Tulsa History: May 2005 Archives

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa History category from May 2005.

Tulsa History: April 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa History: June 2005 is the next archive.

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