Tulsa’s Sophian Plaza a Popular Residential Choice

On Architecture By ROGER COFFEY, AIA

FIRST HIGH RISE: Built in 1926, the Sophian Plaza, 1502 S. Frisco Ave., was Tulsa’s first high-rise apartment building. The building’s western views of the Arkansas River have helped it to maintain popularity as a residential property. It currently is a condominium facility.

Courtesy photo

At 1502 S. Frisco Ave., Tulsa’s very first high-rise apartment building sits serenely, overlooking the Arkansas River. It was built by developer Harry J. Sophian and probably financed by his brother, Kansas City physician Dr. Al Sophian.

The Sophian Plaza has a larger, more elaborate look-alike sister: the Kansas City Sophian. The Kansas City big sister is two floors higher with a more elaborate ornamental exterior. Both buildings were designed by the Kansas City architectural firm of Shepherd and Wiser. The Tulsa Sophian Plaza was completed in 1926, several years after its Kansas City sister.

The Sophian Plaza reflects an era of luxurious amenities when elegance was important. The building staff included a valet, a porter, a gardener, garage attendants and laundry maids. There was a separate servants’ entrance and a bell and buzzer system to summon the servants. Originally, no children or pets were allowed. Its 45 apartments are a mix of five-room efficiencies and seven-room suites, which have three baths. Most units had hardwood floors and crown moldings. In this H-shaped building, the units are arranged along a double loaded central corridor with the most popular ones facing the river on the west.

The main lobby harkens back to the New York Waldorf Astoria Palm Room décor with walls of yellow Kasta marble and black York Fossil base. The floor is white Italian marble with black York Fossil squares set in a checker board design.

The exterior of the eight-story Sophian Plaza is clad in a dark red brick highlighted by double hung wood windows with muntined upper sashes and limestone highlights and detail. The central main entrance is approached by a circle drive. The lobby/lounge overlooks a large lawn, which is terraced down to a pool and croquet court. Tenant garages are concealed and tucked into the hillside.

The Sophian Plaza’s north and south wings are faced in limestone at the first floor. This treatment terminates in a carved floral frieze capped by dentil molding. At the north and south wings are arched windows with limestone rope surrounds and central keystones. Bas-relief baluster panels occur below the windows at the rear elevation.

On the south is an open recessed utility stairwell, a common practice in the 20s. A series of limestone arched plaques below small finials surround the parapet at the top of the building. These become a strong repeating band at the gabled front of the north and south wings.

Following the stock market crash of 1929, Harry Sophian’s two apartment buildings went through years of low occupancy and hard times. He died in 1945. Today, Tulsa’s Sophian Plaza is a condominium facility. Its units are popular enough to justify a waiting list for ownership and occupancy. Exterior façade and interior common areas continue to be well-maintained. The Sophian Plaza is another example of how Tulsa respects and values its past.

Updated 12-05-2017

Back to Top


email (we never post emails)
  Textile Help

Back to Top

Contact GTR News