What is Tulsa’s top 10 Art Deco Buildings?

What are Tulsa’s top 10 Art Deco Buildings?

Tulsa’s Art Deco Top10

1. Boston Avenue Methodist Church
2. Philcade Building
3. Will Rogers High School
4. Gillette Tyrrell Building
5. Christ the King Parish
6. Tulsa Union Depot
7. Oklahoma Natural Gas
8. Fire Alarm Building
9.Fairgrounds Pavilion
10.Warehouse / Farmers Market

Art Deco Introduction

When I published “Tulsa Art Deco Experience”, I tried to provide a comprehensive visual guide to the Art Deco. Due to space constraints and the overwhelming number of deco buildings in Tulsa, I was unable to display the fine detail and craftsmanship that makes these structures so special.  They are more than just buildings, they are pieces of art.  This book focuses on Tulsa’s top ten Art Deco buildings and shows more detail of those 10 buildings.

Zigzag Style

Boston Avenue Methodist ChurchNorth facade of Tulsa’s Boston Avenue Methodist ChurchMost of the Tulsa Art Deco is of the Zigzag style that emphasizes strong vertical lines and geometric patterns.  This includes Boston Ave. Methodist Church, Farmers Market, Oklahoma Natural Gas and the Philcade building. 

WPA / PWA (Depression) Style

Tulsa's WPA/PWA styled Art Deco Webster HighschoolTulsa’s WPA/PWA styled Art Deco Webster HighschoolThe WPA / PWA (Depression) style of architecture was funded partially with public money in a period that included recovery from the Great Depression.  The Fair Grounds Pavilion, Tulsa Union Depot, Daniel Webster High School and Will Rogers High School are examples of this style.

Streamline Style

Streamline Art Deco at Tulsa's Rose Bowl event center. Streamline Art Deco Rose Bowl event center.The Streamline style is more horizontally oriented and typically features aerodynamic flowing curves.  Examples of this style are The Brook Restaurant, City Veterinary and Day & Nite Cleaners.

Art Modern Style

The Modern style, also referred to as “Art Moderne” came after the “Streamline” style and is characterized by asymmetrical cubic designs which often includes rounded corners. 

The Modern style is simple and unadorned with prolific art as was prior Art Deco styles.  It is horizontally oriented with simple geometric shapes and little ornamentation. 

This style typically employs flat roofs.  In Tulsa many of fire stations employ this style.

Retro Deco Style

Retro Deco Art Deco StyleThe Retro Deco Style Many architects and designers are creating new building utilizing the Art Deco principles.  These building are call Retro Deco, since they are retro fitting the old design principles into today’s new building designs. 

This style utilizes features from the all the Art Deco styles and sometimes mixes features different Art Deco styles.  This gives new buildings nostalgic appearance.

Pueblo Deco

Pueblo Deco Style
Pueblo Deco Style
Pueblo Deco is a distinctively American architecture and design style that combines the elements of the Pueblo Revival, Native American Art and Art Deco design styles.    The style commonly integrates elements from multiple styles.

The style often utilizes intricate ornamentation, tile work and wall murals with Native American themes.   For example the exterior of the Gillette Tyrrell Building, shown below, displays a Zigzag styled exterior, The interior design, on the other hand,  is a complicated mixture of Native American, Spanish and Zigzag styled decorations.   The Pueblo Deco Style challenges the typical categorization Art Deco because it is commonly a mixture of styles.

1. Boston Avenue Methodist Church

The Boston Avenue Methodist Church design was the collaboration of Adah Robinson, a Tulsa Central High School art teacher, and her former student architect Bruce Goff.  Robinson studied the history and traditions of the Methodist faith for a year in advance of developing the church design.  Her initial design sketches expanded by Goff into working, structural sound plans.

Boston Avenue Methodist Church
:              1301 South Boston Avenue
Built:                     1929
Deco Style:         Zigzag
Motif:                 Gothic / Ecclesiastical
Architects:          Bruce Goff, Adah Robinson 
Artists:               Adah Robinson,  
                        Robert Garrison,
                        Angelo Gherardi, 
                        Richard Bohm
NRIS:                     78002270 , 1978
Web:                  http://www.bostonavenue.org/
Boston Avenue Methodist Church – Wikipedia
Other:                 National Historic Landmark, 1999

Along Tulsa Route 66.

Boston Avenue Methodist Church on Route 66 in Tulsa Oklahoma

The church has a 250 foot center with west and east wing attachments.  On the east side is the Education Wing and on the west side is the semi-circle shaped sanctuary.  

The building is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places (1978) and is Tulsa’s only  National Historic Landmark (1999). The Church is a Zigzag Art Deco style with  strong vertical accents.  From a distance gothic features seem prevalent. On closer inspection, it is clearly art deco.

West exterior at Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist.

2. Philcade Building

It is a zigzag styled design with strong exterior definition and an absolutely beautiful interior
displaying multiple art deco features.  The building’s east-west lobby hallway has five painted Art Deco ceiling murals. At the east end of lobby is the Tulsa Art Deco Museum.  The museum displays deco artifacts and sells deco books, art and other deco items. Window displays of various art deco objects are displayed through the north-south lobby hallway. The lobby has Deco Styled Elevators. All these features have made the Philcade one of Tulsa’s top art deco buildings.
Philcade Building
Address:              511 S. Boston
Built:                    1930
Deco Style:         Zigzag
Motif:                 Egyptian 
Architects:          Smith & Senter
Artists:               Channing Stewart                           
NRIS:                  86002196  
Wiki:                Philcade Building – Wikipedia

On Downtown Art Deco walking tour.

 Channing Stewart Art Deco murals inside Philcade.
A beautiful Art Deco interior is in the Philcade Building at 511 South Boston.
Exterior of Tulsa's Art Deco Philcade buildingExterior of Tulsa’s Art Deco Philcade buildingElevators in the Tulsa Art Deco Philcade building.Elevators in the Tulsa Art Deco Philcade building.

3. Will Rogers High School

2 blocks north of Route 66 in Tulsa Oklahoma
Will Rogers High School
:             3909 E. 5th Place, Tulsa OK
Built:                  1938
Deco Style:        WPA/PWA
Motif:                Collegiate
Architects:         Leon B. Senter, Joseph R.  Koberling
Artists:                Alex C. Rindskoph
                                Joseph R. Koberling
NRIS:                     07000918
Wiki:                 Will Rogers High School – Wikipedia
Along Tulsa Route 66. -4 blocks north of 11th St.
Will Rogers High School was built and opened in 1938.  Designed by Leon B. Senter and Joseph R. Koberling, Jr.,  it is of the PWA style of Art Deco architecture, with a great deal of craftsmanship artistry throughout the building.  

Shortly after opening Rogers High School was featured in a Time Magazine article “outlining the high school pattern of the future”.  The school was called “a model progressive high school” in “one of the most progressive school systems in the study.”

Today Will Rogers College High School occupies the building.  Students attend from grades 6 through 12 and can graduate with a College Associates Degree. 

The National Park Service recognizes Will Rogers High School as one of the best examples of Art Deco high school architecture in the country. In 2007, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a place of national significance.

 The goal of the architects was to create a friendly and inviting environment reminiscent of Will Roger’s personality.  They carefully designed 101 architectural and artistic features to realize this goal.  They beautifully integrated the modern architecture of the day with quality materials and good craftsmanship.

4. Gillette Tyrrell Building

Tulsa Art Deco Gillette Tyrrell Building Zigzag styled roofline

The Gillette-Tyrell Building (often referred to as the Pythian) was originally designed to have thirteen floors but due to budget limitations was reduced to three floors. The building is one of Tulsa’s most impressive Art Deco examples with a unique décor both inside and outside.  Strong vertical zigzag motifs are expressed on the exterior walls of the building.

Edward Saunders, the building architect, described the building as integrating several styles of architecture including Italian, Spanish, and American Indian motifs.

Gillette Tyrrell Building
:         423 S. Boulder, Tulsa OK     
Built:               1930     
Deco Style:     Pueblo Deco / Zigzag
Motif:             Native American & Spanish   
Architects:      Edward W. Saunders  
NRIS:               82003703     
Wiki:               Pythian Building – Wikipedia
 On Downtown Art Deco walking tour.
Tulsa's Art Deco Gillette-Tyrell Building Exterior

5. Christ the King Parish

Christ the King Parish
:             1520 S. Rockford Ave. Tulsa OK 
Built:                     1929
Deco Style:         Zigzag
Motif:                 Gothic and Byzantine
Architects:         Francis Barry Byrne
Bruce Goff
Artists:              Alphonso Ainnelli                           
Web:   Parish of Christ the King – Tulsa, OK
On 15th Street
Bishop Francis Kelly, for whom Bishop Kelly High School is named, brought Francis Byrne from Chicago to design a church that was “something both modern and authentic to Catholic worship”. 

Byrne, who had worked for Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago, utilized a Zigzag design incorporating Gothic and Byzantine features.  The design was so innovative and radical, compared to typical churches, that many Catholics were outraged by the design.  
Tulsa Christ the King church sanctuary
Tulsa Christ the King church sanctuary

6. Union Depot Train Station

Union Depot Train Station

Union Depot Train Station
Address:              3 S. Boston Avenue
Built:                   1931
Deco Style:         WPA/PWA
Motif:                 Castle / Fortress
Architects:          R. C. Stephens
Web:   Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame
Wiki:                 Tulsa Union Depot – Wikipedia
Downtown Tulsa
The Tulsa Union Depot was a passenger railway station that served as Tulsa’s train station from 1931 to 1967.  It was built by the U. S. Public Works Administration in an Art-Deco style. 

It was called “Union Station because it unified the smaller Frisco, Katy, and Santa Fe train depots in Tulsa.

Tulsa Union Depot | Art Deco Buildings in Tulsa



7. Oklahoma Natural Gas

Oklahoma Natural Gas
:           624 S. Boston Avenue
Built:                1928    
Deco Style:      Zigzag
Architects:       Arthur Atkinson
Frederick Kershner
NRIS:               84003458
Wiki:                 Oklahoma Natural Gas – Wikipedia

On Downtown Art Deco walking tour.

Tulsa had great financial growth in the late 1920’s.  This led Oklahoma Natural Gas to move its offices from Oklahoma City to Tulsa.  They chose to build a ten story Art Deco structure that set a benchmark for future Art Deco buildings in Tulsa.
        Copyright 2022, Don Wagner Family Foundation,
All Rights Reserved

8. Fire Alarm Building

Fire Alarm Building
Address:             1010 E. 8th Street
Built:                   1930
Deco Style:         WPA/PWA
Motif:                 Mayan Temple
Architects:          Frederick V. Kershner
NRIS:                  03000879
Web:   http://www.tulsapreservationcommission.org/artdeco/buildings/index.pl?id=19
Wiki:                 Tulsa Fire Alarm Bldg- Wikipedia
Along Tulsa Route 66. -4 blocks north of 11th St.
The Fire Alarm building was built to centralize the fire alarm systems for all of Tulsa.  Alarms came into this building and operators dispatched firemen from various parts of the city as needed. 

The exterior of the building has a great deal of terra cotta decoration.  The building was used by the fire department until 1984.
Tulsa Art Deco Fire Alarm BuildingTerra Cotta panel above the front door

9.Fairgrounds Pavilion

Tulsa Art Deco Fairgrounds Pavillion
Fairgrounds Pavillion
Address:              Expo Square 21st & Jamestown
Built:                   1932
Deco Style:         WPA/PWA
Motif:                 Zigzag
Architects:          Leland I. Shumway
Web:   Fairgrounds Pavilion | Art Deco Buildings
Built in 1932, the Fair Grounds Pavilion is a PWA styled building. The exterior of the building is extraordinarily decorative with gold brick and color coordinated terra cotta ornamentation. 
The building has eight decorative entrances with terra cotta representations of horse, cattle and Rams. It is very ornamental for a WPA/PWA era building.

10. Warehouse / Farmers Market

Tulsa Warehouse Market
Warehouse / Farmers Market
Address:              925 S. Elgin Avenue
Built:                   1929
Deco Style:         Zigzag
Architects:          B. Gaylord Noftsger
Web:  Warehouse Market Building

The old Farmers market is a one-story building with a unique terra cotta adorned tower. The “Farmers Market” was built in 1929 next to the railroad tracks and served as a major grocery’s provider until the Great Depression.   

It later became Club Lido and hosted famous musicians like Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington. 


Tulsa has a vast amount of quality of Art Deco spread throughout its city. We have selected 10 of our favorite sites to give you a taste of the over 50 art deco sites in Tulsa Oklahoma. There are four major concentrated areas to view Art Deco in Tulsa. These include but are not limited to:

  • Downtown
  • Along Route 66
  • Brookside
  • 15th Street & Tulsa Fairgrounds

Great Art Deco Coffee Table Books
For more pictures and information contact me at Don.Wagner.OK@gmail.com.

$25 each