Boulder on the Park Enjoys Rich Tulsa History
On Architecture by ROGER COFFEY, AIA
BUILT IN 1923: The building Boulder on the Park sits at 1850 S. Boulder Ave. It received its current name after KTUL Radio referred to the building by that name on the air in the late 1940s. Griffin and Leake, owners of Tulsa Broadcasting Company and KTUL Radio, owned the building from 1948 to 1955.
As with many architects, Lanny McIntosh had a deep-seated goal to buy an old building and utilize his talent to improve it for use as his architectural office. When an adjacent building at 1850 S. Boulder Ave. came on the market, he and neighbor interior designer Susie Woody jumped at the opportunity, purchasing the building in 2000 and, after a year of remodeling, moved in.
Boulder on the Park, as the building is known today, has an interesting history. It was built in 1923 by contractor brothers Charles A. and Roy Wesley Sanderson for $24,000. Among its original financial backers were Waite Phillips, W.G. Skelly and George S. Bole. Tucked into the side of a hill, its ground floor is actually a walkout basement. Although only 8,000 square feet, it appears to be much larger.
The first tenant was the newly formed private girls school Holland Hall, which occupied the building from 1923 to 1932. The school had nine classrooms, a shop, a gymnasium, an assembly auditorium, offices and a chemical laboratory. Class sizes were held to eight students supervised by the indomitable principal Miss Mooney. My mother and her sisters, who lived nearby, all attended school there.
The Sandersons continued to own the building until 1936 when Tulsa County foreclosed on it. In 1938, Aero Exploration Company (an aerial mapping pioneer) bought the building at a Sheriff’s Sale and began using it as a laboratory and offices. In 1948, Griffin and Leake, owners of Tulsa Broadcasting Company and Radio, bought the building. , with its iconic large, freestanding vertical sign, broadcasted from its new studio, which on the air called the building Boulder on the Park. Thus emerged the current building name.
, with the help of architect Joe Koberling, converted the relatively plain exterior to an “Art Moderne” theme. The exterior brick was painted and the central glass block shaft was added along with an art deco entrance canopy. Also included were new flooring, insulation and a second-floor rear entrance. Perimeter clay tile bearing walls, central corridor, east-west bearing walls, and second and third floor wood floor framing remained.
moved in 1955; in 1957, Holway Engineering Company (responsible for the design of the Grand Lake Dam and Spavinaw water supply structures) bought the building and occupied it until 1977. During this period, the stair tower to the north, which ignores the building’s original frontal symmetry, was added. In 1977, the building was converted to commercial office space and later purchased by Pan Western Energy (owned by Sid Anderson).
When McIntosh and Woody purchased the building in 2000, it was in disrepair. The important architectural elements had been either covered up or removed. The entry canopy had been altered, and the vitrolite glass portal had been destroyed and covered up with plywood. Important retaining walls were on the verge of collapsing.
With the help of various historic photos, restoration back to the period began. Fragments of the cobalt blue vitrolite were found in a front planter and a source for this scarce material found in St. Louis.
Retaining walls were rebuilt and front windows were replaced with ones to match the originals. A tall vertical glass element was added to de-emphasize the unfortunate mass of the north stairwell addition. Lanny McIntosh drove around Tulsa looking at entrance canopies that would be an appropriate partner to the late 1940s period and had a new one made in stainless steel.
A supportive banker made the project possible. The new owners moved in and interior work proceeded as finances permitted.
In 2008, McIntosh bought out his partner, and today, his 26-person firm occupies the entire building. When asked about his future plans, McIntosh replies that he is always on the lookout for another building to save. He knows there is one out there with potential that can give him more space for future growth.