Q&A - January 6, 2017

One of the most gratifying things for those of us involved with the renovation of the Old Post Office Complex in downtown Okmulgee has been the knowledge we are bringing new life to a forgotten and deteriorating building—a grand old structure that needed a lot of attention. OSUIT is rescuing not only the building itself but several elements within the building, e.g., old doors, hardware, fixtures, moldings, plaster walls, brick, and skylights.

As with any renovation project, it is necessary for things to be torn apart and ugly for a while, before they can be put back together again and look pretty. This week, let’s talk about the demolition phase of the project.

Q:Why was it necessary to demo so much of the old post office building?

It is true— there has been an extensive amount of demolition on the first floor of the Old Post Office Complex, but nothing has been disturbed or removed that was not necessary. As I explained in an earlier column, the first floor had to be gutted to allow for an entirely new layout (residential use rather than retail) and due to the fact there were several different floor heights throughout the main level. But one of the reasons this particular building was selected was because it offered a large amount of usable space in areas that already required a great amount of renovation. Years of neglect and water infiltration had taken its toll on this structure, more so than many other buildings in downtown Okmulgee. So, many of the interior surfaces needed to be replaced anyway.

But I remind you this was never intended to be a period restoration of this building back to its original 1918 condition. Such a restoration would have been nearly impossible in this case due to the untold number of times the building had been remodeled for various purposes over the decades and serious lack of a photographic record of the building’s early years.

This old structure will never serve as a functioning post office again, or as a grocery store, or a plumbing supply house, or a tractor supply store, or as any of the other businesses that have previously occupied the lower level of the building. It is being renovated to become a two-story apartment complex with historic charm and modern amenities. The two connecting buildings are being made into one unified floor plan, and this required several interior walls to be opened up or removed.

Major water damage to the eastern side of the building left some areas unsafe, making it necessary to completely rebuild the east stairs as well as some of the upper level ceilings, walls, and floors. Unforeseen foundation issues necessitated the rebuilding of the entrance stairs on the western side of the building. But when these areas are completed, they will be structurally sound and look authentic to the building.

Thank you for your interest in following the progress on our downtown student housing project. If you have more questions about the Old Post Office Complex on 5th and Grand, please forward them to me at osuit-president@okstate.edu.