Tulsa Art Deco Collection, 1982.006, is complete and available for viewing and research

Special Collections and University Archives at The University of Tulsa is pleased to announce that a collection related to Tulsa’s art deco history is processed and ready for researchers and visitors to view.

Detail on the exterior of the Philcade building in downtown Tulsa. Coll. No. 1982.

In the late 1970s, Tulsa’s Junior League assembled committees with the intent to research, purchase, and restore one of the many beautiful and historically important buildings around town that were designed and built at the height of the art deco architectural era, which lasted from the early 1900s until the 1940s. The style is noted for its bold effects, including strong and clean vertical geometry and chevrons, floral motifs, zig-zags, and a sense of rich luxury—perfect for a young city in the throes of the oil boom looking to prove itself as an exciting hub of activity and influence.

Warehouse Market building in downtown Tulsa. This snapshot shows classic art deco detailing of strong lines and floral motifs with bright colors. Coll. No. 1982. 

Although the Junior League did not ultimately purchase any property, in the course of their research and study into Tulsa’s art deco movement they acquired a great deal of photographs and documents related to the people and ideas behind the buildings. Members of the committees decided to produce a book about Tulsa’s art deco, since similar books had been previously researched and published in other cities like Washington D.C. and Miami.

The Court of Three Sisters, a bar favored by newspaper reporters, police officers, and other downtown workers. Formerly located at 120 W. 4th St. in Tulsa. Coll. No. 1982. 

The collection Tulsa Art Deco, 1982.006, contains a variety of items, including:

  • Photographs of art deco buildings in Tulsa, including ones that had been demolished before the project began in 1979. Some photos were taken by Bob McCormack and David Halpern, and feature many close details and designs. The photographs are arranged alphabetically by building name (with a separate section of private residences), and are accompanied by biographical information.
  • Compiled research, including interviews with architects like Bruce Goff.
  • Internal documents related to the planning and creation of the book, meeting minutes and other information about the processes and procedures the Junior League undertook in this project.
  • Drafts and finished sections of the book itself. This includes essays, the bibliography, galleys, and even an unbound copy of the book tied together with ribbon. (McFarlin has several copies of the book itself, titled Tulsa Art Deco: An Architectural Era, 1925-1942)
  • 17 boxes of blueprints for the Tulsa Municipal Airport, the Union Station, and the Waite Phillips Building, among others.

    One of the blueprint drawings showing the exterior of the Tulsa Union Station, which now houses the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Coll. No. 1982.006, Blueprint 46.

Special Collections and University Archives is open to the public Monday – Friday, 8am to 4:30pm. We are located on the 5th floor of McFarlin Library at The University of Tulsa. If you would like to set up a viewing appointment, please call us at (918) 631-2496, or email us at speccoll@utulsa.edu.

About Melissa Kunz

Melissa Kunz is a Special Collections Librarian. She holds a Masters in Library and Information Studies and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hendrix College in Arkansas.
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