Letters to the Whirled: Do you have to tear old buildings down?


With the advent of e-mail, it is not unusual to see a letter in a newspaper responding to a news story from a day or two before. Not in Tulsa. The Whirled, for whatever reason, won't publish letters until the relevant story is good and cold -- at least two weeks after the event or story that the letter addresses, long after the story has migrated from their website to their website's archives or from your coffee table to the recycling bin.

As a public service, I am publishing this excellent letter, which I received today, from a Cushing resident in response to the Whirled's plans to tear down the Skelly Building. He submitted it over a week ago, but it has yet to be published.

July 13, 2004


It is with dismay that I read about the Tulsa World’s decision to take a chain saw to Tulsa’s and Oklahoma’s history by demolishing the Skelly building in favor of a parking lot.

One of the reasons cited was code restrictions and the age of the building , built in the 20’s. May I remind you that the Philbrook was built in the 1920’s? The White House in Washington DC is older still. Ways were found to keep them as part of our history and heritage. Down the turnpike Oklahoma City’s Bricktown is made up of buildings this age or older. And this venture has made positive repercussions nationwide.

In my hometown of Cushing a 1920’s American Legion group has found a way to rehabilitate their structure which was built in 1924.

At a presentation sponsored by the Tulsa Architectural Foundation earlier this year noted economic developer/historic preservationist Donovan Rypkema stated after a fly-over of Tulsa proper that even taking into account Tulsa’s wildest growth projections another 40 years could pass without the need for another parking lot.

I have long thought of the Tulsa World as a calm voice of reason. But this
decision is one of the most distasteful I have seen in recent memory.

Laura Bush is seen on television telling us to ‘save our history’. All across the country we see grass roots effort to save, restore and celebrate our past. Small Oklahoma towns such as Newkirk and Perry have made national waves with their preservation efforts.

Surely Tulsa can do better than this.

The decision to take a wrecker ball to the Skelly building is sad indeed. Each time a bit of history is wiped away in such fashion it creates another disconnect between generations. Nothing left to remember, nothing left to build a dream on.

Just a nice place to park your car.


Rick Reiley

Good stuff, and thanks to Mr. Reiley for sending it along. From his e-mail address, I gather that he is involved in the "Main Street" program, which has been used effectively to restore buildings and reviving downtowns in Oklahoma's small cities, and has even been used in three different districts in Oklahoma City -- Stockyards City, Capitol Hill (south OKC), and Automobile Alley. Tulsa's leaders have never bothered with it.

Interesting to read that he regarded the Whirled as the calm voice of reason. A lot of people have that impression until they find themselves involved in an issue and learn that the Whirled is hiding behind that calm facade to promote the self-interests of the Whirled and its allies in the city establishment. That "distasteful" decision to which he refers is characteristic of the way the Whirled operates. You may recall the Whirled's even more consequential decision in 1992 to refuse to extend their joint operating agreement (JOA) with the Tribune. The two papers could have gone on indefinitely with the old arrangement, but the Whirled wanted and got more money and a monopoly on print media. Meanwhile Tulsa lost the many benefits of having two independently owned daily newspapers.

The Whirled's demolition plans are helping more Tulsans see the Whirled as it really is.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 22, 2004 11:59 PM.

On the picket line was the previous entry in this blog.

Media roundup of the Skelly/Froug's protest is the next entry in this blog.

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