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August 5, 2013

Norman architect finds his niche in restoring historical structures

NORMAN — Norman architect Mike Kertok said he fell into his niche in the architectural world when he began the research for the restoration of Harvey House in Waynoka. He was with an Oklahoma City firm then, and he enjoyed the research necessary to draw plans for bringing the railroad stopping point back to its 1910 beginning stage.

He became steeped in both the history of the small Oklahoma town and the structure that residents were wanting to restore.

Waynoka was a major stop on Charles Lindbergh’s Transcontinental Air Transport air and rail route between New York City and Los Angeles. The Harvey House played a major role in respite for Santa Fe passengers when trains crisscrossed the country.

After that experience in the mid 1990s, Kertok said “one thing led to another. It snowballed.” Soon, he realized he had found a niche for his practice: historical restoration projects.

His portfolio of restoration projects name many of the most well-known sites in Oklahoma: the Arcadia Round Barn, Nuway Cleaners in Oklahoma City, the Okmulgee Colored Hospital building, the Phillips 66 gas station in Chandler, the historic Chickasha Hotel exterior and the Overholser Mansion exterior in Oklahoma City.

Ongoing projects include Trinity Episcopal Church in Guthrie, constructed in 1913 to replace the building built in 1890 for the state’s first Episcopal congregation.

“It takes study, and I am always learning,” he said.

In the construction, he sees the technology of the day and has great respect for the construction on these old buildings. “They were built to last,” he said, and his work is helping make sure that they are preserved.

As each project is finished, Kertok produces a project binder filled with documentation of the history of the building: photographs, newspaper clippings, legal documents and drawings of every detail that will guide the restoration of the building to its original glory.

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