21c’s Space for the New Century
The new museum hotel moves in on Film Row
Photos by Simon Hurst
A new hotel that is one of Oklahoma City’s most intriguing new developments opens this summer, combining luxurious guest rooms and suites with a first-rate art museum.
The new 21c Museum Hotel is located at 900 W Main in the old Fred Jones assembly plant. Built in 1916, the century-old structure has been gutted and re-designed, all while maintaining the integrity of the past.
“Renovations started in 2014 and are expected to be complete by this summer,” says Holly McKnight, director of public relations for the 21c company. “Guests and visitors can expect a renovation that brings new life to the building, but with a thoughtful, contemporary design that nods to the building’s rich history.”
The Louisville, Kentucky-based boutique hotel and restaurant group, whose name derives from “21st century,” was founded by contemporary art collectors and preservationists Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson. They opened the first hotel and museum in 2006, and other hotels are located in Bentonville, Durham, Cincinnati and Lexington. In addition to Oklahoma City, future hotels are planned for Nashville, Indianapolis and Kansas City.
All renovations come with a unique set of challenges, McKnight said, but their design team wanted to keep as many of the original elements as possible.
“The original column grid remains, alluding to the full volume of the space,” she says. “Finishes and furnishings are inspired by the assembly line and technology of the automotive industry, while many of the building’s original features have been restored, repaired or recreated – including the showroom’s original terrazzo floor, freight elevator doors, historic storefront, entry canopy and marquee, decorative brick and terra cotta, exterior sconces and the Fred Jones Manufacturing signage.”
21c Oklahoma City will employ nearly 150 people. The hotel offers 135 rooms, and 23 of them are suites. Many guest rooms feature sweeping views of the downtown skyline, as well as abundant natural light and an airy loft-like feel. The 21c Suite, built in the original penthouse, features nearly 3,000 square feet of living space, including two bedrooms, plus more than 2,000 square feet of outdoor terrace with views of downtown.
Another unique component to 21c is the art museum, incorporating a 50,000-square-foot, multi-venue space dedicated to showcasing the work of both emerging and established living artists.
“Art is never used as decoration at 21c,” McKnight says. “The property is designed specifically to showcase art. It is meant to challenge, amuse, stir and excite. It’s thought-provoking and entertaining. The museum is open free of charge to the public 24/7 and is supplemented by a broad range of cultural programming that will be responsive to the Oklahoma City community.”
Exhibitions are organized primarily from the 21c collection, augmented by loans from museums, galleries, artists and other public and private collections.
“The 21c collection includes painting, sculpture, installation, photography, performance, film, video and digital art. The collection features more than 2,500 works by artists from all over the world, reflecting the global nature of contemporary culture,” McKnight adds.
The comfortable chef-driven restaurant, Mary Eddy’s Kitchen + Lounge, is named for the late Fred Jones’ wife, and will provide all banquet, catering and in-room dining services. The property also features a gym, spa and plentiful outdoor space.
“We want you to feel welcome and comfortable,” McKnight says. “Nothing about our hospitality is stuffy.”
A catalyst for urban renewal, an economic driver for the community, an oasis where art challenges, stimulates conversation and provokes new ideas – all those concepts flow together in conversation with McKnight about this space, making it easy to get excited about the appeal. She adds, “21c was founded in the spirit of offering genuine southern hospitality to all who enter our doors.”
And those doors will be opening very soon.