The neighborhood was originally plated in 1963 as United Founders Life Plaza subdivision.  It was a tract of land that had been purchased by United Founders Life Insurance Company in 1961. 

The United Founders Neighborhood Foundation was incorporated in 2018 to financially support, and maintain in perpetuity, the revitalization of the Founders District community.  In 2019 the Foundation received its IRS designated 501(c)(3) status as a public charity.

 

This business/residential community in northwest Oklahoma City, is bounded on the south and east by two of the City’s busiest thoroughfares, NW Expressway and N. May Ave. 

It was on the edge of Oklahoma City's suburban expansion and at the center of a forward-thinking modernist architectural vision for the area.

The United Founders Company envisioned this tract of land as a multi-use development with living, office, retail, and recreational space -- tree-lined and pedestrian friendly.  

United Founders Life Plaza, 

1969

Photo Credit: Okie Mod Squad

Anchoring this new development was the company’s contemporary office tower, designed by Hudgins, Thompson, Ball & Associates, a mid-century-modern "Googie" style, 20-story structure, known as United Founders Life Tower, the third tallest building in Oklahoma City and praised as one of the best instances in the state of modern architecture.

Founders Tower opened in 1964 and the insurance company took six floors of the building and leased the remaining space.  On the 20th floor was a rotating restaurant, the fourth-only rotating restaurant in the world (a fine-dining establishment known as the Chandelle Club; fifteen years later, in 1979, opening as the Eagles Nest; and in 1996 as Nikz on the Top.  Residing on the first-floor extension of the Tower was the “iconic” Queen Ann Cafeteria. 

United Founders Tower,

mid 1960s

Photo Credit: Okie Mod Squad

Other buildings reflecting outstanding examples of the mid-century architectural style also opened in the ‘60s in Founders District, including the Continental movie theater, just adjacent and south of the Tower (where the Residence Inn currently stands) and the Founders National Bank, which was razed in 2018.

Continental Theater,

mid 1960s

Photo Credit: Okie Mod Squad

Founders National Bank,

mid 1960s

Photo Credit: Okie Mod Squad

Beginning in the mid ‘60s and for many years thereafter, Founders District was a vibrant entertainment area, attracting visitors from around the City and state, and a sought-after office location for businesses not only in the Founders Tower office complex, which remained popular for many years, but also in other office buildings and office complexes established and thriving in the District from the mid 1960s through the mid-1980s

 

However, over a period of ensuing years, the integrity of the area was compromised as properties were sold, business operators changed, some properties vacated, and the City in general experienced the economic challenges of the 1980s that lasted nearly 25 years.  The boulevard medians of the District, which had originally been planted with oak trees and grass, were neglected and much of the plant life transformed into barren, dusty spaces with unhealthy and dead trees. 

 

The Continental theater closed in 1983 not to be replaced; Queen Ann’s Cafeteria closed in 2006 and was not replaced; the revolving restaurant at the top of the Tower closed in 2007 and was not replaced. 

Beginning in 2010 a vision among property owners propelled a restoration – a revitalization and re-beautification – of the area.  In addition to the major 2008 conversion of the historic and iconic Founders Tower to over 60 luxury condominium residences, in 2011 the irrigation and landscaping of all ten of the neighborhood’s boulevard medians was completed at a cost of $239,000 with donations from neighborhood businesses and organizations.  

 

The new landscaping consisted of removing the existing unhealthy and dead trees, keeping the 12 Live Oaks and the 5 Red Oaks, adding 100 trees, 612 shrubs and ground cover.  The hardscape development included the addition of decorative boulders, chat paths with edging and ground cover. The next fall season, hundreds of bulbs (a mixture of daffodils, tulips, and Iris) were planted for the coming spring. 

In 2012 the United Founders Neighborhood Association was incorporated to administer and promote the neighborhood’s revitalization process: to promote a better community through group action, to beautify and improve the neighborhood, and to educate members in the prevention of crime.  In the same year, the boulevards’ Median Beautification Project was recognized by OKC Beautiful with the prestigious Chesapeake Energy Annual Corporate Award.  Also in 2012 the Founders Tower Condos was awarded “Property of the Year” within the Apartment Association (an award made for three consecutive years).

By 2013 street lights had been added by the Neighborhood Association, and 36 trees received by a grant from OKC Beautiful had been planted in street easements,  the vacant buildings had been purchased and renovated, and new businesses established.  

In 2013, the iconic 1964 United Founders Life Tower building (renamed the Founders Tower Condominiums) received listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  

In 2014 neighborhood identification signs were installed on the ten street-light poles in the medians.

Also in 2014 Founders Tower Condominiums was chosen to host the Oklahoma City Symphony Show-House event.

In 2015 Founders District banners were flown along NW Expressway for a 90-day period celebrating Founders District’s 52 years.   In the same year, Founders District hosted a neighborhood luncheon with Lt.  Governor Todd Lamb speaking on “Growing Your Local Community.”

 

In 2017 a new Marriott residence Inn opened on the vacant lot where the Continental Theater had been. 

Also in 2017, Founders District neighborhood-identification signs were installed atop the street signs.

 

In 2018 The Champion Hotels Group purchased the Tower Hotel property (the former Marriott hotel), re-branded it as a high-end Embassy Suites with plans for opening in January 2020.

Marriott | Tower | Embassy Suites Hotel

Photo Credit: OKC Mod Squad

In 2019 Founders District became a more pedestrian- friendly neighborhood with new sidewalks installed by the City of Oklahoma City during its replacement of street panels as part of the City’s 2007 Bond Issue for the purpose of city-wide street resurfacing and sidewalk installation.

United Founders Neighborhood Foundation wishes to thank Lynn Rostochil with Okie Mod Squad for the use of several images and the historical background information featured on this page.

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