"Glass House" to get $14.6 million renovation

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 3/27/2013 9:18 am Published: 3/26/2013 8:14 pm

Since 1957, millions have driven down the Will Rogers Turnpike near Vinita and gone under the so called "Glass House" with its McDonalds golden arches stretching over the turnpike.

But the Oklahoma icon had little or no updates after it was completed.

But this week the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority approved $14.6 million in funding to remodel the Glass House.

The plans call for the demolition of both anchor buildings on either side of the bridge, both gas stations on either side of the bridge, all parking and concrete at the plaza, and the McDonalds restaurant and gift shop that have long sat over the turnpike.

The bridge structure itself is the only part of the current building that will remain.

Then the rebuilding will begin.

"I think that's kind of neat," John Stroud said. "I've been rolling through here most of my life. I used to be excited about coming here when I was a kid."

Now Stroud works nearby, and said he's excited to be able to go into the new Glass House someday soon.

"I think it's probably a good idea, because it is old and raggedy looking, and a new look is going to look nice for it," Stroud said.

The thin, outdated windows, chipping paint and crumbling structure will be gone. In their place, a shiny new rest stop with some of the old design elements.

"Very clean lines, a very great look," Tom Rosser, owner of the McDonalds franchise inside the Glass House, said. "[An Oklahoma] tourism [office] will be inside. They'll have some displays, some flat screen TVs that will be interactive to where people can find out what's going on."

Rosser said the new building will deservedly keep the "Glass House" name.

"A beautiful design," he said. "A little bit more glass that it is now, even."

But the new, extra glass will be tinted, thicker and more resistant to weather patterns like extreme heat and cold, and will be more energy-efficient.

The gas stations will remain on site, but in a different spot.

"The convenience stores are going to come inside the building, which, I wasn't here then, but I hear back in the beginning that's the way it was, too."

It's just one of several "throwbacks" to the Glass House's "good 'ol days' included in the new building's plans.

"There's a lot of history," Rosser said. "People come by, and they make trips trough the united States and they've stopped here many times. So, it means a lot to a lot of people."

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority's plan is to once again make the site a traveler's destination. Stroud thinks the remodel has the potential to make it just that.

"Probably a great stop-off point for families coming through," he said. "You know, 'hey kids, let's go up over the turnpike here and eat at McDonalds.' And they're going to love it. And more glass is just going to add to the uniqueness of it."

"The first thing when you come into Oklahoma is really here," Rosser said. "So, it speaks well of our state."

The famous statue of Will Rogers that now stands in front of the building will be moved inside the new building when it's finished.

The turnpike will remain open for traffic during the construction project.

Work on the project is expected to start sometime this summer, likely in June. The contractor will have a $3.6 million incentive to make sure the project gets finished within a year from when it's started.

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