Tulsa History: November 2005 Archives

Signs and wonders

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Tom Baddley has some new content up at Lost Tulsa: the old Abundant Life Building near 16th and Boulder (the windowless building with the white and gold diamond shapes), Eastland Mall, Rose Bowl, and pedestrian tunnels in downtown Tulsa. Be sure to click on the photos to see the full photo set for each entry.

Dwayne, the Canoe Guy, has recently posted some photos of great neon signs from OKC, Tulsa, and Springfield, Missouri, including the Brookshire Motel, and the Woodland Shopping Center and Desert Hills Motel. (He also posted pictures and instructions for cooking turkey in a trash can.)

No entry about lost and forgotten places would be complete without checking in with Kevin Walsh, who set the standard for local history websites with Forgotten NY. He's under contract and working on a Forgotten NY book, due out next fall from HarperCollins. He's keeping a diary of the process.

I'm looking forward to the book, and it's interesting to learn what's involved in producing a photo- and map-intensive book. For a long time, I've wanted to do a kind of time capsule book of Tulsa in 1957, back when we called ourselves "America's Most Beautiful City." I'd like to use maps and photos to give the reader a sense of what it would be like to take a time machine back to when Tulsa still had a lively downtown, back before expressways, back when Tulsa was still a fairly compact city, but the thought of creating the maps and locating and acquiring the rights to contemporary photos has daunted me.

I was very sad to read of the intent of the Sand Springs Home, the charitable trust created nearly 100 years ago by industrialist and philanthropist Charles Page to care for widows and orphans, to demolish the 87-year-old dormitory building. They plan to build a rec center in its place.

It looks to be a big and sturdy old building, and it's a building that means a lot to the kids who grew up there.

Trustees are saying that the cost of renovation would be astronomical, and they wouldn't know what to do with the building anyway. The fact that they don't cite even a ballpark cost for renovation tells me that the trustees never considered it. I'm sure they haven't looked into "mothballing" the building -- even if you don't have an immediate use for a historic building or the means to do an immediate renovation, you can spend considerably less money to secure a building and prevent deterioration until you're ready to do something with it.

At some point, and I keep thinking the day is finally near, there will be a consensus that preservation is a good and worthwhile thing among the Oklahomans who have the wealth and power to do something about it. Hopefully that will happen before too many more landmarks fall to the wrecking ball.

MeeCiteeWurkor grew up in the Home's Widows' Colony and has much more to say about the situation, and he links to a web page for Home alumni, which has an online petition you can sign, asking the trustees to spare the building.

I went to a presentation this afternoon at Central Library about the digital version of the Sanborn fire maps. These are maps that were created for fire insurance purposes from before the turn of the 20th century through the 1960s, showing details of each structure -- number of stories, footprint, building material, and sometimes the name or type of business. It's a valuable resource for trying to reconstruct what was where at a given point in time.

Tulsa City-County Library card holders have access to fire maps for Oklahoma online, from anywhere on the Internet, via this link. If you're not in a library, you'll have to log in with your last name and library card number.

I've got an idea for a series about lost downtown Tulsa, going block by block, telling what was on each block over the years before it was turned into asphalt. These maps, combined with city directories, will be a valuable resource. Just so no one else claims it, I'll give you my working title: "If Parking Lots Could Talk."

About this Archive

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

Tulsa History: October 2005 is the previous archive.

Tulsa History: December 2005 is the next archive.

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