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Breaking ground on historical Jim Thorpe Memorial Building renovations

By Carmin Eulitt
Monday, November 06, 2023

On Oct. 23, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services held a groundbreaking ceremony to commemorate the start of a $70 million construction plan for the historic Jim Thorpe Memorial Building. Over the next three years, the building will undergo renovations from basement to rooftop, constructing a modern workspace to meet employee needs while preserving the unique, historical details of the building. 

History of the building

The Jim Thorpe Building, constructed to provide much-needed office space for government employees, was first envisioned in the mid-1920s. With the increasing issue of overcrowding in the State Capitol, construction of the new office building soon ensued. Construction wrapped up in 1938, and tenants began officially occupying the building in 1942. At the time, the building was known as the State Capitol Office Building but was later renamed the Jim Thorpe Memorial Building in 1961 after the Oklahoma-born Olympic athlete. Since then, the building has housed various state government services, providing the accommodations necessary to support government operations through the years. The building has only seen minor remodels and repairs since its completion in 1938, leaving the structure outdated and deferring routine maintenance and upgrades.

A black and white image provided by the Oklahoma Historical Society displays the Jim Thorpe Building with its previous title.

Details of the project

The renovation project, spearheaded by QUAD Construction and Gardner Studio, is set to begin in mid-November, with intentions to wrap up mid-2026. The project will transform the building’s dated infrastructure to become a high-functioning, efficient office space for all tenants. Once complete, the building will again house a variety of state government services, providing a space for state employees to conduct business comfortably and effectively. The renovated structure will boast upgraded essential building systems such as power, plumbing and structure, as well as enhanced accessibility for citizens receiving services. Historical aspects of the building will be preserved, protected and displayed with respect to the structure’s cultural significance in our state’s government. 

Groundbreaking ceremony

At the Jim Thorpe Building groundbreaking, hosted by OMES and QUAD Construction, key stakeholders delivered remarks to share their vision and plan for the office space before participating in the ceremonial shoveling of dirt to kick off construction.

Following the successful completion of the State Capitol Building restoration project, the state is turning its attention to other historical sites like Jim Thorpe in need of repairs and improvements.

“It falls on us to take care of these buildings. Behind us is our past and our future,” said Nathan Wald, Capital Assets Management administrator.

The historic office building has served the state for nearly 85 years and will soon be restored to allow continued service in the future, providing a bustling environment of camaraderie and efficiency.

Brandy Wreath, chairman of the Jim Thorpe Repair Expenditure Oversight Committee, believes in the importance of legacy. Wreath emphasized that the building “was here 100 years before us,” and thanks to the work of the committee and QUAD Construction, “will hopefully be here much longer than 100 years after us.” Wreath and the team intend to make the building “not just beautiful, but functional and usable for many years to come.”

Oklahoma House Rep. Mark McBride has a fierce determination to maintain and restore state buildings, generously lending the support needed to repair crumbling structures. With one year left of his term, Rep. McBride’s message is clear: he plans to do everything he can to “preserve these buildings that we have here in the State of Oklahoma.”

Rep. McBride shares uplifting plan for the Jim Thorpe Building and other state structures.
State of Oklahoma and QUAD Construction project members break ground outside the Jim Thorpe Building.
A plaque inside the Jim Thorpe Building marks the building's original completion date.
Last Modified on Nov 06, 2023
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