Tulsa and the Art Deco Scene

The oil boom of the 1920s put Tulsa on the map at roughly the same time that a brand new design style began to appear. This description from the Encyclopedia Britannica sums it up quite nicely, I think.

Art Deco design represented modernism turned into fashion. Its products included both individually crafted luxury items and mass-produced wares, but, in either case, the intention was to create a sleek and anti-traditional elegance that symbolized wealth and sophistication.


Art Deco design covered everything from architecture to vacuum cleaners, though I imagine the architecture is among the most identifiable aspect. There are a number of buildings around Tulsa from this era which I’d like to share today.

The Oklahoma Natural Gas Company was one of the first buildings erected in the new style in 1925. It looks much taller than its ten stories suggest thanks to the foundation piers which rise the entire height of the building and between which the windows are decoratively sandwiched. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.


The Tulsa Public Market opened in September 1930 (90 years ago almost exactly!), with its iconic Art Deco design. According to this Tulsa World newspaper, the Tulsa Market’s design is “a thing of beauty. The construction is also of buff brick with color trim, and set off by a 175-foot tower.”

Color photograph of the Tulsa Public Market entrance and part of the tower

Front Entrance of the Tulsa Public Market

Today, only the tower and façade remain, repurposed into a strip mall, with a Mazzio’s Pizzeria. I ate at that Mazzio’s right after moving to Tulsa, completely oblivious of the history all around me. The tower will be recognizable perched on the hill on old Route 66 for as long as it stands.



Exteriors may be the easiest to see, but Art Deco design included elaborate interior architecture as well. These two pictures are of ceiling decorations above fancy chandeliers. If I could have a chandelier anywhere in my house, I’d definitely add tile decorations similar to these pictures.

Color photograph of intricate ceiling tiles that meet above the chandelier

Ceiling Tiles above the ChandelierPhotograph of orange and red tiles detailing on the ceiling above a small chandelierIntricate ceiling decoration


The Tulsa Municipal Airport was opened in 1928 and an elaborate Art Deco entryway was added in 1930.

Black and white photograph of the Tulsa Municipal Airport and immediate surroundings

Back when the airport was only municipal…

Although the buildings were replaced in the early 1960s, the original entryway is permanently housed at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, where I am a student intern for one of my classes this semester. It is so much fun to look at Tulsa history every time I go to work, both here in Special Collections and at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. (As an aside, look at the cars in this photo…talk about historic!)


If you would like to see the Art Deco collection or any of the many others we hold, please contact us for arrangements. We are currently open to TU students, faculty, and staff by appointment only. Please email speccoll@utulsa.edu at least 24 hours in advance and we will get your appointment set up. Non-TU affiliates are welcome to browse our Catalog and Digital Collections to request photocopies or scans of our materials, also through speccoll@utulsa.edu. Kelsey and I fulfill requests as quickly as possible, but especially large requests or a high volume of requests may take up to 4-6 weeks. We are happy to help you as best we can. Stay safe and healthy!


This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.