Image: Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa, Okla.
David Halpern  /  AP file
This 2002 photo released by David Halpern, from his book "Tulsa Art Deco," shows the Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa, Okla. The building is just one of the examples of Tulsa's Art Deco heritage that was recently showcased in the July/August edition of Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
updated 7/18/2008 1:17:37 PM ET 2008-07-18T17:17:37

Think Art Deco architecture, and what places pop into your head? New York. Miami Beach. Los Angeles. Tulsa.


Definitely yes, says Preservation magazine, which profiles the city's deco style in a cover story for its July/August issue.

Fittingly, the recent announcement was made in the lavish lobby of downtown's Philcade building, where the interior's mix of marble, gold leaf and geometric designs comprise one of many examples of the architecture movement here.

"The architectural legacy of this city is absolutely astounding," said James Schwartz, editor in chief of Preservation, the magazine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "It's thrilling for us to be able to share the Tulsa story with readers."

The cover story is a recognition long overdue, say some local architects and preservationists, who place Tulsa in the top handful of cities in terms of deco architecture collections.

"It's a huge compliment to the city of Tulsa to be on the cover," said Matt King, a principal with the Tulsa architecture firm of Kinslow, Keith & Todd, Inc. and board president of the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture.

Art Deco, a design movement that borrowed from a mix of styles, like Modernism and Cubism, became popular in the 1920s and found its way onto architecture, clothing and even household items such as cookware, before falling out of fashion around World War II.

The magazine article notes details like intricate grillwork, leaded windows, and glazed terra cotta motifs on the Philcade, the curved glass-block corners of the City Veterinary Hospital, and zigzag ornamentation on columns and light fixtures at the Tulsa Club as examples of the style.

Its popularity here coincided with the oil boom, when many of the city's most well-known structures were built.

You don't have to walk or drive too far to see the deco architecture on display throughout the city: There's the Boston Avenue Methodist Church, Oklahoma Natural Gas Building, Tulsa Union Depot and the Tulsa Fire Alarm Building, to name a few. The fire house, the magazine says, is "a minor masterpiece ... wrapped with a terra-cotta frieze depicting dragons and fire hoses."

Image: Tulsa-Art Deco
David Halpern  /  AP file
This 2002 photo released by David Halpern, from his book "Tulsa Art Deco," shows detail from the Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa, Okla.
Route 66 fans have architectural landmarks in Tulsa, too, including the Blue Dome, originally a 24-hour Gulf Oil filling station, built in 1924 to serve drivers on the Mother Road. It's now an anchor for the Blue Dome entertainment district near downtown Tulsa. The original retail portion of the station is occupied by Arnie's Bar, a longtime Tulsa favorite "after-hours" venue, while the two-story bright blue dome is an art studio. Tulsa Foundation for Architecture's executive director Lee Anne Zeigler says the Blue Dome slightly precedes the deco movement, and that its design was patterned after the Hagia Sophia in Turkey, which was built as a church 1,500 years ago and later became a mosque, then a museum.

Despite the preservation of Tulsa's monuments to style, around half of the city's deco structures have been demolished over the past decades in the name of urban renewal.

But, as the magazine's cover article says, "Tulsa fell in love with deco and, after a brief estrangement, appears poised for a second honeymoon."

"We really no longer want these buildings to be a surprise," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

Tulsa will host the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2008 conference from Oct. 21-25, an event expected to bring at least 2,500 people to the city.

Sessions are planned at several Tulsa landmarks, including the Boston Avenue Methodist Church. Tours of other Oklahoma towns and cities, including Guthrie, Ponca City and Sapulpa, are also scheduled, according to the national trust.

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