This diminutive, 350-square-foot triangular building is located in the middle of a busy urban thoroughfare in Oklahoma City. Built in 1930, the Milk Bottle Grocery is a flat-roofed brick building that provides a visual pedestal for a giant milk bottle—almost as tall as the building itself—that was added in 1948. At the time of the building’s construction, a streetcar line ran diagonally across Classen Boulevard, which also served as a segment of Route 66. The streetcar had a stop at the grocery until the route was suspended in 1947. As the automobile became the dominant mode of transportation in Oklahoma City as in the rest of the United States, oversized advertisements like the milk bottle sculpture were explicitly intended to attract driver attention. The Milk Bottle Grocery is typical of this mimetic tradition of commercial architecture.
The sheet-metal bottle was constructed in thin strips placed vertically to achieve the bottle shape with a rounded base, tapered neck, and a rimmed top. The cap is crenellated to mimic the folded paper caps that were used to close milk bottles at the time. The bottle was painted white and rented to local dairy companies as a three-dimensional advertisement for their products.
Though marooned in a sea of vehicular traffic, just a half block north of Route 66, this vernacular building remains one of the most distinctive landmarks in Oklahoma City. For passing drivers, the milk bottle is a familiar object of affection—and a symbol of everyday life.
Lupkin, Jocelyn, “Milk Bottle Grocery,” Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1998. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.
“Milk Bottle Grocery.” National Park Service. Accessed May 25, 2017. www.nps.gov.