Bates Motel really existed (sort of), right here in Tulsa

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Bates_Tourist_Hotel.jpg(Image originally from AlanOfTulsa on fotothing.com; direct link to photo.)

One more Route 66 related entry. Someone called alanoftulsa posted this postcard with the following info on the TulsaNow forum. The doings at cousin Norman's place almost sound tame compared to the real-life Bates Tourist Hotel.

Because of the conditions of family life, my parents ended up bankrupted. The Sheriff's department came out one evening to repo the furniture. While they were there, my dad and a Deputy got into a conversation about the Bates hotel which used to be across the street from East Central High School on 11th street. I was very familiar with this hotel because as a kid I explored the dilapidated hotel several times. It was a really scary place to explore and as kids we usually ended up running out of it thinking that someone hiding inside and was after us.

The Deputy told us that the Bates Hotel was used by Gangsters traveling down route 66 because it set just outside the Tulsa city limits where they didn't have to worry about Tulsa Police. He said that one night some of these gangsters got into a shoot-out inside the hotel and killed the hotel manager's daughter. He also stated that there were more bad things than that going on in the Bates. Does anyone know of any stories about this Hotel?

I remember having seen the Bates Hotel listed in the yellow pages of an old Tulsa phone book, but it was listed as merely being "E of City" -- no specific address. I had always wondered where it had been and what it had looked like.

So does anyone else have stories about this place? Anyone know when it closed, and when it was finally demolished?

By the way, that same forum entry included a mention of another place I had always been curious about. I passed it thousands of times and always wondered why there was a white-painted two story brick building in the middle of nowhere, just south of Admiral Place and 165th East Ave. The building was dressed up as a bar for the movie The Outsiders and was demolished some years later. alanoftulsa says it was the Rose Dew Egg Farm, and he lived there. Evidently the farm gave its name to the subdivision built around it (or likely on land that once was part of the farm). I'd be interested to know more about this place as well.

UPDATE November 22, 2014:

The 1967 USGS aerial photos of Tulsa still show the Bates Tourist Hotel, located on the north side of 11th Street, across from the present-day location of the East Central High School football stadium. An interesting detail not revealed by the postcards: The building had nine dormers on the north side -- three corresponding to the three dormers above the main entrance, and three each on the west and east wings. That may indicate the number of rooms available upstairs. Based on the scale of the photos, the building appears to be about 140 feet long and only about 25 feet deep. The rooms must have been tiny, and it's likely that they were not (at least not originally) en suite.

Tulsa-Bates_Tourist_Hotel-East_Central_High_School-19670910.png

About a month ago, my son and I were returning from a two-week car trip to visit colleges. We stopped just west of St. Louis at the visitor's center for Missouri's Route 66 State Park. The visitor's center has photos and artifacts highlighting the landmarks on the Show-Me State's section of the historic road, including the Coral Court Motel, the various caves on the route, the town of Times Beach, and Campbell's 66 Truck Lines ("Humpin' to Please"). (They also had a display of Buffalo Ranch memorabilia.) One display stopped me short:

Sinclair Pennant Hotel and Tavern, display at Missouri Route 66 State Park Visitor's Center

The architecture was familiar -- the prominent dormers -- and the caption on postcard at the top said that there was a Sinclair Pennant Tavern on U. S. 66 in Tulsa, Okla. The Sinclair Pennant chain was originally known as Pierce Pennant. The Route 66 News review of the book Route 66 Treasures mentions that the Pierce Pennant chain "sought sites every 125 miles on the fledgling U. S. 66."

Sure enough, it appears that the Bates Tourist Hotel was originally a Pierce Pennant Tavern. The 66postcards.com website, which arranges postcards and other photos from the route in sequential order from east to west (with impressive accuracy, even within cities), has three views of the same hotel: A postcard of the Tulsa Pierce Pennant Terminal, a photo of the Tulsa Pierce Pennant Motel (from the Beryl Ford Collection), and the above postcard of the Bates Tourist Hotel. The vegetation has changed, but the fenestration is identical.

The caption on the Pierce Pennant Terminal postcard reads (in neat copperplate type):

A Terminal Building and Filling Station Island of Pierce Pennant Terminals System
Facilities include: 154-person restaurant, women's rest room, soda and sandwich lobby
emergency hospital

Interesting that initially it isn't called a hotel, but a "terminal" and later a "tavern."

This page, showing a photo of Pierce Pennant china, says that the company opened its first motor hotel in Springfield, Mo., in 1928, but by 1930, they had sold the chain to Sinclair. "This first motor hotel complex included a bus terminal, restaurant, soda fountain, restrooms, gas station, automobile shop and car washing facilities." This picture of the Springfield Pierce Pennant terminal looks more like a bus station and gas station.

The Pierce Pennant Hotel in Columbia, Mo., was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. The main hotel building still stands at 1406 W. Business Route 70 and is part of the Candlelight Terrace Retirement Center. The hotel, which opened in 1929, was built to high standards (slate roofs, copper on the cupola, piers down to bedrock, metal laths under plaster for interior walls, solid brass light fixtures, "recognized by contractors as one of the best constructed buildings in the Columbia area)."

The National Register application for the Columbia Pierce Pennant Hotel mentions a separate "terminal building" with a description that sounds very much like the above Tulsa post card. The description of the windows is an exact match.

The second major building of the Pennant complex, originally known as the Terminal, is of the same general colonial style as the hotel-garage. It has two stories and an attic. The overall dimensions are ninety feet by thirty-five feet. The building consists of a central section, with wings on the east and west wings have six windows. The lobby section has four windows and a doorway on the first floor and five windows on the second floor, the window above the entrance being of the same width as the first floor doorway. A small portico shelters the entrance to the lobby. The attic has three dormer windows, facing north. On the roof are three chimneys; the extra chimneys were possibly connected to the operations carried on in the kitchen area.

Just off the lobby were restrooms for men and women. An emergency hospital with a trained nurse on duty was contiguous to the women's restrooms. On the second floor was a large dining room sixty-two feet by forty feet and an auxiliary dining area forty feet by twenty-three feet. Folding doors, which could be opened to provide space for a large group of diners or for a dance party, separated the two dining rooms. The kitchen was just west of the dining section. The third floor was occupied by employees of the terminal.

There is a photo of part of the terminal building on page 19 of the application:

Columbia_Pierce_Pennant_Terminal_Page_19.png

At some point, it would seem, the hospital and dining areas in the Tulsa Sinclair Pennant Tavern were converted to motel rooms.

UPDATE 2015/12/03: Reader Kevin Gray writes that the next Pierce Pennant up Route 66, on the north side of Miami, OK, was used during World War II as offices for the British Flying Training School #3, which was operated by Spartan. "The old motel was offices, and barracks were built behind and around it. The athletic fields were behind the barracks, and the airfield, runway and hangars were immediately behind the athletic field." More about the Miami Royal Air Force school here. 15 RAF cadets are buried at Miami's Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery and are honored in an annual remembrance ceremony. More here about World War II RAF training schools in Oklahoma.

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5 Comments

CGHill said:

The "[direction] of City" was used in phone books in two instances: when a subscriber was sufficiently rural to be off the street grid, or when a subscriber did not want his address revealed. East Central, if I remember correctly, is on 11th between Garnett and 129th, which is not my idea of rural, so it may be that the Bates folks didn't want to give out any "unnecessary" information. (The Haunted House restaurant in Oklahoma City used to do that, in an effort to get you to call for directions in addition to reservations. It's still not exactly obvious where the place really is, even though they give you the address today.)

Terry Groff said:

I grew up in Tulsa and in my teenage years my friends and I used to go to the Bates Hotel late at night and drink beer and mess around.

This was long after the Bates had closed and the interior had obviously been vandalized. I swear it wasn't us.

It was very spooky but that was part of the appeal for hanging out there. We were more afraid of being caught by a night watchman, or the police, than of any ghosts or poltergeists that might have been there.

I haven't been to Tulsa since I was 19 and I've always been curious if it is still there or not. I'm pretty sure it's probably been torn down by now.

Terry Groff
Dallas, Texas

It's long gone, sadly. About what year was it when you would hang out there?

Terry Groff said:

Mostly it was around '66 - '67. We had a lot of good times there and we were never caught.

restinwren Author Profile Page said:

My father rented the Phillips 66 station in front of Bates Hotel in the mid 1950's. When I was seven yrs old my grandmother was killed turning into the service station by a dump truck that side swiped her car in 1957. She was a teacher at East Central Elementary School.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 14, 2006 11:41 PM.

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