Greenwood 1957

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This entry was inspired by a recent comment by the president of Langston University. I'll say no more now, as I will address the comment in this week's Urban Tulsa Weekly column, but here are some interesting facts I gleaned from analyzing the 1957 edition of Polk's City Directory.

For out of towners and newcomers to Tulsa: Greenwood Avenue was Main Street for Tulsa's African-American community prior to urban "renewal." A few commercial buildings remain at the corner of Greenwood and Archer, and a handful of churches still stand, but most everything else was demolished. The land at the southern end of Greenwood stood vacant for many years until it was designated for a state college campus, now the Tulsa campus of Oklahoma State University. The storefronts at the northern end were replaced with late '70s, early '80s suburban style homes.

It's hard to imagine what Greenwood was like just 50 years ago. This may give you some sense of the place.

In 1957 on Greenwood Ave. in Tulsa, there were nine grocery stores in the mile between Archer and Pine Streets, along with five drug stores, six variety/sundry/dry goods stores, a meat market, a confectionery, a bakery, a florist, a hardware store, a jeweler, a radio and TV store, two record stores, two appliance stores, two thrift shops, four gas stations, and a hardware store.

There were also 21 barber and/or beauty shops, four shoe repair shops, four shoe shine parlors, three tailors, a photographer, an upholstery shop, and eight dry cleaners.

Greenwood Ave. had five physicians, four dentists, a chiropractor, five law offices, two real estate offices, two insurance agencies,a newspaper (the Oklahoma Eagle), and seven churches.

There were two fraternal lodges, a dance hall (the Dreamland), a nightclub (the Flamingo), eight bars, a movie theater (the Rex), 19 restaurants (including three places with barbecue in the name and three chili parlors), and four pool halls.

There were eight hotels, 11 apartment buildings, 13 rooming houses.

That only counts businesses on Greenwood Ave. and doesn't include other streets and avenues in the district, which went as far west as Detroit and as far east as the Midland Valley and Santa Fe tracks.

If you want specifics about what businesses were where, you can see for yourself by looking at pp. 357-360 of Polk's 1957 directory of Tulsa.

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1 Comments

Tasha said:

This is what investors want to see in downtown Tulsa today before they throw money at us, right? Mixed-use, dense development, and lots of rooftops to drive restaurants, retail, services and nightlife.

We fuss and argue about the proper model for downtown revitalization in Tulsa. You've shown us a pretty good one that has nothing to do with re-branding strategies or event centers - and it's probably sitting on some dusty shelf in the Tulsa City-County Library.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 13, 2007 12:30 AM.

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