Philtower Maintains its Beauty Inside, Out

On Architecture By ROGER COFFEY, AIA

EYE-CATCHING ART DECO: At right is the lobby of the Philtower, 427 S. Boston Ave. The building was owned by oilman Waite Phillips and was completed in 1928. The Philtower currently houses businesses on its first floor, professional offices and apartments. For many years, it was Tulsa’s tallest building, at 323 feet.

ROSSY GILLE for GTR Newspapers

More than a “few” years ago, my parents had a blind date in a downtown coffee shop. Today, there is still a coffee shop in that same location. In the “small world” department, early in my career, I worked for an architect who had offices in the southwest corner of the same building.

Completed in 1928, that building was the Philtower, 427 S. Boston Ave. It’s 23 stories (some sources say 24 stories), was Tulsa’s premier office building and, when its steel skeleton was completed, was Tulsa’s tallest building at 323 feet until it was eclipsed by the 310 South Boston Building several years later. The Philtower’s developer and owner was oilman philanthropist Waite Phillips, who enjoyed utilizing his name in his bricks and mortar projects. The building was designed by Kansas City Architect Edward Buehler Delk who also designed Phillips’ Tulsa home, Philbrook Museum, and Phillips’ New Mexico Ranch House, Villa Philmonte. New York Architects Keene and Simpson assisted Delk in the work. Phillips made sure that his new building, inside and out was built with the finest materials available.

The architectural style of the Philtower is said to be Gothic Revival with Art Deco details. Its exterior is a blend of light colored terra cotta and dark tan brick. The architects used this contrast to great advantage with the first three floors, the 12th floor with its major setback corners and the top floors below a pyramidal roof clad in light terra cotta, leaving the rest in tan brick. The pyramidal roof is finished in poly-chrome tile, which rise to a lantern element at its apex. A large blue O (for Oklahoma) is centered on all four sides of the roof surrounded by a grid of red and green tile. The lantern was originally outlined in red, green and blue neon. After years of nonfunctioning, the neon has been restored by the current owners.

Upon entering the Philtower from Boston Avenue, the brass doors (missing for years and recently brought back) are eye-catching. Inside is a spectacular lobby done in an English Tudor theme. The floor and walls are travertine marble. The ceiling, two stories above, is a tour de force of fan vaulting executed in plaster to resemble 16th century limestone. The north wall houses a series of paneled doors each recessed in a Tudor arch. The top of these doors sport a WP monogram in each panel. At entrances on the west and south, Gothic tracery frame glass vestibules. From the ceilings hang Empire Chandeliers, known to old-time Tulsans as Smiley fixtures. Each was said to have cost equal to a new Cadillac in 1928. A large second floor lobby accessed retail shops such as the iconic Miss Jackson’s (which later moved to the first floor).

Attention to finish details occur in the upper floors also as well as the first floor lobby. Main hallways are floored in marble or terrazzo with marble wainscoted walls. Office suite doors are Honduras mahogany. Entry door hardware is brass with a monogrammed WP on the door knob. The top floor was Waite Phillips’ office until the day he left Tulsa. Today, it has been restored as a private office with 20-foot ceilings looking as they did in 1928.

In 1937, Phillips air-conditioned the building. In 1941, he deeded the Philtower and Philmont Ranch to the Boy Scouts of America. In 1977, the Boy Scouts sold the building to a local group of investors, The Philtower . Local Tulsans are principals in this group. In 1979, the Philtower was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

As older office buildings in Tulsa began incorporating apartments and lofts, the Philtower was the first to become a truly mixed-use building. Today, it houses 25 residential loft apartments from 730 to 1830 square feet, located on floors 12 through 20. Floors 1 through 11 and floor 21 are occupied by offices. A second floor enclosed bridge connects across a rear alley to an adjacent parking garage.

If you have never been in the building, stop in and look at the main lobby. It is worth the trip – and you can still get a cup of coffee.

Updated 02-29-2016

Back to Top


email (we never post emails)
  Textile Help

Back to Top

Contact GTR News

About Post Author