Thompson Building One of the Largest from Boomtown Era

On Architecture by ROGER COFFEY, AIA



At the southwest corner of 5th Street and Boston Avenue, one of Tulsa’s early multi-story office buildings rises 15 stories to a height of 215 feet. With a square footprint, its total footage is 142,668 square feet, making it one of the largest office buildings in Tulsa built in the 1920s – 1930s.

In 1924, the Thompson Building (as it is known today) was opened by its owners, brothers William, Jay, and Rob Thompson, who needed a Tulsa office location for their three eastern Oklahoma ranches. The original square tower at ten stories was named the Mid-Continent Building and was designed by architect Frank Michael Olston. Capping the ten stories was a large projecting limestone cornice. The brothers chose their location wisely. Fifth Street and Boston Avenue was then and is now one of the most important intersections in downtown Tulsa and was a popular address.

In 1929, booming Tulsa attracted the Tidewater Oil Company, which was looking for space for a major regional office. Tidewater struck a deal with the Thompsons. The brothers hired Rucks-Brandt Construction Company to add five more floors. The addition preceded a similar expansion at the neighboring (across the street) Philcade building a year later.

We don’t know if the Thompson’s architect had designed for five more floors or not (certainly the building structure could handle it), but the addition is almost seamless. Only a little awkwardness, the tenth floor cornice provides a subtle hint at the expansion.

The Thompsons did not stop with five more floors. Atop the fifteenth floor, the brothers added a copper tiled steeple reaching another five stories. This gave the building a stately penthouse, matching similar quarters in competing structures as well as a lighthouse-styled cover for its rooftop water tanks and other systems, providing, among other things, gravity-flow plumbing.

Over the years, the Thompson Building housed a number of well-known law firms, and for many years (until 1970), its first two floors were occupied by the Vandevers Department Store with the Charmont restaurant in a first floor loft. In its waning years, Sooner Federal Saving and Loan occupied much of the building. Today, the Thompson Building is carefully maintained and accommodates a number of different office tenants.

The exterior of the Thompson Building is clad in the dark red brick and light gray limestone prevalent in Tulsa office buildings in the 1920s – 1930s. The main entrance is at the north elevation, which a traditional projection steel canopy identifies. The first two floors are faced in limestone, which rises off a low granite base. The high first floor is divided into bays by square pilaster columns, which utilize egg and dart detail and garland plaques all worked in stone. At the third, sixth, and fifteenth floors the dark brick between windows is framed in limestone trim. The window openings (fenestration) is a pattern of single windows alternating with pairs.

The Thompson Building is one of the grand old buildings that Tulsa is lucky to have. Its address is still a prime location in our downtown.

Updated 06-11-2018

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