2 communications from sources here who wish to remain anonymous ... and they will ... but thanks to both and they know who they are!

Larger pics are generally available in the blog post, but here they are in smaller size and without the commentary present in the blog post.

Petroleum Building

After the 1931 Neighbors to The South

A Grainy Image from the Oklahoman's Archives

A 1947 Fire Next Door On My 4th Birthday

The Building Today

The Petroleum Club Building

The Original Petroleum Club Occupied the Top 2 Floors

03-06-2007, 12:10 PM
It's probably the tallest garage we have. I'll give you that. :)