Although the fully erect Devon Tower now dominates the skyline, the coolest building in downtown OKC is the First National Center. Constructed in 1935 by famed developer Seymour Slackmeyer, the building honors Oklahoma City’s first 50 years and pays tribute to the gaudy art deco style that dominated American architecture before World War II.
Unfortunately, the building has dealt with its fair share of problems over the past few decades. In the 1990s, local philanthropist and heiress Francine Overholser Kilpatrick-Kirkpatrick donated the building to Feed the Children, who used the building’s parking garage as a vault to hold excess Golden Hominy and the vintage porn collection that Larry Jones was using for “research” purposes.
In the late 1990s, Feed the Children sold First National to New York investors, which pushed the property into a pattern of being owned by greedy out-of-state owners who really don’t give a rat’s ass about Oklahoma City. They all promised renovations and restorations, but usually ended up filing bankruptcy or living in prison. That’s led to the building’s sad, current state as a useless, neglected landmark that’s fallen into disrepair.
Well, except for that Great Banking Hall. The majestic room is located on the second floor of the building and is throwback to those grand marble and granite bank lobbies of the 30’s and 40’s that you’d see henchmen robbing in an old movie. With a bank no longer anchoring the building, the Hall now hosts weddings, proms, bar mitzvahs, corporate events, reunions, swinger parties, Jedi OKC “Dark Side” socials, etc. Here’s a pic from Doug Loudenbeck’s site:
Because of the beauty of that Great Banking Hall, Oklahoma City resident Carissa Stevens stopped by the First National Building a few weeks ago to snap some photos for her obscure local style blog “Scout Studios.” It seemed like a sweet, innocent idea – she was at an event downtown, the building was unlocked, she had a new Louboutin bag – why not trespass in and take some photos with the building’s marble walls and art deco as a backdrop? That would be something fun for her mom, dad, BFF and eight other monthly blog visitors to see, right? What could go wrong with that?
Well, a lot…
Apparently, Carissa forgot that the people who own and manage the building are a mean assholes. A few days after Carissa published the photos, she received the following mean Facebook message from Jamie McCammon, the First National Center building manager…
Yes, they want to protect the “integrity and historic significance of the space.” Uhm, then why not let a blogger write a nice post about the damn thing and post a few pictures honoring that history? Or better yet, just sell the building for a reasonable price to a local developer who will rescue it, restore it and make it usable. You know, the exact thing current ownership and management won’t do.
I spoke with Carissa after she received the notification. She claims that she didn’t see or spot any trespassing signs. According to her, she and a companion took a few pics and explored the great hall for an hour before a security guard asked them to leave because he was locking up. It’s not like they were wearing spy gear and dodging hidden lasers like Catherine Zeta-Jones. They were not intentionally committing a crime. They assumed the building was open.
Carissa told me that she tried to explain this to the First National people, and they kindly responded with an official cease and desist from their attorney T. Matthew Smith, an associate with the Hiersche Law Firm. He’s such an important and powerful attorney that he’s not even pictured on their website. I guess his specialty is writing mean, assholey, threatening letters.
Here’s a snippet from his letter (view it in it’s entirety here):
Remove the photos from all social networks, including but not limited to Facebook and Instagram. These photographs will be preserved as evidence of your unlawful trespassing. If you continue to use these photographs… your actions will be evidence of willful trespassing.
In the event you do not comply with this demand, FNC will pursue all available legal remedies, including seeking monetary damages, injunctive relief, and the order that you pay court costs an attorney’s fees. Your liability and exposure under such legal action could be considerable.
Jesus Christ, no wonder this building is falling apart and all attempts at a restoration have failed. The owners and management are total fuck ups. Instead of spending time trying to fix the building, they’re getting their kicks going after a blogger. I’ll bet a conversation went like this…
“Hey, this blogger took a couple of pics inside our building for her style blog. Cool, huh? What should we do? Like them on Facebook and send her a thank you note?”
“No, I have a better idea. Let’s pretend she snuck into the Louvre and took pics of the Mona Lisa! Get our attorney to write her a letter that threatens to ruin her life and hit her with insane financial burdens. That will show her!
Frightened by this high level of legal harassment, Carissa agreed to remove the pics from her blog, Facebook page and all other social media channels. However…
Thanks to the always pesky Google cache, I’ve been able to locate the controversial photos. Since I like to stand up for fellow bloggers, think legal bullies and greedy out-of-state property owners are assholes, and hope to have the First National Center sue me and then turn around and become an advertiser, I’ve decided to publish the pics here. The only catch is I had to make a few digital alterations to the photos. This was in an attempt to honor the building’s “historical integrity” and American fair use laws. Check them out…
Hey, it’s Carissa with Oklahoman downtown business writer Steve Lackmeyer! He has a secret office underneath the First National Center where he sleeps at night. Also, he’s no relation to Seymour Slackmeyer.
OMG! It’s Facebook weatherman Aaron Tuttle. He frequently uses the radiant walls of the First National Center to improve his tan.
Wow, Wes Welker and Hipster Boo were there, too! They really enjoy that classic art deco style that you can clearly see in that photo. Can you believe Carissa had the nerve to take and post these pics?! It’s destroying the buildings historical integrity. Nobody will want to book a wedding in that banking hall now.
Carissa was able to lure Al Eschbach from the building’s air vents with strategically placed beer and radishes. He was in the middle of playing a game of basketball with”The Littles.”
Hey, it’s our friend Edgar Cruz and his fancy complicated guitar! E.C. is a huge fan of art deco and will sometimes just show up at the building and serenade the art deco walls with classic acoustic tunes.
Well look at that! Even though he can’t get a bio pic on his law firm’s website, asshole lawyer T. Matthew Smith figured out a way to airbrush his mug on the historic art deco walls of the building. As Regular Jim Traber would say, “What a punk.”
Ayyyye! It’s Fogzie here! Tresspassin’ aint cool, kids, and neither is pouring grease down da’ drains! FOG! Aaaaaaye!
So, what do you think? Obviously, we were not checking out world-class photography there. In some of the pics, you can’t tell if Carissa’s posing or being held hostage by a suspect in Cold Case. Regardless, isn’t the reaction by building management over-the-top and ridiculous? They definitely put the ass in asshole. If they dedicated as much energy into restoring and renovating the building as they do going after local bloggers, then maybe First National Center would become a usable skyscraper again, and not just some place to allegedly trespass and take a few pics for a style blog on a boring Friday night.