Tulsa History: December 2008 Archives

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, and Vernon AME Church.

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.

Saturday shopportunities

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If you're looking for out-of-the-ordinary Christmas gifts, here are a couple of special shopping opportunities around Tulsa for tomorrow, Saturday, December 13, 2008:

From 4 pm to 6 pm, Jack Frank will be signing his latest Tulsa Films DVD release, Tulsa Deco, as well as the two volumes of Fantastic Tulsa Films. The signing will be at the midtown Borders, 21st and the Broken Arrow Expressway. The hour-long Tulsa Deco show is a great gift for the longtime Tulsan with a love for local history and architecture or for the newcomer who's heard about Tulsa art deco and wonders what all the fuss is about.

And from 3 pm to 11 pm, Ida Red, at 3346 S. Peoria in Brookside, will be the site of the Handmade Holiday Market, featuring the work of The Knit Owl, Such Pretty Things, Blue Turtle Soap, Holly Rocks, and Clover Studios. There will be live music from Joy and Day, Fiawna Forté, and Erin Austin.

Both events are great opportunities to support local artists and artisans.

UPDATE: Tulsa Deco will re-air on Sunday, December 7, at noon on KTUL channel 8.

If you love Tulsa's beautiful Art Deco architecture, if you're fascinated by our rich history, you're going to want to own a copy of Jack Frank's newest DVD in his Tulsa History Series: Tulsa Deco.

The quality of this production fits its subject: Everything about it is a delight to the eye, from the Deco-inspired fonts used in the titles and captions to the menu graphic -- a juxtaposition of representatives of the three main types of Deco: streamline (the 32nd and Utica all-electric house), zigzag (Boston Ave. Methodist), and PWA (Union Depot), against a background of rotating beams of light and floating clouds.

Jack Frank's camera lets you look up close at the wonderful detail on some of our most famous buildings. You get a tour of the inside of the Adah Robinson House at 11th Pl. and Owasso Ave., and the history of the Riverside Studio (aka the Spotlight Theater), both Bruce Goff designs. Deco churches are represented by Boston Ave. Methodist and Christ the King Catholic Parish. You'll see the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Westhope, and you'll hear some stories about the house from Florence Barnett, who grew up in the home.

The other featured buildings: The ONG Building at 7th and Boston, Philcade, Gillette-Tyrrell (Pythian) Building, Warehouse Market, Union Depot, the Fire Alarm Building, Will Rogers High School, Fairgrounds Pavilion, Tulsa Monument Co., City Veterinary, the Brook, Boulder on the Park (once home to Holland Hall and then KTUL radio), and several streamline residences, including the aforementioned home at 32nd and Utica.

There are fleeting glimpses of many other, more modest Art Deco buildings, and you begin to appreciate what a wealth of deco we enjoy in Tulsa.

Mixed in with modern footage of these Art Deco treasures are historic films related to these buildings from the period when they were built.

The show not only spotlights the buildings but the people who care for them: homeowners, business owners, restorers, preservationists, and even tourists. I enjoyed the interview with a couple from near Boston who were touring Route 66 and set aside extra time to tour Art Deco buildings in Tulsa. They downloaded a list of buildings from the Tulsa Preservation Commission website, then programmed the addresses into their GPS. It's a great example of how cultural heritage tourism can bring people to our city, if we're wise enough to preserve the artifacts of that heritage and to help visitors find and engage them.

(The only false note was an attempt at the end of the show to link the BOK Center to Art Deco. It's understandable, however, given that the video was sponsored by the Bank of Oklahoma and Matrix, which was part of the team that designed and engineered the BOKarena.)

KTUL channel 8 will show an abridged 30-minute preview of the DVD on Tuesday, December 2, at 7 p.m., but you will want to own the full hour-long DVD.

Here's the trailer:

The DVD includes nearly another half-hour of extras:

There are lengthy excerpts from a 1995 interview with historian Robert Powers, who passed away earlier this year. In addition to an extensive discussion of the Pythian Building, he explains why two of Tulsa's favorite "Art Deco" buildings -- the Adams Hotel and the Midcontinent Tower -- aren't really Art Deco at all.

There's a fascinating look at and inside J. Paul Getty's bunker/home on Virgin St. east of Sheridan. I'd heard about this poured concrete and glass block structure, built near Getty's Spartan Aircraft factory, and designed to protect him from storms and air raids, but I'd never seen what the inside looked like.

Another extra features the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture and TFA's collection of historic architectural drawings, along with more apt comments from the architects, historians, and Art Deco lovers who were interviewed for the video.

You can buy Tulsa Deco at Steve's Sundries, BOK branches, Walgreens, QuikTrip, and online at www.tulsafilms.com.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa History category from December 2008.

Tulsa History: November 2008 is the previous archive.

Tulsa History: January 2009 is the next archive.

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