25 Years of the 11 Most Endangered List: Oklahoma City's Gold Dome Bank

Posted on: May 30th, 2012 by David Garber

Oklahoma City's Gold Dome Bank is unique. Built in 1958 as a Citizens State Bank, the roof is a geodesic dome made of anodized aluminum panels that gleam in the sunlight. It was the fifth geodesic dome built in the world, and was designed using futurist Buckminster Fuller's patented plans.

An Oklahoma City postcard showing the Citizens State Bank in the 1950s.

In a January 2011 article for Yahoo! Voices, Oklahoma City resident Brandon Bowman wrote: "The dome is constructed of 625 diamond-shaped anodized aluminum panels which were originally a bright gold color, but they have faded over the years to patchy shades of gold and silver. The dome is supported by aluminum struts which have also aged from black to a chalky white color. But despite the effects of weathering, the overall effect is futuristic, unearthly, and immediately attention getting. For those with an active imagination, it looks like a domed metal spacecraft has landed in the middle of Oklahoma City. Which was what the architect and builder intended; a modern and technological marvel of a building, a real "traffic stopper" for it's time."

But when the bank building was listed on our America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list in 2002, it wasn't for deferred maintenance. The building had been purchased by a new bank that wanted to demolish it and build a new branch on the site -- news that Oklahoma's preservation community wasn't thrilled about. After organizing under the name "Citizens for the Golden Dome," supporters gathered to rally in the streets, lobby the city's Historic Preservation and Landmark Commission to give it landmark status, and even enlisted the Sonic drive-in across the street to put a preservation message on its billboard.

On the inside, the panels still gleam a bright gold.

Fortunately for Oklahoma City, the new owners delayed their plans to demolish the building, giving supporters an opportunity to find a new buyer for the building that was interested in saving it. In 2003, just as time was starting to run out, local optometrist Dr. Irene Lam -- who had been looking for an interesting building to expand her practice in -- stepped up to the plate. Since then, the building has been listed as an Oklahoma Historical Site and placed  on the National Register of Historic Places.

Over the last decade, the Gold Dome has seen tenants come and go. It is now used as an event space, a multi-cultural community center, Dr. Lam's practice, and home to two art galleries. A popular restaurant that had located in a portion of the space, Prohibition Room, recently closed, and some have speculated that the building might work best in its original function: as home to a single tenant. For now, not knowing what it might become down the road, the community is just glad the building is still standing.

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