The tragedy of Mummers Theater and the failed development that spelled its demise

Architecture Development Preservation Southwest
John Johansen's Mummers Theater was renovated into the Stage Center in the 1990s. (Courtesy Elliott+Associates Architects)

John Johansen’s Mummers Theater was renovated into the Stage Center in the 1990s. (Courtesy Elliott+Associates Architects)

The sad saga of the destruction of John Johansen’s Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City has just gotten even sadder. AN has reported numerous times on the effort to save Johansen’s 1970 tour de force Stage Center theater, but that battle was lost in 2015 when the extraordinary building was destroyed to make way for a complex of four corporate towers designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects.

Robert A.M. Stern Architects' design for the Mummers site. (Courtesy RAMSA)

Robert A.M. Stern Architects’ design for the Mummers site. (Courtesy RAMSA)

The theater was destroyed and the site is now a vacant lot with a large rainwater-filled hole in downtown Oklahoma City. The Oklahoman newspaper and its reporter Steve Lackmeyer report that the tower project, meant to be a home for OGE Energy Corporation, has been put on hold due to the downturn in oil prices by its developer and builder Clayco.

But Lackmeyer reports that the story is more complicated and may in part have been stopped because the developers wanted a government subsidy to build the project and it was not forthcoming.

(Courtesy RAMSA)

(Courtesy RAMSA)

OGE acknowledged that “their vision is no longer feasible (and) this is a prime site and deserving of a bold development and OGE is committed to preserving it.”

How sad that the site once had one of the boldest buildings in the United States and certainly the most distinguished work of architecture in the city and was destroyed to make way for a failed “bold development.”

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