By CHARLES CANTRELL
TIP OF THE DOME: Tulsa has much to offer to the more than 2,000 architectural and preservation aficionados from around the world who are coming to Tulsa for the National Preservation Convention in October. Michael Sager pictured here prepares to replace the beautiful copper spire on the top of the copula of the iconic Blue Dome, a 1924 Gulf Oil Station.
CHARLES CANTRELL for GTR Newspapers
Get ready Tulsa. The National Preservation Conference is coming to town October 21–25. More than 3,000 preservation professionals will descend on the city to see first hand the city’s Art Deco treasures touted in the July/August, 2008 issue of “Preservation,” the official magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the organization that chose Tulsa as this year’s host for the renown conference. But those is attendance will also be interested in how the city is preserving its past and for that Tulsa has much to offer.
Many dedicated private and public organizations like the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture, Tulsa Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Tulsa Art Deco Society and the City of Tulsa Preservation Commission have been preparing for the conference since it was announced nearly two years ago. Even private commercial property owners have pitched in to help put the city’s best foot forward.
Thanks to Tulsa Foundation for Architecture, the principal planning partner for the conference, pouring has begun on the concrete piers at 11th Street (aka: Route 66) and Quaker Avenue where the refurbished Beatrice Food/Meadow Gold sign, once a branding icon along Tulsa’s Route 66 corridor, will be permanently displayed. The organization took on the task of preserving the period piece with funding help from Vision 2025. CNF Sign, the city’s oldest locally owned sign company, has meticulously restored the hand-made metal and porcelain letters that comprise the Tulsa treasure. It is hopeful the sign will be completed in time for conference visitors to enjoy. In any case, it will symbolize to visitors the city’s on-going commitment to preserving its history.
Dedication of the Cyrus Avery Route 66 Centennial Plaza and Memorial Bridge was held on August 7. Located at Riverside Drive and Southwest Boulevard, the Vision 2025 project commemorates historic Route 66, “The Mother Road.” The project is named after former Tulsa County Commissioner Avery who first had the vision of a Mother Road stretching across America, and he was a lifelong advocate for the importance of the arterial highway that truly united the United States. Visitors to the conference will also see this project as irrefutable evidence of Tulsa’s dedication to preserving its past.
Michael Sager is a well-known restorer and owner of downtown properties and he was instrumental in establishing the Blue Dome District in downtown Tulsa. The iconic “blue dome” sits atop a 1924 Gulf Oil Station located on the corner of Second Street and Elgin Ave. and features a unique Byzantine style circular copula roof. Sager has been busy searching for a restoration craftsman with the necessary skills to restore the beautiful copper spire topping off the copula.
“The building alone is a marvelous little structure and the spire is a uniquely beautiful work of art. Unfortunately restoring it requires a level of craftsmanship that is hard to find these days,” says Sager.
The time tattered spire was removed from the building’s dome while Sager searched for a craftsman to trust with restoring the art piece. With time running out before the National Preservation Conference, he has decided to replace it on the dome for conference attendees to enjoy. After the conference it will be removed again, restored and replace in its rightful perch atop one of the city’s most unique architectural attractions.
The city’s landscape is dotted with numerous projects, works in progress and features that will undoubtedly grab the interests those attending the conference. The preliminary program of the conference list the following things in store for attendees: outstanding Art Deco architecture, revitalized historic districts, world class museums and art collections, historic neighborhoods built by oil barons, cowboy culture, Native American heritage, mid-century architecture and beautiful historic landscapes. From Boston Avenue Methodist Church to the restored Fire Alarm Building; from Gilcrease Museum to Cain’s Ballroom; from the Tulsa Rose Gardens to Oral Roberts University Campus, a tour of Tulsa’s diverse cultural heritage and its amazing array of architectural treasures will provide an exciting experience to all attending the conference.