21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City by MGallery

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Discover the 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City by MGallery, which was once the Oklahoma City Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant.

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21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City by MGallery, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2019, dates back to 1916.

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Located in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City, the 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City by MGallery would not exist today had it not been for the Ford Motor Company’s groundbreaking Model T. While the building is now a luxurious hotel listed on the National Register for Historic Places, it was once a gigantic manufacturing plant that created the legendary automobile in large quantities. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Model T was rolling off the assembly line in the thousands. The car’s durability and affordable cost made the vehicle an overnight sensation among American consumers. To capitalize on this success, Henry Ford began constructing a series of regional assembly plants that could quickly construct the Model T from predeveloped kits. Twenty-four additional factories soon sprang up throughout the United States during the 1910s, including this massive complex in the center of Oklahoma City. Known as the Oklahoma City Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant, the famed industrial architect, Albert Kahn, oversaw the building’s construction. Its appearance featured a number of the brilliant architectural aesthetics that made Kahn’s designs celebrated across the nation, including beautiful octagonal concrete columns and geometric terra-cotta ornaments.

When it finally opened in 1916, the location became one of the company’s most productive factories. At its height, the plant maintained a workforce of several hundred workers who were capable of manufacturing 200 cars every day. The facility was producing such a great number of Model Ts that Ford had to expand the site exponentially in 1924. However, its success was short-lived. When the Great Depression struck during the 1930s, the plant ceased its construction of the Model T due to suppressed market demand. The factory managed to survive the economic calamity by building small car components, which it continued to do over the next several decades. Yet, the Oklahoma City Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant eventually closed down for good in 1967. The Fred Jones Manufacturing Company then operated out of the building as a wholesale parts distributor for Ford. But when that business also vacated the premises in 2013, it was left completely abandoned. Salvation fortunately arrived a year later in the form of 21c Museum Hotels. Committed to saving this wonderful historic structure, 21c Museum Hotels decided to renovate the entire space into a luxurious boutique hotel. Under renovation for nearly four years, the building reopened as the 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City in 2018. 21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City by MGallery has also been a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2019.

  • About the Location +

    Oklahoma City is one of the most exciting places to visit in the entire South. Not only is Oklahoma City the state capital of Oklahoma, but it is also its largest, with a population of around 655,000. This fantastic metropolis first came into existence during the waning days of the Old American West. Most of the area’s original Euro-American inhabitants arrived in the region amid what many historians have since referred to as “The Land Run” or the “Run of ’89.” Between the late 1880s and early 1900s, some 10,000 settlers arrived in Oklahoma’s “unassigned land,” the territory in which the federal government had not assigned to any Native Americans. (Oklahoma has existed for many years prior as “Indian Territory,” a place where the federal government had controversially relocated various Native American tribes.) The greatest wave of settlement transpired in 1889, though, when nearly half the number of Oklahoma City’s original pioneers arrived in the area. While the initial wave of pioneers were frontiersmen and cattle ranchers, more ordinary settlers—such as merchants and laborers—began congregating upon rudimentary plots of land within the unassigned lands. Most began settling near a train stop created by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, called the “Oklahoma Station.” In just a matter of months, the settlers had gradually formed their disparate plots of land together to form an actual community around the isolated depot. Due to mounting pressure to legalize the land rush, Congress and President Benjamin Harrison formally organized the region into seven counties and approved the chartering of “Oklahoma City” in the spring of 1890. Despite Oklahoma City’s growth, the nearby town of Guthrie became the first capital. A rivalry between the two communities then existed for the next two decades, until a referendum permanently established Oklahoma City as the state capital in 1910. (Oklahoma had just become a state itself only three years prior.)

    The population of Oklahoma City continued to swell, reaching well over 64,000 people on the eve of World War I. Its growth had largely been spurred by a spate of commercial real estate development, driven by countless entrepreneurs who coordinated closely with both the city’s Chamber of Commerce and the state government. Many prominent industries debuted in the community during the early 20th century, including dozens of heavy manufacturing operations like the Oklahoma City Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant. Yet perhaps the greatest to debut at the time was its lucrative meatpacking trade. Its proximity to hundreds of cattle ranches rendered the city a natural fit to distribute livestock and meat throughout the southern United States, giving rise to many warehouses and food processing plants. (Local farmers also transported various crops into Oklahoma City, too, such as cotton, wheat, and corn. Nonetheless, the distribution of livestock remained the primary staple that local agriculturalists sent into the community.) Stockyards in Oklahoma City became a regular site, supplanting the ones in Chicago and Omaha in both size and prosperity. And the discovery of oil just beyond the city limits in the 1920s transformed the community into one of the most industrious places for the domestic production of petroleum and natural gas products. The greater Oklahoma City area even had around 1,400 derricks in operation at the height of the Roaring Twenties. People continued to flock into the area over the next several decades, as well, with the city’s population increasing to an astonishing 300,000 by the 1950s. Today, Oklahoma City is still one of the most important communities in the South. It remains the home to many prominent industries and hosts such renowned cultural attractions like the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, the Myriad Botanical Gardens, Bricktown, and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.


  • About the Architecture +

    The Ford Motor Company hired the renowned architect Albert Kahn to help design its new assembly plant in downtown Oklahoma City during the early 1900s. A celebrated industrial engineer, Kahn had already made a name for himself designing similar structures for rival car manufacturers in Detroit and Buffalo. He revolutionized the layout of the typical industrial plant, adapting it to suit the innovative manufacturing techniques employed inside the buildings at the time. The hallmark of Kahn’s designs typically revolved around the use of concrete, which allowed him to install such groundbreaking features like large metal windows and spacious openings in the walls. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior: “Kahn designed long, linear buildings with multiple floors. Wide rows of concrete columns supported the concrete floors embedded with steel reinforcing bars.” Furthermore, the agency noted that the Oklahoma City Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant was a great example of Kahn’s approach to industrial design. In the words of the Department of the Interior:

    • “The Oklahoma City Plant embodies the industrial innovations Kahn developed for Ford and other manufacturing facilities in the early twentieth century, specifically the “all-under-one-roof” structure. Such buildings improved the efficiency of production by reducing the time and distance between processes. The four-story building’s reinforced concrete frame provided the uninterrupted floor space necessary for Ford’s assembly line process.”

    Kahn laid rebar in an overlapping grid system centered around a floorplan of reinforced trusses and columns, enabling the Ford Motor Company to operate heavy machinery from within the structure. Massive elevators also transported completed vehicles between floors, as well as to the loading bays, where trains directly stopped at the building to ship them as freight. Kahn also made used of gigantic windows to provide a source of light and ventilation into the factory, which allowed for the Ford Motor Company to reduce its reliance on electricity. Yet, the exterior appearance of the Oklahoma City Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant focused more on practicality rather than ornamentation, with Kahn’s work specifically choosing “form over function.” As such, as the U.S. Department of the Interior determined that: “utilitarian finishes included concrete floors, painted brick walls, and exposed concrete ceilings. As was common with any industrial property that incorporated both sales and manufacturing, offices and showrooms displayed a higher level of finish, including plaster walls and ceilings and terrazzo floors.”

    In the years following Kahn’s initial work on the structure, later architects renovated the plant to feature some aspects of the Art Deco movement. Art Deco architecture itself is among the most famous architectural styles in the world. The form originally emerged from a desire from architects to break with past precedents to find architectural inspiration from historical examples. Instead, professionals within the field aspired to forge their own design principles. More importantly, they hoped that their ideas would better reflect the technological advances of the modern age. As such, historians today often consider Art Deco to be a part of the much wider proliferation of cultural “Modernism” that first appeared at the dawn of the 20th century. Art Deco as a style first became popular in 1922, when Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen submitted the first blueprints to feature the form for contest to develop the headquarters of the Chicago Tribune. While his concepts did not win over the judges, they were widely publicized, nonetheless. Architects in both North America and Europe soon raced to copy his format in their own unique ways, giving birth to modern Art Deco architecture. The international embrace of Art Deco had risen so quickly that it was the central theme to the renowned Exposition des Art Decoratifs in Paris a few years later. Architects the world over fell in love with Art Deco’s sleek, linear appearance defined by a series of sharp setbacks. They also adored its geometric decorations that featured such motifs like chevrons and zigzags. But in spite of the deep admiration people felt toward Art Deco, interest with the style gradually dissipated throughout the mid-20th century. Many examples of Art Deco architecture survive today, with the some of the best located in such places like New York City, Chicago, and Miami Beach.


  • Art Collection +

    At 21c, contemporary art is integral to our mission and integrated throughout all public spaces, from the lobby to meeting and event spaces, which double as exhibition galleries, to exterior spaces, connecting to the city’s streets and sidewalks. Visitors, tourists, and the public, as well as hotel and restaurant guests, are greeted outside of the building by Woozy Blossom, a 16-foot tall, perforated steel tree that produces intermittent mist during the hot summer months, engulfing visitors and passersby in its spray and allowing them to revel in its cool, moist air. The fog is in a constant state of flux, sensitive to the slightest changes in wind, temperature, and humidity. Simultaneously eerie, unexpected, and playful, Woozy Blossom transforms the urban exterior of 21c Oklahoma City into an ever-changing, otherworldly environment. The work, which offers a seductive invitation to interact, both complements and disrupts its surroundings: a tree among trees, its industrial materials and mechanics provide material reference to the history of this former factory site. Two of 21c Oklahoma City’s Purple Penguins stand atop the entrance awning to the building, a welcoming sight for out of town and local visitors alike. On rainy days when visitors might more likely view the sidewalk than look above, a poem by local group Short Order Poems, created out of waterproof paint and hand-cut stencils, becomes visible on the sidewalk. Otherwise undetectable, the poem’s appearance each rainy day is a reminder of art’s resilient power.


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