Sunshine Laundry Cleaners

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City/Town:
Location Class:
Year Built: 1928 | Year Abandoned: 1986
Historic Designation: National Register of Historic Places (June 14, 2016)
Status: Restored (2017)
Photojournalist: Billy DixonMichael Schwarz

Dating back to 1928 when it was constructed this building has been home to a laundry company. Starting out with National Sunshine Laundry Co., they were known around Oklahoma City as one of the best and most affordable laundromats. Manager V. I. Scharlack advertised themselves as having low prices without sacrificing quality. Housewives in the 1930s could have their clothes washed for the low price of 2 cents per pound. Everyone else got their clothes gently swished in individual bags through soft suds and returned them just damp enough for easy ironing for 4 cents per pound. Customers could pick up their receiver and dial 3-7494 also and have a delivery man come pick up their wash for them. One customer was quoted saying “If I had only let Sunshine Laundry take this hard work off my hands a long time ago. I don’t see how they can do it for so small a charge.” 

In January of 1938, a laundry workers union was threatening local laundromats in Oklahoma City, one of those being Sunshine Laundry. The union formed by A.K. Webb presented a contract to the management on behalf of its workers. When said workers showed up for their shifts on the following Monday they found themselves locked out and given notices of indefinite suspensions. But Mr. Scharlach, Vice President of Sunshine Laundry, said the employees were given notices because of a shutdown to install boiler equipment and that arrangements had been made with Nuway Laundry to employ them until Sunshine was back open. But Webb said management failed to keep their word about discussing the union’s demands. A strike broke out and seven employees were charged with assault and battery.

Sunshine Laundry & Cleaners’ once fast-paced business slowed tremendously with the rise of household washing machines in the 1950s. By 1986 they were no longer able to hold on and the laundromat that had served residents in Oklahoma City for over fifty years was closed. The building became vacant and quickly became a place frequented by transients. On July 6, 1989, after three years of vacancy the building caught fire and was reported to have caused minimal damage after the OKCFD put out the blaze quickly. The fire was suspected to be arson with the fire being contained to a northwest room next to old storage bins filled with rags and clothes. Over the course of the next twenty years, the roof would collapse and trees would start reclaiming the land.

Restoration

In 2015 the abandoned building would be given a second chance at life. New owners Ben Sellers, Jonathan Dodson, and David Wanzer purchased the building for $725,000 with visions of a brewery and tap room and offices. They took extra steps to add it to the National Register of Historic Places in 2016, a testimony to the buildings long and rich history. Everyone was arguably most excited to see the iconic neon sign light up again that has loomed over Classen Boulevard for decades. The developer of the project was Pivot Project partnering with Gardner Architects and Lingo Construction. After all was said and done the total redevelopment cost was around $3.93 million. Opening as Stonecloud Brewing in the summer of 2017, it has become a hub of enjoyable leisures for Oklahoma City residents.

Micro-documentary:

Prairie Nation Creative produced a short video about the history and restoration of this cornerstone:

Gallery Below




 

“15 Aug 1930, 14 – Oklahoma City Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/593860061/?terms=sunshine%20laundry&match=1.

“16 Oct 2015, 23 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/452616888/?terms=sunshine%20cleaners&match=1.

“2 Dec 1953, 4 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/449675191/?terms=sunshine%20laundry&match=1.

“24 Nov 1953, 16 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/449667060/?terms=sunshine%20laundry&match=1.

“26 Jan 1938, 1 – The Oklahoma News at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/594605567/?terms=sunshine%20laundry&match=1.

“27 Jan 1938, 1 – The State Democrat at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/594425423/?terms=sunshine%20laundry&match=1.

“4 Jul 1930, 6 – Oklahoma City Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/594634512/?terms=sunshine%20laundry&match=1.

“6 May 1934, 17 – The Oklahoma News at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/594904110/?terms=sunshine%20laundry&match=1.

“7 Jul 1989, 67 – The Daily Oklahoman at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/451550457/?terms=sunshine%20cleaners&match=1.

“Image 34 of Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma.” The Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/resource/g4024om.g4024om_g07202194801/?sp=34&r=0.752,0.367,0.306,0.236,0.

“Our Story.” Stonecloud Brewing Company, stonecloudbrewing.com/our-story/.

“Sunshine Laundry.” Pivot Project, pivotproject.com/project/sunshine-laundry/.

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Joe Emrick
Joe Emrick
11 years ago

The Sunshine Laundry and Cleaners building was built in the late '20s or early 30's and was a home delivery service with over 20 routes prior to WWII. The fleet delivery service was discontinued because of he war and never started again. The drive through was added in 1953. It was several years after WWII that Classen was extended to Main St. Until then the Laundry was on the "dead-end" corner of NW 1st. I was there, I know.

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Joe Emrick
4 years ago

When was the last time the sign was lit?

Felipa Meza
Felipa Meza
Reply to  Joe Emrick
5 days ago

I worked there when I was 15 years old so did my sister’s and my brothers and my dad and uncle, loved working there the only thing was it was very hot to work I but we did it for a few years, we did laundry from the hospitals and the truck stops lee way and trans con

Felipa Meza
Felipa Meza
5 days ago

I worked there in 1971 as did my brothers and sisters, larry castle was the owner at the time, my uncle and dad also worked there, It was really hot to in, I remember most of the people who worked there.

elvis hale
elvis hale
27 days ago

My family and I grew up in the same neighborhood as sunshine laundry place. I remember like yesterday when it is close and remember when homeless people caught second floor on fire to kept warmth

Perry
Perry
5 years ago

Good Work,Keep it up.

Eddie Frank
Eddie Frank
9 years ago

My grandmother Ethel Frank worked at Sunshine until 1968. She also lived across the street in a 4 apt building. I played on her front poch balcony straight across from the front on Classen.

Joe
Joe
Reply to  Eddie Frank
4 years ago

Do you know any more history on the building? The sign will be lit again this Monday 11/7/16. Let me know…the new owner would love to hear!

Shirley
Shirley
10 years ago

I've seen this sign several times while visiting downtown and never really thought that much about it, now I know a little of the life behind it, it's so cool how history can give us such thought. I like looking at all you have done, keep up the good work.

billy
billy
11 years ago

For those who caught it before I did, the last 16 pictures that came up as thumbnails have been corrected! Hope you enjoy the extra detail!

roadsideok
11 years ago

I would guess that picture number 46 is of the drive through area with the entrance/exit boarded up.

AbandonedOK
AbandonedOK
Reply to  roadsideok
11 years ago

Yes, the drive-through is boarded up. There was a fire in 1989 which destroyed the roof. Currently, after talking to the neighbors, the owner has plans to hopefully turn it into a brewery… This isn’t confirmed, and is still in the planning stages according to the neighbors….

Guest
Guest
Reply to  AbandonedOK
10 years ago

A brewery is of the many possibilities discussed.

psychosaw13
psychosaw13
11 years ago

Kool but I’d like to have see more of the outside of the bldg as well. I would of like to have seen the drive through section as described in the drawing.

billy
billy
Reply to  psychosaw13
11 years ago

Ask and you shall receive!

Fiend
Fiend
11 years ago

Great little article. I love that old sign, sure hope it survives.

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