Monday, July 20, 2015

Old Route 66 Loop in OKC: The Milk Bottle Building

The "Milk Bottle Building" of Oklahoma City sits along old Route 66 on Classen, just north of NW 23rd. It is another feature along the forgotten loop of the "Mother Road" through Oklahoma City.

 Oklahoman reporter Kent Ruth wrote that the triangular building was built  as a grocery store about 1925.  His source was A.E. Warren and it was built by John J. Gordon. His source further claimed it had been a bootleg liquer store in the rowdy 1930's (Ruth, Kent. "Historical crooks, crannies." Oklahoman, Feb. 10, 1974, pg. 160). Ruth later heard from a long time resident who shared the building had been built in 1920-21 for Steffen ice cream. (Ruth, Kent. "Classen history inspires memories", Oklahoman, Aug.10, 1980, pg. 177).

The uniquely shaped structure of the bottle was designed by Arthur D. Nichols in 1932. The Oklahoma A & M engineering alum wass then working for the Boardman Company.  The sketch was transformed by metal worker Rudolph  Stavanuagh and another worker who built the metal frame and applied the sheet metal. Joe Flynm was the one to actually place the bottle in its location. ("Hatter Had Shop Under Milk Bottle," Oklahoman, April 7, 1997, pg. 71).
Photo by M.Hudson, 2013

The Bottle as Business
Mary Ann French said her father ran a hat shop there from 1930 to 1935. Frank Gallatin cleaned and built men's headwear before moving downtown to operate the Empire Hat Co. ("Hatter Had Shop Under Milk Bottle," Oklahoman, April 7, 1997, pg. 71).

Oklahoman columnist Robert E. Lee reported one of his reader had information about it from a decade later. Gayle Pierce said it was a "Flying Chicken" resturant that used the unique concept of delivering fried chicken by motorcycle during 1945-1947.( Lee, Robert E. "Milk Bottle Building Once Houses 'Flying Chicken', Oklahoman, Sept. 15, 1997, pg.70).

In 1951 the unique structure caused a bit of head scratching as authorities comtemplated widening the Classen street but found the building in the path.  Reluctant to destroy the feature a plan to swap the land for other park land and even moving the structure was considered.  The slight jog on Classen is the result. ("Milk Bottle Raises Classen Problem", Oklahoman, Aug. 29, 1951, pg. 6).

For years the log on the bottle promoted a now discontinued company, The Townley Milk Company, and was replaced by Oklahoman based Braums Dairy.

In 1993 the historic building and its iconic symbol barely missed destruction from fire.  Now housing a deli Hop Ky, operated by Sang Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant.  The area, now in a growing Asian district, was reflected in this new multi-cultural element. The article noted the building had been a grocery, a record store, the Beer Box, a florist, and a take out resturant (Owen, Peggy. "Landmark Milk Bottle Building Survives Fire, Repairs to Start", Oklahoman, April 25, 1993, pg. 11)
--Marilyn A. Hudson

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