Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Bank at 320 South Boston

320 South Boston Building today.
Artist's rendering of completed building prior to expansion.

This handsome 22-story high rise building with 10 story wings on each side is known simply as the 320 South Boston Building. In the past it has had several names.  

1927 photo.  New addition on the left, old on the right.
The Exchange National Bank of Tulsa, Oklahoma was organized in 1910, when four young men purchased the failed Farmers National Bank of Tulsa. Business men Eugene Frank Blaise, Charles J. Wrightsman, William Connelly, and Harry F. Sinclair became the new owners.

A new 10 story building at 320 S. Boston was completed in 1917 to be the home of the Exchange National Bank. It stood ten stories tall and at that time was the largest bank in 
Revolving Brass door and Gilt carved trim.

Amidst a downtown building frenzy in 1929, the bank was expanded by adding the left wing and a 22 story central tower. The addition brought the building's height to 400 feet (122 m), making it the tallest building in Oklahoma at the time. 

The architect was George Winkler, who also designed the Mayo Hotel. One of the bank's major investors was Harry Sinclair who became the bank's president.

In 1948 these were the only escalators in Oklahoma
Bank of Oklahoma was placed into FDIC receivership in 1990, and a year later was bought by Tulsa businessman George Kaiser.   

At the time, it was a $2 billion bank with 20 branches in Oklahoma. Under Kaiser's ownership, BOK began an aggressive expansion effort. BOK's expansion strategy is to locate in growing markets near Oklahoma. 

  (Older photos courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.   Text from Wikipedia, mostly) 
Old Main Lobby
Main lobby today
Decorative stone trim
Ceiling and decorative stone work

The Vault.  Very strong.  A safe place to keep your treasure.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Mincks-Adams Hotel, 1927-1928

403 South Cheyenne,  Photograph from 1930

The Adams Hotel is located on a lot in the heart of the Central Business District of Tulsa. Built by I. S. Mincks to capitalize on the 1928 International Petroleum Exposition, the building has thirteen floors, with a full basement and penthouse. A 1935 liquidation sale gave it new owners and a new name: the Adams Hotel.

The Adams facade is widely recognized as an excellent example of glazed terra-cotta veneering.
Produced by the Northwestern Terra Cotta Company, the terra cotta pastel blues and reds are still quite noticeable, and the individual tile units are sound, with tight mortar joints.

The architectural style of the facade is eclectic, in the mood of the 1893 to 1917 period when architects felt free to use any and all decorative motifs as they saw fit. Its highly ornate facade is an imaginative combination of Gothic, Italian Renaissance, and Baroque decorations.

Just to the right of the handsome main doors is a plaque  recognizing that the Adams Building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The hotel was listed in the National Register on November 7, 1978, under National Register Criterion C, and its NRIS number is 78002273.   

Terra cotta is also used extensively in the interior of the building in the lobby, restaurant, and all the way up the stairwell.   The interior doors are double and made of heavy dark wood.

The floor and walls are faced with decorative tile as are the stair risers.

The old elevators have been upgraded but the original brass letterbox is still in place.

 The current occupant for the larger part of the ground floor is the Casa Laredo, an upscale Mexican restaurant which makes good use of the ornate tile on the floor and walls.   

(Text courtesy Tulsa Preservation Commission) .   (Older photos courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

21st Street Bridge Across the Arkansas River, 1932

The "new" 21st Street bridge over the Arkansas River in 1932.

The 21st Street bridge across the Arkansas River was completed in 1932. The water level in the Arkansas varies considerably according to the amount of rain falls upstream. The riverbed is very sandy and a number of commercial sand dredging operations are located on the river across the state. When the bridge was being constructed the water level was so low that equipment could work from the channel.

The 21st Street bridge in December 2009.

The bridge originally had decorative risers and guard rails.

Oklahoma acquired its longest concrete bridge (1,880 feet) when Tulsa raised funds through a bond issue to build a twenty-one span, open spandrel arch bridge across the Arkansas River. The 21st Street Bridge, completed in 1932, opened a major new thoroughfare between downtown and fast growing western suburbs.

The bridge assumed a more utilitarian appearance after its 1984 expansion.

The Spans were strengthened, the deck was widened, and a Riverside exit ramp was added.

Looking north at the 21st Street Bridge and the Tulsa skyline in 1932.

Photograph taken September 10, 1983.

The 21st Street bridge project began in early September 1983 with the demolition of the old bridge railings and the three spans over Riverside Drive.

Photograph taken October 7, 1983.

The 21st Street bridge's deck is beginning to vanish into history as work has started on removing the deck to the arches. The bridge's arches and footings are sound, but the deck above the arches is deteriorated. This portion of the bridge will be removed and replaced, while the arches will remain intact.

Photograph taken May 14, 1984.

Work has started on removing the road deck at the west end of the 21st Street bridge. Pier work is continuing on the bridge, and work is underway on building a pedestrian ramp from the new bridge's future bicycle lane to the Riverside Drive bicycle trail.

Photograph taken August 12, 1984

The new ramp connecting the 21st Street bridge with Riverside Drive is moving along as two piers are complete and a third pier is nearing completion.

A comprehensive study of Oklahoma bridge construction can be found HERE. (Older photos courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

US Highway 66 over the Arkansas River, 1915-1916

West Bank Looking toward the North East, 1917

East Bank Looking toward the North West, 1936

West Bank Looking Toward the South East, 2009

Tulsa's 11th Street Bridge over the Arkansas River is a good example of a multi-span concrete arch bridge with verticals. It is a continuous span constructed of reinforced concrete. The roadway decking and guardrails are monolithic. It was altered in 1929 and has ornate guardrails that utilize Art Deco motifs, especially the Zigzag Art Deco and PWA Classical-oriented Art Deco. Its roadbed is 34 feet wide and it was labor intensive to build, reflecting a technology and aesthetic approach to bridge construction no longer in use.

The current state of disrepair of the old bridge make it unsafe even for foot traffic. It has been named an historic site and plans exist to restore it and make it the centerpiece of a Route 66 Center. However because of the expense involved those plans are on hold for the time being.

This bridge is sandwiched in on the North by the Redfork Expressway (I244) and on the South by Southwest Boulevard. It it difficult to photograph except from either end looking between the old bridge and I244.
(Excerpted from Tulsa Preservation Committee. Older photo courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Skelly Mansion, 1923

2103 South Madison Avenue - Photo circa 1950

The Skelly mansion is a three-story building with a full basement, providing approximately 10,000 square feet of floor space. It faces west-northwest from a spacious, wooded corner lot. Its masonry exterior walls are faced with red brick, with a roof of green tile. The severe front entrance, with a classic architrave and a transom of clear, leaded glass, is flanked by carriage lights believed to have come from an early-day hearse. The entrance way is protected by a classic two-story portico supported by white cut stone columns with lotus style capitals. The portico is flanked on either side by a pair of double French doors, opening onto the terrace. A large second floor veranda with iron rail and iron staircase offering access to the yard may have been added some time after the house was built.

The main feature of the ground floor is the long, forty foot dining room. The walls have murals in inset panels and arched mirrors with plaster mold frames in the French style. Unusual features of the second floor include an ornate, half-circle ceiling grill through which the third floor exhaust fan sucked cool air into the bedroom. The third floor has two servant rooms and a bath.

William G. Skelly, oil producer, refiner, and marketer, purchased this neo-classic house in 1924. It remained in the Skelly family until 1968. The Skelly House remains one of Tulsa’s premier historical buildings.
(Excerpted from Tulsa Preservation Committee. Older photo courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gillette Mansion, 1921

1521 South Yorktown Place

This is the home of J. M. Gillette, from which the residential district around it draws its name. It is a three-story, Gothic Tudor building constructed of brick, stucco and heavy timbers. It has rock accents, multi-paned leaded glass windows set within cut stone Gothic arched frames, and a slate roof. This early photograph looks at the house from the north with the prominent windows on the west side.

Outstanding interior features include a winding staircase and cut stone fireplaces. One of the fireplaces has gargoyle brackets on the mantle. Much of the interior is of gumwood with intricately detailed moldings and paneling. It also features a library and a sunroom with a colored glass skylight.

Originally, the mansion’s back yard extended from the house to the lot line where 16th Street should go through. The mansion grounds included a natural stone goldfish pond, a wood and stone screened “summer house” facing the fish pond, a hand crafted (dated and signed) concrete picnic table and benches with inlaid tile tops, concrete garden benches, and a clay tennis court located in the southwest corner of the yard. The property around the mansion is now populated by other houses.

James Max Gillette was an important merchant, real estate entrepreneur and oilman in Tulsa’s early days. Gillette sited his home outside the city limits and raised purebred cattle on this “country place” for several years. The cattle grazed on land south of the mansion, which is currently occupied by four new homes. During the Depression, Gillette lost everything, including the mansion.
(Excerpts from Tulsa Preservation Committee. Older photo courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mount Zion Baptist Church, 1909, 1921, 1952

In 1909 a group led by Reverend Sandy Lyons organized themselves as the Second Baptist Church in a one room schoolhouse in the 300 block on North Hartford. They soon decided that they did not care to be second in anything and changed their name to the Mount Zion Baptist Church. It was said that Mount Zion was the highest point in Jerusalem whereupon the city of God rested.

In the early days of the fledgling congregation a property was purchased as 419 North Elgin with plans to raise money for a new church. In 1914 Reverend R. A. Whitaker Assumed the duties as Pastor and very soon faced a serious challenge. The school building they had been using ceased to be available and they were forced to move with only 3 days notice. They temporarily moved in what had been a dance hall on North Greenwood. As soon as possible they built a frame tabernacle adjacent to their new property at Fourth and North Elgin and began to make plans for a permanent home.

Several anxious years of planning went into the construction of a permanent home for Mount Zion. Under Reverend Whitaker some $42,000 was raised but the cost of the proposed building was $92,000. Just when it appeared that plans would have to be abandoned a Jewish contractor came forward with an unsecured loan for $50,000. His faith and confidence in the new congregation was soon to be justified.

In 1916 construction on the new church was begun and five years later the $92,000 edifice was completed. An enthusiastic congregation held its first services on April 4th, 1921 while assuming a $50,000 loan in doing so. Their joy was short lived, as soon the "Church that Faith Built" was heading for more dark days.

In two months time Tulsa would experience the worst race riot in US history. At this time Tulsa had a very prosperous black business community. The financial strength of what was known as the "Black Wall Street" was second in financial dealing only to New York City.

It was during this time that a young black man was accused of assaulting a young white girl working as an elevator operator in the white business district. Before any real sense of the incident could be made the incident quickly escalated into a white lynch mob and an effort by the black community to protect the accused. This quickly escalated into an all-out but one sided war. Within 24 hours the once prosperous black community was ashes and rubble. Most homes and businesses and no less that 23 black churches including Mount Zion were burned to the ground.

Reverend Whitaker organized what relief he could. Members of Mount Zion set up a distribution center for what food and supplies they could gather for use of the devastated community. The pastor and members of the church gathered within the ruins for prayer and discussion. They were relieved to learn that they did have insurance, then dismayed to find that it had a clause that excluded an act of riot. The only way they could avoid obligation for a $50,000 mortgage on a pile of smoking rubble was to declare bankruptcy.

After considerable discussion the decision was made that the debt was a matter of honor made in good faith by the lender. They would pay off the mortgage as best they could. Some members did leave, but most stayed and spent evenings and weekends clearing away the debris, readying the site for rebuilding.

Exhausted and in ill health, Reverend Whitaker resigned as pastor. A series of ministers lent service for brief periods of time. Sometimes there was no pastor but the members pressed on. For the next five years the church struggled with the issue of the debt. At times it looked like they were facing foreclosure. The burden of debt made it difficult to call a pastor.

In 1928 Reverend Hamilton came and became involved in a fierce debate regarding the unpaid mortgage. He led a group who felt that the mortgage was not a legal debt because much of it was made up of "Good Faith" lenders. Money had been lent with no hard assets to secure it. Because it ws lent to a church it was a matter of good faith that the debt would be honored without security. This debate split the church. Pastor Hamilton resigned and withdrew with a large number of the members to start another church called New Hope Baptist. Those who remained continued to slowly pay off the old debt. By late 1937 they were holding services in the dirt floored basement of the ruined church and had paid off about three-fourths of the mortgage.

In 1937 Reverand J. H. Dotson was called to be pastor. Within 6 months 60 new members joined Mount Zion and $3,000 had been raised. Using several effective fund raising techniques Reverend Dotson continued to bring in new members and to chip away at the remaining mortgage. On November 23, 1942 the mortgage on the first structure was paid in full.

As soon as the first mortgage was paid Reverend Dotson began an aggressive building fund to pay for a new church. The story of how this small congregation managed to survive great hardship with honor was retold widely in papers and magazines all over the nation. As a result, contributions towards a new church came in from people who were moved by the story of the struggling congregation.

W.S. and J.C. Latimer were trained architects and members of Mount Zion. The two brothers drew up the plans for the new Mount Zion. It was to be larger and more expensive that the old church. It is this design that Rev. Dotson is so excited about in the photo above.

Once the construction began Rev. Dotson could be found at the construction site every day, watching, checking, handing bricks to the workman, providing encouragement. Finally in November of 1952 the fine new church was dedicated.

In a few years Pastor Dotson's health began to fail and he asked for permission to call Reverend G. Calvin McCutchen to be his assistant. In 1957 Reverend McCutchen was installed as the Pastor for Mount Zion.

Reverend McCutchen was to serve Mount Zion for 50 years. During his tenure the mortgage was retired, a number of improvements were made to the property, and the membership increased. In 1985 ground was broken for a large Family Life Center adjacent to the church which was completed one year later on Palm Sunday 1986.

There were difficult times when the I-244 Expressway was completed very close to Mount Zion, and Urban Renewal took out a large section of old business and residential building just south of the church. This caused a decline in attendence as prople were displaced from the area. Less than 1% of the membership is within walking distance of the church. Members now come from all over Tulsa, some as far away as Bixby, Glenpool, and Broken Arrow.

Since building the Family Life Center, other facility improvements include the remodeling of the Sanctuary, the J. H. Dotson Study Hall, the R. A. Whitaker Annex; development of "Faith Park;" and the establishment of a Computer Lab. On November 8, 1998, the Family Life Center was renamed "G. Calvin McCutchen, Sr. Family Life Center" in honor of Pastor McCutchen.

On Sunday, August 15, 1999, there was another fire at Mt. Zion. This time it was a joyous celebration of God's blessings with the burning of the mortgage on the G. Calvin McCutchen, Sr. Family Life Center.

After 50 years of faithful service Reverend McCutchen retired in 2007 and continues to be active in the ministry of Mount Zion. The baton has been passed to Dr. Leroy M. Cole who serves as the current Pastor of Mount Zion.

The only thing remaining from the church that burned is this basement room that served as sanctuary for a time. On August 16, 2009 Mount Zion Baptist Church celebrated its 100th anniversary celebration. The theme was "We Have Come This Far By Faith".

Mt. Zion Baptist Church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on September 5, 2008

  (Older photos courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society, and Mount Zion Baptist.)