Tulsa Art Deco Treasures Nationally Recognized

Associate Editor

PROMINATE LANDMARK: Pictured is the view looking south of Boston Avenue Methodist Church. For many years Tulsa motorists were robbed of this stunning view due to Boston being one-way going north. Now that the street has been changed to two-way, drivers can take in the view of one of the city’s finest art deco treasures. The church, along with other Tulsa art deco “gems,??? were featured in Preservation Magazine, the official publication of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


On the cover of the July/August issue of Preservation Magazine is a stunning photo of one of Tulsa’s most prominent art deco treasures, the spire of Boston Avenue Methodist Church. The church appears again inside, beautifully spread across two pages with the headline, “Tulsa’s Deco Gems, How A City In Oklahoma Fell In Love With Art Deco And Never Really Got Over It.” The feature article appearing in the official magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation touts Tulsa as “…one of the nation’s premier centers of art deco architecture, putting it in the classy company of Miami Beach, New York and Los Angeles.”

Classy company indeed, but all this national fame for Tulsa’s art deco comes as no surprise to Rex Ball, an Oklahoma native and retired architect/urban planner who co-founded and heads the Tulsa Art Deco Society. He says, “Our mission is the preservation and celebration of everything Art Deco in the greater Tulsa metro area and we are dedicated to the education of the public regarding the Art Deco treasures throughout the state. Architectural tourism is a rapidly growing international market and that, more than ever, makes Tulsa’s art deco architecture a major economic asset. We are very pleased and appreciate this acknowledgement by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.”
The Preservation Magazine article is evidence the organization is making headway on their mission.

The article goes on to explore many of the other art deco treasures in Tulsa including the Philcade building interior; the 1928 constructed Oklahoma Natural Gas Building at Seventh Street and Boston Avenue; the old train depot, now home of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame; Will Rogers High School, now on the National Registry of Historic Monuments, the Warehouse Market Tower and even the Tulsa residential house designed by Bruce Goff for his high school teacher, Adah Robinson.

According to the article, Tulsa’s golden age of art deco construction came about as the result of a perfect storm of historic circumstances. Described by Marty Newman, also a Tulsa native and a member of the board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as a “rare confluence” of newly generated oil wealth expressing itself in the creative exuberance encouraged by the early twentieth century, French inspired art nouveau style architecture later called art deco. On its way to becoming the Oil Capital of the World, Tulsa was racing to become a world-class city as expressed in its architecture and it had money to burn.

And burn money it did. Creating art deco architecture is a very labor-intensive process requiring many skilled artists to produce the handcrafted details and embellishments demanded by the style. The results of their efforts appear throughout Tulsa from the 320 Boston Building brass porticos to the terra coata reliefs on the facade of the old Adam’s Hotel.

The magazine’s feature on Tulsa also announces the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s upcoming conference in the city. From Oct. 21-25, Tulsa will play host to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s National Preservation Conference, a gathering that will bring more than 2,000 people to Tulsa to explore its architectural treasures and learn from its preservation success stories.

Regarding the article, Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor had these comments: “On behalf of the City of Tulsa, I want to express my appreciation for this fabulous cover story about Tulsa’s architecture. People here in Tulsa are justifiably proud of our local art deco treasures. We welcome the national attention this article focuses on Tulsa, and are also looking forward to showing off our historic architecture during the National Preservation Conference this fall.”

The National Preservation Conference is the largest gathering of its kind in the nation, and National Trust President Richard Moe says that the National Trust is especially excited to spend a week in Tulsa.

“The number of stunning, historic art deco buildings in Tulsa testifies to the importance Tulsans place on preserving their architectural heritage,” says Moe. “I know that preservationists from all across the country will be impressed with Tulsa’s collection of art deco buildings, which rivals that of any city in the nation.”

James Schwartz, the editor of Preservation Magazine, commented on the selection of Tulsa for the cover of the magazine and noted that Tulsa has lessons to teach all preservationists.

“Our editorial team was thrilled to put Tulsa on the cover of the July/August issue,” says Schwartz. “We knew that the city’s amazing collection of art deco buildings would surprise readers around the country, and we knew that Tulsa’s experience would dramatize the importance of preservation. Just leaf through the magazine and take a look at the city’s deco treasures. It’s our guess that people from across the country will want to see them for themselves and will better understand why saving structures from another era is so important.”

Updated 08-05-2008

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