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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Beacon Building Remains with Ownership Changes

On Architecture By ROGER COFFEY, AIA

RECENTLY IMPROVED: Today, the Beacon Building, at Fourth Street and Boulder Avenue, provides general office space for a wide range of tenants and has currently undergone a million-dollar renovation.

ROSSY GILLE for GTR Newspapers

When I was in grade school, I received a weekly allowance of 75 cents. I supplemented this princely sum by washing the neighbors’ cars and other odd jobs. On a good month, I pulled in $6. In the 1950s, this was big money.

The highlight of my month was to go with my dad to our bank to add a couple of dollars to my savings account. Our bank was The Fourth National Bank located in the Beacon Building, 406 S. Boulder Ave.

Through the eyes of a young boy, I remember a grand two-story lobby with a substantial mezzanine accessible by several spiral brass stairs. These amazed me; I always wanted to climb one which, of course my dad didn’t permit. The bank remained in this location until 1967 when it moved to a larger facility.

The eight-story Beacon Building at the southwest corner of Fourth Street and Boulder Avenue was built in 1923 and originally called the Commercial Building. First owned by James M. and Carl W. Gillette, Patrick M. Kerr, and Elliott L. Mills, the building was renamed the Security National Bank Building and a year later the Tulsa Trust Building; the building changed names every time it changed owners.

After oilman and philanthropist Waite Phillips took ownership of the building, it became the Beacon Building because the Beacon Insurance Company was a major tenant. In 1942, Phillips gave the building to the Southwest Art Association with the stipulation that the income from the building help maintain Philbrook Museum of Art.
The Beacon Building has passed through a number of owners since then. In 1983, during a multi-million-dollar remodel, two different transformer explosions spilled toxic chemicals onto tile floors and basement mechanical ducts. It was over five years before the air in the building was deemed environmentally safe to allow occupancy.

The 65-foot lighthouse mounted on the roof at the northeast corner (called The Beacon) lost its lighting in the 1950s when air conditioning was installed, and the electrical system couldn’t handle both. In 1976, the lighthouse was removed due to roof leaks. It has recently been found in the basement and may soon be reinstalled along with other improvements underway by the current building owner.

At the exterior, the ground floor is faced with limestone around a series of two-story arches (four on the north and six on the east, with rectangular openings at the corners). Between this row of openings are Doric pilasters. Above these is a projecting stone band with a dentil pattern, a wave pattern, and an egg and dart molding. The second through seventh floors feature pairs of steel windows in a red brick façade. At the seventh-floor window heads are limestone brackets supporting a projecting molding below the eighth-floor windows, which are framed in stone. A strong cornice above a massive dentil pattern soffit supports a parapet balustrade of stone. Three original projecting canopies at the east elevation identify the location of the original building entrances.

In the center was the main lobby serviced by three elevators. The bank space and other ground floor tenant spaces were wrapped around this lobby in a U-shape. To the south of the building is a vacant lot which, during the Fourth National occupancy, was the location of the bank’s drive-through.

Today, the Beacon Building, as when it was first built, provides general office space for a wide range of tenants.

Updated 04-04-2017

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