These Walls: Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City

By Rhea, Dave | THE JOURNAL RECORD, April 2, 2010 | Go to article overview
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These Walls: Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City


Will Rogers was not the only exceedingly talented and widely popular writer in Oklahoma. Ralph Waldo Ellison also made a giant mark on literary history. And for doing so, the Ralph Ellison Library, at 2000 NE 23rd St. in Oklahoma City, was constructed in the mid-1970s in his honor.

Ellison was born in Oklahoma City on March 1, 1914. He attended Lowell School, later named Douglass High School, at 900 N. Martin Luther King Ave., a street that also certainly had a different name back in the days when Ellison attended and Lowell was segregated.

Ellison is best known for his novel Invisible Man, a National Book Award winner that was published in 1952. In 1936, he moved away, became a writer and never returned to live in Oklahoma City.

Widely reported literary encouragement came from the likes of Langston Hughes and Richard Wright. In addition to his famous novel, he was also a noted scholar, literary and social critic who gained international fame for his artistic and intellectual prowess.

It is no surprise that Oklahoma City chose to honor Ellison with a memorial library, and in doing so, the city is able keep the memory of this great thinker alive while also claiming Ellison as a true local intellectual inspiration.

"It was a vintage '70s building that we added onto with new color and forms," said Allen Brown, principal at Frankfurt Short Bruza, of the three-decade-later renovation of the library. "A lot of the addition was in public space."

The original building, designed by architecture firm Howard Samis Porch, was dedicated in 1975. Primarily made a brick masonry with a steel roof structure, large expanses of glass are also utilized on the northeast face and upper clerestory over the reading and stacks area.

"We utilized brick masonry for our addition; however, we added to the palette of exterior materials," said FSB Director of Architecture Jack Morgan.

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These Walls: Ralph Ellison Library in Oklahoma City


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