OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – No one who ever walked into the Great Banking Hall at First National Bank and Trust ever forgot the first time they did, including Gary Brooks, who had big dreams as a young businessman.
“I got my first loan from a loan officer right over in that corner,” he points. “I was 21 years old.”
“Was it approved,” asks his tour guest?
“Yes,” he chuckles.
Cut to more than 40 years later and Brooks is a partner in this this iconic, downtown structure, more than a million square feet, 32 stories and ready to regain its place as a gem in our capitol city.
“It took a lot of people to pull this off,” he admits. “My wife says I’m the conductor who can’t play the instruments but I know what the music should sound like.”
Brooks put together a deal to purchase the building six years ago.
It closed in 2016 for a complete renovation.
Gary insists, “Anything that was original, that was still in the building we restored.”
Back in 1931, the First National Tower and next-door Ramsey Tower went up at the same time.
A gentlemen’s bet produced a race to see who could complete construction first.
Sound film of that era still exists at the Oklahoma History Center.
We hung off the outside of this building with some brave window washers in 1999 when the place was still open.
This week we watched as Christmas came early and Brooks couldn’t wait to take the wrappings off the furniture that would adorn the old bank hall, transformed to hotel lobby, bars, and two restaurants, a major meeting place.
“I would call it Oklahoma City’s living room,” he says.
Some of the rooms are complete as examples of what is to come, 193 apartments from one bedroom up to penthouse level and 146 hotel rooms.
The address at 120 North Robinson has seen most of Oklahoma history, boom and bust, sunshine and shadow.
Someday soon, the doors will open again, better than ever.
Brooks says, “It’s actually better now than I ever saw it.”
For more information on the First National building and its renovations, go to firstnationalokc.com.