On Architecture by ROGER COFFEY, AIA
STREAMLINED ZIG-ZAG: What was originally the Service Pipeline Company Building at the corner of 6th Street and Cincinnati Avenue in downtown Tulsa now stands empty. It was designed by the architectural firm of Leon B. Senter and was probably one of the last art deco buildings built in downtown Tulsa. It is identified as a type of art deco architecture called streamlined zig-zag.
GTR Newspapers photo
At 119 E. 6th St. in Tulsa, at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Cincinnati Avenue, an attractive building sits forlornly. It’s been said that empty buildings deteriorate rapidly. If so the Arco (Atlantic Richfield Company) Building, which has been long empty, is a prime example. Legal ownership issues have left the building in limbo. Arco left Tulsa in 1985.
The Arco Building was originally called The Service Pipeline Building. It was built on land donated to The University of Tulsa in 1935 by Waite Phillips. It was meant to be an endowment for the College of Petroleum Science and Engineering, according to a metal plaque mounted near an entrance at the northeast corner of the building.
At some point the land was sold to private enterprises and the architectural firm of Leon B. Senter was hired to design a building. Following World War II in 1949, towards the later part of Senter’s career, a simple U-shaped art deco structure was planned. It was probably one of the last art deco buildings built in downtown Tulsa. It is identified as a type of art deco called streamlined zig-zag.
During its history, the part of the building housed the University of Tulsa College of Law beginning in 1949 with the entrance on the 512 S. Cincinnati Ave. side. The building also housed the downtown University of Tulsa division, which moved to the Kendall campus in 1962. The Law School moved in 1973 to the Kendall campus to a new building which was then called the John Rogers Hall.
At six stories, the 6th Street and Cincinnati Avenue building has 133,000 square feet of usable space. The exterior has a low gray granite wainscot and the first two floors faced in celery green terra cotta tile and four floors above in buff brick. Spandrels between windows are also green terra cotta and at the sixth floor, these rise to a strong stair stepped terra cotta banded parapet. The spandrels present an intaglio vertical styled plant motif. The plant motif is a natural complement to celery green color.
The U shape faces south (6th Street) with floors three through six recessed to form the U and accentuate the main entrance below. This double two-door entrance is handsomely accessorized with a sweeping aluminum transom that curves into a recessed opening.
At either side of this entrance is a two-story pattern of small exterior wall vents in an elongated octagon design worked into the terra cotta facing. Wall mounted flagpoles project between each group of wall vents. A smaller entrance repeats the same grillage design at a two-story wing at the northeast corner.
The building’s windows pattern is regularly spaced individual rectangular windows. Storefronts at street level align with two windows above.
Sadly, there has been systematic vandalism of the terra cotta adjacent to the left and right upper corners of each storefront opening leaving a jagged white mortar scar. A reasonable assumption would be that a sculptural intaglio terra cotta tile occupied each of these spaces. There is little chance of locating an appropriate replacement. This reflects sadly on the legacy of a once handsome building left to the devices of street vandals.