By KELSY LORIN TAYLOR
Web Editor and Feature Writer
MARKING TIME: Bob Hendrick pauses in front of Swan Lake to discuss the history and future of the park.
KELSY LORIN TAYLOR for GTR Newspapers
The unique and charming Swan Lake has become an area for entire families to enjoy. With a history that spans more than 100 years, the park is being celebrated for both what it is and what it was.
Having once been a simple watering hole on a large working cattle ranch, Swan Lake has an interesting past that is reflected in its water today. The land was owned by the Orcutt family who were constantly chased by developers. In 1908, the family decided to share the property with others by building an amusement park.
Orcutt Lake Amusement Park became a popular destination for those living in the area and marked the end of the trolley line to downtown Tulsa. Many would take the trolley to the park where they enjoyed a dancing pavilion, swimming in a pool and even riding a $7,600 roller coaster.
The charm of the area brought a newfound interest in residential development along the water’s edge beginning in 1919. Soon, the amusement park vanished and unique homes with a variety of architectural forms surrounded Swan Lake creating a quiet community of its own.
Swans were later added to the park in the 1930’s and have remained ever since. Each of the homes has incorporated the resident swans into the outside décor. Upon looking closely, swan shapes may be found among the gardens, on the porches or even displayed on the mailboxes.
In February of 1998, the area was approved and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The classification brings with it the protection and promise that nothing will ever change the integrity of Swan Lake or surrounding homes.
Remaining where it has long before development began, the swim house carries its own unique history related to Swan Lake. “The house was an important component of the park. It served as a gathering place for everyone to enjoy while visiting the area. Now a family home, the building still shows its past. For example, tortoises were kept in the side yard for many years and the little building where they lived is still there,” says Tulsa Parks Special Event Coordinator Bob Hendrick.
Wildlife flourishes around Swan Lake and is constantly changing. Along with the swans, other species of birds include Pied-Billed Grebe, Little Blue Heron, Lesser Scaup, American Kestrel, Coot, Screech and Great Horned Owl. Also often spotted along water’s edge are Mandarin, Wood, Muscovy, Pintail and Redhead Ducks. In addition Canada, Snow, Barnacle and Barhead Geese have also been known to pass through the park.
Much of the care that is involved with the park is provided by the Swan Lake Neighborhood Association. “The members are instrumental in keeping the area beautiful. They are currently raising funds in order to have the fountain in the middle of Swan Lake rebuilt.” There are also a few other improvement projects that are in the works.
Around Thanksgiving, the association strings up lights throughout the entire park. A Lights on Ceremony follows and brings together those in the surrounding community and beyond to enjoy the event with one another. With the flip of a switch, Swan Lake becomes a true spectacle as thousands of lights illuminate the park.
“The park is open to everyone and is visited by many throughout the year. It is a wonderful area to take photographs, watch the wildlife or jog.” Swan Lake is located in the heart of historic Tulsa on 15th Street between Utica and Peoria Avenue. For more information, visit www.swanlaketulsa.org.