Greenwood's streetcar: The Sand Springs Railroad
In this week's issue of Urban Tulsa Weekly I wrote about the proposed look for the new downtown ballpark, and I mentioned the location's connection with two railroads and the Greenwood district:
From the 1910s until sometime in the 1990s, the site was bisected by the M. K. & T. railroad tracks. For the first 50 years of that period, the interurban from Sand Springs ran down the center of Archer until about a half-block east of Elgin, where the tracks curved northward, running roughly where the ballpark's outfield fence will be. The trolley tracks then ran down the middle of Greenwood Ave. from Brady St. to Haskell St., before veering off to the east to connect to the Santa Fe tracks to the north.
You can still see some old bits of the track behind the commercial buildings on the west side of Greenwood. The triangular shape of that block of buildings marks where the Sand Springs and Katy railroads crossed paths. If you look closely, you can see where the middle of Archer and the sidewalk on its north side were patched when the interurban tracks were removed.
In the Tulsa Library's online archive of the Beryl Ford Collection of historic Tulsa photos, I found a series of photos showing the Sand Springs line in Greenwood in what appears to be the late 1940s and early 1950s. Not all of the photos were taken at the same time, but I've put them in order starting near the corner of Greenwood Ave. and Brady St. and moving north to where the tracks leave Greenwood Ave. at Haskell Ave. and head north-northeast along a road called Greenwood Pl. toward a junction with the Midland Valley and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad tracks north of Independence St. Each photo and caption is linked to a slightly larger version on the library's website. Someday I hope to see a full resolution version of each these pictures, which would make it possible to pin down details like years on license plates, street signs, and names and numbers on buildings.
The Sand Springs Railroad's waiting room at the Tulsa end of the line was on the northwest corner of Archer and Boston. I do not know whether or not passengers were carried all the way to Greenwood Ave.
(UPDATE 2015/02/07: In an interview for the Voices of Oklahoma Series, Marques Haynes, basketball hall-of-famer and Sand Springs native, confirms that the streetcar had a stop on Greenwood. He mentions that because he couldn't go to the whites-only movie theater in Sand Springs, he and his friends would ride the Sand Springs interurban into Tulsa; the trolley stopped on Greenwood, right across from the Dreamland Theater. That stop was probably in front of the building on the left of the first photo below, on the NW corner of Greenwood and Brady.)
Sand Springs Railroad interurban tracks, looking north toward Brady St. & Greenwood Ave., Busy Bee Lunch (in the Center Hotel building), and Vernon AME Church. While the Vernon Church is still there, as is the building in the foreground, in between is now the route of I-244.
Sand Springs Railroad interurban tracks, near Brady St. & Greenwood Ave., looking southwest, Hotel Tulsa in far background. This is looking the opposite direction from the same vantage point as in the previous photo. The new ballpark will be off to the right of the tracks.
Nearly everything you will see below has been replaced by parking lots for OSU-Tulsa.
Greenwood Ave. south of Easton St., looking north along Sand Springs Railroad tracks. Prince-Mackey (Mable B. Little) House visible on the left (tile roof). This is taken just a bit south of the previous photo -- note the two-story building with the white pillars. The Prince-Mackey house stood on the southwest corner of Greenwood Ave. and Easton St. It is now located a little ways to the south and back from the street, as part of the Greenwood Cultural Center. The skinny three-story building straight ahead is the Del Rio Hotel.
Now a little interlude. These two photos follow city bus No. 1939 as it is
eastbound on Easton St. approaching Greenwood Ave. (Correction: Westbound in the first picture, eastbound in the second picture.)
UPDATE 2013/07/02: Paul Uttinger notes that this same block is visible in the Solomon Sir Jones films from the 1920s, specifically a section of Reel 27 that shows the newly opened Jessie Brown Funeral Home at 540 E. Easton. At 2:26 there's a good view to the east along Easton toward Greenwood, with Phil's Food Market and the Prince-Mackey home in the background. At 3:00 as the ambulance pulls out and drives west, you can see Booker T. Washington High School in the background on the right.
Greenwood Ave. at intersection with Greenwood Pl., which parallels the Sand Springs Railroad interurban tracks branching to the right. The Del Rio Hotel is the 'flatiron' building straight ahead. The siding to the left goes to the brick plant. Walker's Beauty College is on the left.
Greenwood Pl. just east of intersection of Greenwood Ave., and the Sand Springs Railroad interurban car 62, with the Del Rio Hotel behind it. According to the book, When Oklahoma Took the Trolley, car 62 was built in 1917, acquired by the SSRR in 1932 from Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg, and Aurora, and scrapped in 1947 when newer cars were acquired from the recently defunct Oklahoma Union Railway, an interurban line connecting Nowata, Coffeyville, and Independence. Note the man in the hat looking at the track. He shows up in some of the following photos, intensely interested in the track or possibly just camera shy. There are some other photos in the collection showing him looking at rural portions of the line, between Tulsa and Sand Springs.
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