Send me a FREE trial issue Plus a FREE gift
Old-House Online » Old-House Tips, Restoration Stories, & More » Historic Places » Historic Neighborhoods » Art Deco Architecture in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Art Deco Architecture in Tulsa, Oklahoma

This unassuming Midwestern city is home to a treasure trove of well-preserved Art Deco architecture. By Clare Martin

    The Boston Avenue Methodist Church is one of Tulsa's most beloved Art Deco icons.

    The Boston Avenue Methodist Church is one of Tulsa's most beloved Art Deco icons. (Photos: Tulsa Preservation Commission)

    Thanks to back-to-back oil booms that left the residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, relatively flush while the rest of the country battled the Great Depression and World War II, the city’s fervor for Art Deco architecture continued long after the style fell out of fashion with the mainstream. As a result, Oklahoma’s second-largest city is one of the best places in the country to see every type of Deco building imaginable, from high-rise office buildings and schools to homes and churches. We asked Preservation Planner Amanda DeCort, who heads up the Tulsa Preservation Commission, to take us on a (virtual) tour of her city and point out her top 5 can’t-miss Deco gems.

    Boston Avenue Methodist Church

    With a towering spire that reaches 258 feet up toward the heavens, the 1929 Boston Avenue Methodist Church has been hailed as both the finest example of ecclesiastical architecture in America, as well as the first church to be built in a solely American architectural style. Its design is jointly attributed to noted Tulsa architect Bruce Goff and his mentor, art teacher Adah Robinson. (Goff and Robinson also were responsible for the Tulsa home featured in Old-House Living, which originally served as an art studio for Robinson.) Fourteen floors comprise the show-stopping tower; a prayer room, history room, and church offices are located at the top.

    Oklahoma Natural Gas Building

    The zig-zag Oklahoma Natural Gas Building is said to have spearheaded the Art Deco fervor in Tulsa.

    The zig-zag Oklahoma Natural Gas Building is said to have spearheaded the Art Deco fervor in Tulsa.

    “This is a great zig-zag skyscraper,” says DeCort of the Oklahoma Natural Gas Building, one of the first Art Deco structures built in Tulsa. Designed by A.M. Atkinson in 1928, the exuberant zig-zag detailing on the 10-story structure is a hallmark of early Art Deco designs. The building, commissioned by a company with a highly conservative reputation, is credited with paving the way for wider acceptance of Art Deco within the city. After the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company vacated the building in the mid-1980s, it remained virtually empty for years, but plans for an adaptive-reuse project are currently underway.

    Fire Alarm Building

    The purpose of the Fire Alarm Building is reflected on a decorative frieze.

    The purpose of the Fire Alarm Building is reflected on a decorative frieze.

    Crowned by an elaborate terracotta frieze that blends firefighting symbols with elements of Mayan mythology, the 1934 Fire Alarm building is “a small but significant—and highly ornate—structure,” says DeCort. Designed by Frederick V. Kershner, the building’s entrance was originally flanked by elaborate Deco-style lanterns. From its inception until 1984, the structure served as a central switchboard for fire-alarm systems throughout the city. It recently underwent a complete restoration, and is now an office for the local arm of the American Lung Association.

    Will Rogers High School

    Images of the school's namesake crown the doors to Will Rogers High School.

    Images of the school's namesake crown the doors to Will Rogers High School.

    The first Tulsa school building to make it on the National Register, the 1938 Will Rogers High School is an enduring example of the Deco style that evolved during the Public Works Administration period. Designed by Leon Senter and Joseph Koberling, Jr. (the latter of whom was also a student of Adah Robinson’s), the school was touted by Time magazine as being “a model progressive high school.” The entrance to the buff brick building is topped by two panels, one depicting Will Rogers the cowboy, and the other Will Rogers the movie star. To mark the school’s 70th anniversary in 2009, students and staff are hosting guided tours of the historic interior every second Monday night of the month throughout the school year.

    City Veterinary Hospital

    The Streamline City Veterinary Hospital has served its original purpose for nearly seven decades.

    The Streamline City Veterinary Hospital has served its original purpose for nearly seven decades.

    Also designed by Koberling, the 1942 City Veterinary Hospital is still in its original use. With its rounded glass-block corners and banded parapet roof, the diminutive structure “is a great example of Streamline,” says DeCort. Brookside, the neighborhood where it resides, is home to a number of other fine Streamline structures.

    For information on other Art Deco structures in Tulsa, including a number of private houses, check out the Tulsa Preservation Commission’s list of buildings throughout the city.

    Published in: Old-House Journal May/June 2009



    Get your FREE Trial Issue of Old House Journal and 2 FREE gifts.
    Yes! Please send me a FREE trial issue of Old House Journal and 2 FREE gifts.
    If I like it and decide to continue, I'll get 7 more issues (8 in all) for just $24.95, a savings of 48%. If for any reason I decide not to continue,
    I'll write cancel on the invoice and owe nothing. The Free Trial Issue is mine to keep, no matter what.
     
     Full Name:
     Address 1:
     Address 2:
     City:
     State:
     Zip Code:
     Email (req):
     
    Offer valid in US only.
    Click here for Canada or here for international subscriptions

    Products & ServicesHouse ToursHistoric PlacesHouse StylesOldHouseOnline.comMagazine
    Architectual ElementsKitchen & BathsHistoric HotelsArchitectural TermsRepairs & How ToSubscribe to Old-House Journal
    BathsInterior & DécorHistoric NeighborhoodsAmerican FoursquareFree NewslettersBack Issues
    Ceilings & WallsGardens & ExteriorsHouse MuseumsBungalowSubscribe to Arts & Crafts HomesDigital Editions
    Doors & WindowsColonial RevivalOld House CommunityAdvertise
    Exterior Products & LandscapeGothicAbout Us 
    FlooringQueen AnneContact Us 
    FurnitureVictorianPrivacy Policy
    HardwareLand for Sale
    Heating & CoolingSite Map
    Home Décor
    Kitchens
    Period Lighting
    Real Estate
    Repair & Restoration
    Roofing & Siding
    Tools & Equipment

    EXPLORE OUR HOME GROUP BRANDS:
     
    Designer Sourcw e bookHistoric Home Show Logo

    Copyright © 2011-2016 Old House Online