Adams Building a Leader in Terra Cotta Design
On Architecture By ROGER COFFEY, AIA
NEW LIFE: The historic Adams building is currently under construction to become home to outstanding apartment units expected to open in the summer of 2019.
GTR Newspapers photo
If any building in Tulsa could be said to display the most intricate terra cotta design it would have to be The Adams Building at 403 South Cheyenne Avenue.
Built on a 70 × 75 foot lot at 13 stories plus a full-sized basement and a penthouse, it was and is an eye catcher. Faced with tan brick and terra cotta accents and trim, this reinforced concrete structure was designed by architect Alfred C. Fabry at a cost of $802,800.
It was built in the booming years of 1927 – 1928 and was originally called the Mincks Hotel, after its owner, T.S. “Ike” Mincks. Although the hotel was 67,476 square feet, it offered upscale accommodations and opened in time for the first International Petroleum Exposition.
Mincks lost it to bankruptcy in 1935 and the new owners reopened it as the Adams Hotel. It received National Register of Historic Places designation in 1977 and in the early 1980s was converted to office building usage. As the building changed owners, its occupancy level dwindled.
Recently, former owner Stuart Price sold the building to a Tulsa and Oklahoma City real estate firm, Newmark Grubb Levy Strange Beffort, and a real estate development Company, Addax Development. These owners plan a conversion to more than 60 apartment units due to open in the summer of 2019. Gratefully the owners also appear to be cleaning, repairing, and protecting the elaborate terra cotta exterior.
Architects have various ways to visually reinforce their designs. In the case of the Adams Building, the intent was to extend the building vertically. This idea was achieved by the appearance of narrow pilasters between pairs of windows that begin as terra cotta until reaching the 3rd floor, where brick begins and reaches to the 12th floor. There terra cotta is introduced once again. Between each pair of windows is an even narrower masonry mullion that soars to the 13th floor. Spandrels between floors below each window are elaborate terra cotta panels.
Terra cotta forms a strong band below the 13th floor windows and forms a high parapet band above them. The vertical pilasters terminate above the parapet in a series of finials each topped with an ornate lantern. When working (the current owners intend to restore them) they will create a luminous crown at the top of the Adams.
At street level, large glass openings in either side of the chain mounted steel canopies at 4th street and at Cheyenne Ave occur below tripartite windows with an arched pediment above each center window. Dark blue terra cotta is prominently worked into the design. And what is this design? In the media it has been called “an eclectic mix of Art Deco, Neo-Gothic Italian Renaissance and Baroque influences.”
Certainly classic influences abound. Or maybe Mincks told his architect to “jazz it up. Let’s see what you can do.” But without a doubt, the Adams meets the traditionally used criteria for a high-rise building with its base, shaft and dynamic top.