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2010 December 28
by Caroline Nye Stevens

Because Chicago isn’t the only place filled with architectural treasures (though I personally believe it has the most), I have decided that as I find myself in places of architectural interest around the country or the world . . . I will share some highlights of my explorations with you. First stop of the On the Road series is Tulsa, OK.


The air traffic criss-crossing the Great Plains passes over many hidden gems, and Tulsa has more than many travelers would ever guess. At the beginning of the 2oth century, oil was discovered not far from Tulsa. By the 1920s Tulsa became known as the “Oil Capital of the World.” Money was flowing, the population was rising and so were buildings. And what style of buildings were being built during the 1920’s and 1930’s? Art Deco buildings.

Art Deco is a style of art, craft and architecture popular in the U.S. and Europe during the 1920’s and 1930’s that was introduced through the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts) held in Paris in 1925. Art Deco architecture took on many different forms and went through numerous variations. But a few common themes remained consistent. Art Deco architecture was characterized by stylized forms — breaking forms down to their basic geometry. It was about movement, opulence and modernism.

Driving around Tulsa, Art Deco buildings are everywhere. So Tulsa has real bragging rights. Below is just a small sampling of the architectural wonders found in the great city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Next time, don’t just fly over the city — stop in and take a look. (Click on the images to ENLARGE them!)

Boston Avenue Methodist Church

#1. Boston Avenue Church, INTERIOR

Boston Avenue Methodist Church

#1. Boston Avenue Methodist Church

Boston Avenue Methodist Church

#1. Boston Ave. Church Detail

Fairgrounds Pavilion, Tulsa

#2. Fairgrounds Pavilion

Fairgrounds Pavilion, Tulsa

#2. Fairground's Pavilion Detail

Warehouse Market, Tulsa

#3. Warehouse Market

Warehouse Market, Tulsa

#3. Warehouse Market, Detail

Westhope, Frank Lloyd Wright

#4. Westhope

Riverside Studio, Bruce Goff

#5. Riverside Studio

Tulsa Bus Depot

#6. MTTA Bus Station

#1: Boston Avenue Methodist Church (1929), Adah M. Robinson, Bruce Goff, Endacott & Rush,1301 S. Boston Avenue
#2: Tulsa State Fairgrounds Pavilion (1932), L. I. Shumway
#3: Warehouse Market (1929), B. Gaylord Noftsger, 925 S. Elgin Avenue
#4: Westhope, Richard Lloyd Jones Residence (1929), Frank Lloyd Wright, 3704 S. Birmingham Avenue
#5: Riverside Studio (1929), Rush, Endacott & Goff, Bruce Goff, 1381 Riverside Drive
#6: MTTA Downtown Transfer Center (1998), Myers-Duren Harley Davidson, 4848 S. Peoria*

(*Though the MTTA station was built only recently, it is an homage to Tulsa’s rich Art Deco history)

The Tulsa Preservation Commission offers a wonderful and thorough introduction to Tulsa’s Art Deco architecture as well as other buildings of interest in Tulsa. Be sure to explore their website.

What do YOU know about Tulsa? And what do YOU think about the city’s architecture? Please share your thoughts below.

7 Responses
  1. Nye S permalink
    December 28, 2010

    You certainly have an eye for out-of-the way treasures of architecture

  2. Cayla permalink
    December 28, 2010

    I never knew Tulsa was so cool! Thanks!

  3. Rob permalink
    December 28, 2010

    These are great. Really like the Stakhanovite-esque statue too.

  4. windy cindy permalink
    December 28, 2010

    I haven’t visited Tulsa and had no idea that it had such interesting architecture. Like @Cayla says – cool! Thank you for dispelling Tulsa’s “boring” stereotype.

  5. Carl Johnson permalink
    December 28, 2010

    very interesting. I will visit Tulsa because these photos have opened my eyes to an unknown treasure.

  6. December 28, 2010

    It is really interesting that you picked Tulsa. Russ is from Tulsa and we are visiting this weekend for his father’s birthday. Russ grew up visiting the Boston Ave. Methodist Church and was lucky that one of his father’s friends owned Westhope, the Frank Lloyd Wright house that was built as a wedding present for Richard Lloyd Jones who was a cousin of FLW.

    Another famous architect, but less known is Bruce Goff who has many examples of residential and commercial buildings.

    Some of the other interesting places is the downtown area as it is full of the Art Deco examples, such as the PhilTower building. Check out the book, Art Deco Tulsa for more examples. There is also the Bank of Oklahoma building by the same architect as the World Trade Towers (same design only half as high). There is a rich history of oil men as seen in the PhilBrook art museum (the Phil refers to Wiate Phillips). He also gave his ranch PhilMount to the boy Scouts.

    • carolinenye permalink*
      December 29, 2010


      My mother’s family is from Tulsa and I was just there this past weekend. So we just missed eachother. What fun that Russ grew up in that church and knew the Westhope home so intimately. Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts with my readers.

      And everyone else: Hallee is right — Art Deco Tulsa is fabulous book, and worth reading for all those interested in Art Deco architecture. And it’s at the Harold Washington Library. Thanks to all of you for your nice comments.

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