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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Ornate Details Give Character to McFarlin Building

On Architecture By ROGER COFFEY, AIA

FIVE STORIES OF HISTORY: At 11 E. 5th St., the McFarlin Building was designed in 1918 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It is a multi-use building today for retail and office spaces.

ROSSY GILLE for GTR Newspapers

At the northeast corner of Fifth and Main streets is a handsome building with characteristics of a Florentine palazzo known as the McFarlin Building.

The McFarlin Building was designed in 1918 by St. Louis architects Barnett – Hayes – Burnett and constructed by engineer Brussel Viterbo. The original owner was Robert M. McFarlin: oilman, banker, philanthropist and civic leader. He was one of the founders of Exchange National Bank, which eventually became First National Bank of Tulsa. The University of Tulsa credits him as the donor of its main library.

The McFarlin Building’s first tenant was the Halliburton-Abbott department store that later moved to a larger building at Fifth Street and Boulder Avenue and is now defunct. A later ground-floor tenant was a Skaggs drugstore. In 1979, the five-story building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Little of the original building character remains on the interior. But the exterior, except for the ground floor, retains its original appearance. Unfortunately, although the ground floor arches remain, all the detail around them has been removed or covered with a smooth stucco facing. Based on the rest of the exterior, one can only imagine how rich this ornamentation was. Directly above the arches is a stone band in a Greek key pattern that supports massive bas-relief urns. The upper floors are faced with a dark red brick punctuated by pairs of double hung steel windows (three pairs on Main Street and nine pairs on Fifth Street). The simplicity of the brick work contrasts sharply with the two outstanding elements of the façade.

First is the substantial overhanging cornice which acts as the building’s crown. The soffit of this cornice is articulated by strong modillions. According to the Tulsa Preservation Commission, these modillions, or brackets, are somewhat Victorian in character. Second are the three projecting limestone balconies which are the “tour de force” of the building. One could almost visualize Shakespeare’s Juliette poised on one while awaiting her Romeo in Verona, Italy. Each appears to be supported by three massive curved stone brackets. Each balcony (projecting approximately three feet) is framed with limestone pilasters which terminate in a massive lintel with segmented panels. Above the lintel are two upright stone lions. Further above, tucked just below the deep soffit, are two heraldic bas-relief limestone shields with an inlaid blue background and a diagonal red stripe.

The footprint of the McFarlin Building is approximately 50 feet (Main Street) by 140 feet (Fifth Street). One balcony is centered on the Main Street elevation and two balconies are spaced at each end of the Fifth Street elevation.

Today, the McFarlin Building has a mixed-use occupancy, with the ground floor accommodating retail and the upper four floors designated for office use. A lobby with two elevators, Spartan in appearance, serves the upper floors. An additional elevator, located at the east end of the building, is accessed by a city alley.

Updated 06-17-2017

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