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Tulsa Driller an icon of Tulsa's vibrant history!President Harry S. Truman, though giving Tulsa its official nickname, was not the first to brand Tulsa the "Magic City". Most historians and folklorists believe the attribution belongs to General John "Black Jack" Pershing, who deemed Tulsa the "Magic Empire" as he boarded a plane to depart following the groundbreaking of St. John's Hospital in 1920.

During that time, Tulsa was, indeed, a magical place. Tulsa's Magic Empire era started with the discovery of oil in 1901, Oklahoma's entry into the union in 1907 and the founding of one of Oklahoma's eminent institutions of learning, the University of Tulsa, in 1920. With all of these developments, Tulsa exported its expertise in oil technology, industry know-how and business acumen to the world. The boom in business also firmly established Tulsa as the cultural center of Oklahoma and one of the most artistic cities of the Southwest. Even today, Tulsa enjoys world-class cultural institutions, such as the Gilcrease Museum, the Philbrook Museum of Art, the Tulsa Opera, the Tulsa Ballet and the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra. The city had lots on which to build, especially when Cyrus Avery, the "Father of Route 66", connected Chicago to Los Angeles by way of Tulsa in the 1940s. 

 

However, in the 1980s and 90s, Tulsa foundered, its Art Deco left to crumble and its place as the Magic City seemingly faded. Yet, Tulsa had another trick up its sleeve. Nearly ten years after the turn of the century, the fruits of a single vote, a plan called Vision 2025, gave rise to a downtown desperately in need of a phoenix.

Tulsa's Blue Dome District where the city comes alive with great food, drinks and live entertainment!Many Tulsa businessmen took notice. Believing in the promise of Vision 2025, they have opened McNellie’s, a popular watering hole and restaurant, El Guapo’s Cantina, Dilly Deli, Arnie’s Bar and Yokozuna. In addition to the restaurants, the BOK Center and the Tulsa Drillers’ ballpark, there are also new plans to open an eight-lane bowling alley downtown.

The already established downtown strongholds have kept up their end of the bargain, though. The Cain’s Ballroom — a favorite of everyone from Bob Dylan to Beck — continued its onslaught of concerts in the last decade. Some notables: Willie Nelson, Elvis Costello, Robert Plant and Hanson. The Brady, haunted or not, continued as the soul of the Brady District, hosting Tom Waits, The Pretenders, Lyle Lovett, Chris Isaak and Lindsey Buckingham, among many others in the past decade. The Eagles christened the new BOK Center on Sept. 6, 2008 and its first year included such names Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac, Kenny Chesney, Celine Dion and AC/DC.  It seems to have come out of nowhere, the heat wave of life in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, after years of dormancy. And though Tulsa remains the "Magic City", the alchemy of which Truman spoke on September 29, 1948, still boils down to the same ingenuity and moxie present from its founding more than 100 years ago to today. 

 

Art Deco Tulsa

It may come as a surprise to learn that Tulsa is one of the nation’s premier centers of art deco architecture, putting it in the elite company of Miami Beach, New York and Los Angeles. The style, hugely popular from Tulsa’s incarnation, has remained so through several evolutions — as the geometrically ornamented structures of the 1920s gave way to the simpler and more heroic public architecture of the Great Depression and then to the sleek streamline moderne of the later 1930s. 

In building a new downtown, the oil barons clamored for a style that was current and fresh, eventually looking to France, long the leader in international design and fashion. At the turn of the century, France had popularized the serpentine decorative style known as art nouveau, which later extravagantly evolved – during an international fair in Paris – into a style called art deco. 

“It wasn’t Gothic, it wasn’t Roman, it wasn’t Spanish, it wasn’t this or that or any other damn thing,” said architect Joseph Koberling in a television interview shortly before his death in 1991. “It was just something that was an expression of our time.” And the Art Nouveau — as it was first called — cropped up just about everywhere in Tulsa. “It was perfect for here,” Rex Ball, an Oklahoma native and retired architect who heads the Tulsa Art Deco Society, told Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s magazine, in its July/August 2008 issue.

But according to Lee Anne Zeigler, executive director of the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture, the 1970s “were a pretty dark decade.” Demolition claimed about half of the city’s deco buildings, including grand theaters, such as the Delman, the Will Rogers, and the Palace. But within 20 years, modernism started to fall out of fashion and deco gradually re-staked its claim in the hearts of Tulsans. Today, “nobody in Tulsa would take down an art deco structure without thinking about it good and hard,” says Tulsa preservationist Marty Newman. “There would be repercussions.”




The Adams Hotel

The Adams Hotel

The Atlas Building Downtown Tulsa

The Atlas Building Downtown Tulsa

The Boston Avenue Methodist Church

The Boston Avenue Methodist Church

Tulsa Fire Alarm Building

Tulsa Fire Alarm Building

Rogers High School

Rogers High School

The Warehouse Market Building

The Warehouse Market Building

THE REUNION CENTER
900 ReunionCenter · Nine East Fourth Street · Tulsa, OK 74103
(t) 918.578.9080
(f) 918.599.8673

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