On Architecture By ROGER COFFEY, AIA
MUNICIPAL BUILDING: The Tulsa Municipal Building at 124 East 4th St. was built in 1917 and served as Tulsa’s City Hall until 1969. It sat vacant for four years until it was restored to professional office occupancy. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
ROSSY GILLE for GTR Newspapers
Anyone who thinks that Tulsa hasn’t grown over the years has only to look at our present City Hall located at Second Street and Cincinnati Avenue and then at the Tulsa Municipal Building, our World War I vintage City Hall at 124 E. 4th St.
This small four-story rectangular building was built in 1917. The architects were the well-known local firm of Rush Endicott and Rush, and according to the engraved cornerstone at the northeast corner, the General Contractor was Beers Construction. W. W. Harris was the superintendent of construction.
The City of Tulsa occupied this building until it outgrew it in 1969. For four years, it stood vacant until the architectural firm of Coleman, Ervin and Associates Inc., and some like-minded preservation investors bought the building and restored it in 1973 to professional office occupancy. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Since then, ownership has passed through several groups. Today, a law firm is the principal tenant.
Neo-classical in style, this building was built with quality materials. The exterior is clad in polished limestone on its main elevations. The south elevation is a stucco finish on masonry. The east and west elevations feature four rectangular Tuscan pilasters articulating the second and third floors. The north (frontside) elevation displays 10 iconic Greek columns capped by an architrave with intaglio letters spelling “Municipal Building.” The first-floor limestone has deeply raked horizontal joints and is terminated by a Greek key frieze. The top (fourth) floor is recessed from the main façade almost as if it were a later addition, although it was part of the original structure. Spandrels between second and third floor windows are limestone squares with a simple raised panel design.
The main north entrance was originally three doorways fronting a broad porch up three risers from the adjacent sidewalks. The entry is currently flanked by a pair of tall bronze torchieres with ball glass globes.
The restoration architects added raised perimeter brick planters and brick paver sidewalks. The original steel canopy at the main entrance was replaced and cleaned. Otherwise, the exterior remains as initially built.
At the interior, public area walls are faced with gray Carthage marble. Floors are gray terrazzo with black borders. But, it is the main entrance lobby that is worth further comment.
Upon entering the building, one faces a double staircase, one each along the west and east walls with first floor entry between them. These are grand marble statements with massive wrought iron railings beginning with the torchieres rising from the newel at the first step. Under each stair is a small window for citizen utility payments. (The contrast between these and the customer utility payment area in the current City Hall is amazing.)
The special feature in this lobby is the north wall treatment. East and west walls are faced with Carthage marble to within three feet of the two-story ceiling. But, the north wall is a colorful mural depicting the building as it looked in 1919. Commissioned by the restoration architects, it is titled, “Class of 1919.” The artist was Delbert L. Jackson.