Every time I go to downtown Tulsa, I see something new. It’s very exciting for a native Tulsan, like me, to see the growth and progression…..or “Renaissance “and “revival” would be better terms for it, actually. I grew up hearing about how fabulous downtown Tulsa was in the days of swagger ( like the first half century of the 1900’s.) My mom was a teen in the 1950’s and told us tales of how people dressed up in formal attire to go downtown. Hats, gloves and lipstick were almost a necessity for going downtown. The streets were heavily populated and there was a hustle-bustle of activity.
(Most Tulsans know the following info but for those non-Tulsans, here’s some insight…) Eventually, the shopping activity transferred to Utica Square (when it was built in 1950’s and re-purchased in 1960’s, shopping malls of Southland, Southroads and in 1976, Woodland Hills Mall (Oklahoma’s largest shopping mall). Southland became Promenade Mall in the 80’s and very few stores were left downtown. I remember going to see movies in the late 70’s downtown and popping into a few department stores. The Williams Center Forum was a groundbreaking center for us. It seemed to have everything- an ice skating rink, a movie theater and several levels of shopping and dining. Ice skating on the weekends to a deejay was a form of entertainment for several of us. Bridesmaids and graduation luncheons were held at The Magic Pan creperie. You could even get your camera film developed at a film developer store in the “Forum”, as we called it. After a decade, approximately, the Forum lost its popularity. People went further south for activity, it seemed. We still occasionally went downtown for concerts or special events in small taverns.
After several years…..slowly, downtown Tulsa saw a turnaround with the addition of a new Cox Convention Center, BOK center, Driller’s Stadium, Guthrie Green, revitalized warehouses and districts, bars, taverns, art galleries, etc. Festivals, Tulsa Tough, Hop Jam, parades, etc. are regular weekend attractions for people to go along with the traditional Mayfest, St. Patrick’s Day block parties, art crawls, food trucks, beer fests, pedicabs, coffeehouses, open mics, spoken word nites, etc.
What excites me even more than the establishments are the delightful new murals that are painted on so many buildings downtown! This feels like a big city to me. It reminds me of what I love about other cities and metropolises and now we have them right here in Tulsa! I think it’s just the punch of color we need amidst all our beautiful, stately architecture. The “street vibe’ of the murals gives downtown Tulsa a youthful and casual feel to balance out all that Art Deco glam.(A headless cowboy and horse was painted on this mural. Kind of thought-provoking!)
What a great combo: historic architecture and casual, whimsical murals….chic, yet, street. There’s no place like home.
photos by Gina