University Club Building Receives Design Award

Editor’s note: The three-story University Club Building, featured in this article, was built in the mid-1920s. The high-rise University Club Tower, located at 1722 S. Carson Ave., opened in the mid-1960s.

TULSA LANDMARK: The University Club Building, built in the 1920s, was remodeled in the early 1970s and is again experiencing a makeover. In the background is the Philcade Building. Oil baron Waite Phillips was involved in the construction of both buildings.

In most cities, there are examples of really bad building remodels and really good ones. Tulsa is no exception. Sometimes a really good remodel seems so natural and authentic it’s hard to tell what was original to a building and what was a result of a later face lift. So it is with a small structure at 114 E. 5th St. called the University Club Building. This early 1970s remodel was so well done that soon after its completion, the Eastern Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognized its excellence with a design award.
The history of this building begins in the 1920’s. The University Club Building was a utilitarian, three story red brick structure of approximately 16,000 square feet. The property included a small lot at 5th Street and Cincinnati Avenue which began as an early automobile service station and evolved into a small parking lot accommodating 24 to 26 cars. The west side of the building faced an alley, the rear abutted a lower two-story building. The front of this building faces what became the prominent Chamber of Commerce / Tulsa Club Building. An owner of the University Club Building was Waite Phillips, a major downtown property owner, responsible for the Philtower Building built in the late 1920s at the northeast corner of 5th Street and Boston Avenue, and the Philcade Building built in the early 1930s at 5th Street and Boston Avenue at the southeast corner.
Within his real estate portfolio, Phillips probably had little need for this small building. In a generous effort, he leased the building in 1931 to the Junior League of Tulsa, a non-profit organization devoted to community leadership among women, for $1. In 1935 Phillips gave the building to the organization.
During its years of Junior League ownership, the building was internally organized utilizing a small front lobby with a single elevator, and a number of ground floor shops. A large dumb waiter was located at the rear. The second floor contained an open meeting room. At the third floor were more small shops and offices, a small kitchen and a tea room / lunch room.
Over the years, as downtown office space became more and more desirable, portions of the building were rented to others. In 1964 the Junior League sold the building to Mereland Stickelberry for $120,000. In the 1980’s Marion Oil Co. purchased the building. It is thought that this company was responsible for the remodeled front as it now exists.
The ownership chain continued with subsequent owners being Anchor Gasoline Corp and the current owner, the Interak Corp with ownership from the Mayo, Sharp and Oliphant families.
The front of the University Club Building is strongly reminiscent of historical cities in the south. It reminds one of Williamsburg or perhaps Charleston or even New Orleans. Three semi-circular arches with stone keystones span the façade at street level. The thickness of the brick work at these arches is approximately 24 inches. The building wall with matching glass-filled arches has been recessed approximately five feet beyond forming a covered terrace. Suspended from the soffit above and centered on each arch is a large gas lantern. The paving below is gray slate which extends to the street curb. Finely detailed steel grillage fills each arch opening becoming a gate at the far west arch, for entry access. Tall casement divided light windows occur at the second floor. These have Juliette steel balconies and ribbed arched wood transoms. The smaller third floor windows are double hung again with muntins (a bar or rigid supporting strip between adjacent panes of glass).
Above them is a small projecting wood cornice band with crown molding and round medallions. The front elevation treatment returns for six to eight feet at the east and west elevations. The historical accuracy of this remodeled front was handled extremely skillfully. Give it a drive by and go see it.