Art Deco Capitals: South Beach, New York City...Tulsa?

Preservationists are working to save numerous art deco architectural landmarks in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A boom began at the height of the oil boom and returned after modernism fell out of style.

"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 classy company of Miami Beach, New York, and Los Angeles. The style was hugely popular here from the outset and 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. Over the course of a four-day visit, I walked through downtown and drove along outlying streets, taking in the full range-from the brightly colored terra-cotta panels of the 1929 Warehouse Market to the curved glass-block corners of the 1942 City Veterinary Hospital.

One observer estimates that demolition claimed about half of the city's deco buildings. Among the losses: the jewelbox-like Security Federal Savings and Loan, remodeled in 1937 with black Vitrolite and geometric shapes, and razed for parking in 1999. Grand theaters-such as the Delman, the Will Rogers, and the Palace (the latter artfully redesigned in 1935 by Koberling with a subtle zigzag styling)-came tumbling down. Tulsa Art Deco, first published by the Junior League in 1980 and republished by the foundation in 2001, is pocked with editor's notes that say "torn off" or "demolished."

Thanks to Larry Schooler

Full Story: Tulsa's Deco Gems

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