The secret shame

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Earlier in the week someone told me that yet another downtown Tulsa building is slated for demolition and replacement with -- you guessed it -- surface parking.

What really got to me: There are people interested in trying to buy and save the building, but they don't want their interest to be public, because, I was told, they can't afford to get crosswise with people they do business with around town. Now this is second-hand information, and it may have mutated before it reached me, but the implication in the concern is that there are influential business leaders in the city who regard involvement in historic preservation as not merely eccentric, but suspect, worthy of censure, perhaps threatening to the Way We Do Business Around Here.

It is amazing that Tulsa, with over a hundred years of history under its belt, and plenty worth preserving, does not have a strong, well-funded preservation organization. In particular, you don't see Tulsa's businesses leaders and philanthropists pushing for historic preservation. Plenty of private individuals have invested their treasure and an abundance of sweat equity to restore their own historic homes. There are worthy individual projects, like PSO's reuse of Central High School and Paul Coury's restoration of the Ambassador Hotel, but no ongoing organized effort, particularly when it comes to our poor old downtown. Some cities, like Savannah, Georgia, have revolving funds for purchasing endangered properties and selling them to buyers who commit to restoring them. Tulsa doesn't.

Tulsa will host the 2008 National Preservation Conference. Our downtown is on Oklahoma's Most Endangered Places list. There is no preservation plan for downtown, and I'm told that no official survey or comprehensive inventory of historic buildings has been done for downtown. (Such a survey was done by the Urban Development Department for the redevelopment area known as the East Village -- 1st to 7th, Detroit to the Inner Dispersal Loop.) No effort has been made by city officials to work with downtown churches, Tulsa Community College, and office building owners to find a solution for parking needs that doesn't involve more demolition and surface parking.

In Savannah, the demolition of the City Market in the 1955 was the call to arms to the leading ladies of Savannah society, who established the Historic Savannah Foundation and, more importantly, made it fashionable to be concerned about preserving local history. Preservation is bound up in the culture of Savannah.

It is 50 years later in Tulsa, and we are still waiting for Tulsa's leading lights to make historic preservation their passion.


Concerned Native Tulsans said:


It saddens me, as a native Tulsan, to see the dynamics of the situation.......that we don't have preservation of our beautiful buildings downtown a HIGH PRIORITY on everyone's agenda. My family is full of folks who enjoyed the old downtown, as we grew up, and our hearts wish now that our children and grandchildren could enjoy the same. We are loosing the character and integrity of our downtown quickly. Establishing a PRESERVATION FOUNDATION sounds like a wonderful idea, with involvement and support from business leaders, philanthropists, neighborhood associations and citizens from across the area. Evidently, we have some who see the value in this idea, if, as you mentioned, "There are people interested in trying to buy and save the building", then in the same sentence you mention, "but they don't want their interest to be public, because they can't afford to get crosswise with people they do business with around town".
Just what have we accomplished for our area, if we have citizens forced to feel this way? The strength and resources we have within the Tulsa area are unlimited, but, our priorities warrant re-evaluation!

Let's all do our part in preserving and protecting our part of the state, so our children and grandchildren can have some of the same experiences we valued and benefited from. What would it take to establish a PRESERVATION FOUNDATION? Who needs to take the first step?

Thanks, for your sensitivity and concern,
Concerned Native Tulsans

W. said:

So ... which building is it? I'm genuinely curious.

At the risk of changing subjects (although I don't know how else to address this situation), why is there no comment link on the "Newsweek Lied, People Died" post? Recent reports by the Red Cross and FBI indicate that Newsweek's report of desecration of the Koran was not only possible, but likely.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 27, 2005 10:42 PM.

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