A tradition since 1926, the Coney Island Hot Weiner shop is the second-oldest continuously operated restaurant in Tulsa (after Ike’s Chili). Coney Island was originally located in the Tulsa World building at 311 S. Boulder. In 1946 the restaurant moved to 108 W. 4th St. and in 1995 moved to 123 W. Fourth St in the former Downtowner Motel. The restaurant moved back to 108 W. 4th Street in 2012 as the motel was slated to be torn down to make way for a parking lot (because Downtown Tulsa needs more of those!) In 2015 Coney Island will find a new home in the Brady District.
When I photographed the former Downtowner Motel in 2008 it was rundown and neglected. It would have been nice if someone had been able to save this example of mid century architecture and return it to its former glory as a motel. Part of the reason I started Forgotten Tulsa was to document locations just like this-places that now just exist in pictures and in memories.
Have you ever had a fried apple pie from McDonald's? If so, odds are that the iconic dessert you enjoyed was made right here in Tulsa, Oklahoma! Since 1965 Bama Pie Company has been a major supplier of the fried pies for McDonald's-producing over one million pies daily. At the end of the twentieth century the company was one of the nation's largest manufacturers of flour-based products.
Founded in 1927 in Dallas, Texas, by Henry and Alabama Marshall, the Bama Pie Shop originally served a small clientele but gradually had customers in other Texas communities. The Marshalls' son Paul established a branch in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1937 that became the company's headquarters. Link
This 2012 Youtube video details more of the history of Bama Pie in Tulsa and also talks to some current employees about their experiences. Seems like a great place to work!
The First Church of Christ Scientist is located at 11th and Boulder. Completed in 1923 its design is reminiscent of the Pantheon with a dome, a front pediment with 10 Ionic columns, and exterior of Bedford polished limestone. The dome exterior is masonry tile with a wood structure support and a center glass oculus. The interior was remodeled in the mid-1930s by Adah Robinson, who is best known for designing Tulsa's Boston Avenue Methodist Church. Link
Growing up in Tulsa there were a few local landmarks that I will always remember as special, even magical: Bells, the Williams Center forum, Casa Bonita, Crystals and the Camelot Hotel. The giant pink castle-shaped hotel was closed for most of my childhood but each time we drove past 49th and Peoria I wished I could peek inside. After being abandoned in 1996 the Camelot was condemned by the Tulsa Health Department and was demolished in 2007.
The eight-story, 330-room Camelot opened in September 1965, and had a turret, massive iron gates, moat, drawbridge and a swimming pool shaped like the top of a medieval spear. It was the height of luxury and class when it opened and welcomed many prominent celebrities such as Elvis Presley and Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. The Camelot was also featured in both the book and film "Tex." The location where the Camelot stood is now a QuikTrip.
This video of the Camelot has some good interior shots:
Located at 10th and Detroit the J.A. Blackwood Company offered blue prints, photo copies, drafting supplies and offset printing. The above photo from the Beryl Ford Collection is undated but the cars in the background suggest the 1950's or 1960's. While J.A. Blackwood is still in business in Tulsa they are no longer at their Detroit location.
One building that I find interesting is the Beacon Building. Located on the Southwest corner of 4th and Boulder it was built by Waite Phillips in 1923. Many Tulsans remember it for a beacon light tower (removed in 1976) that symbolized its long-time tenant, the Beacon Life Insurance Company and served as a aircraft navigational aid in the 1930's. Link
Compare the two images below. In the first the beacon is visible in the background of the picture. In the second picture, taken in 2008, the beacon is no longer present.
Another view of the Beacon Building with the Mayo Building in the background and the Adams Building to the side.
The Beacon Building in 1935.
Black and white photos courtesy of the Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and the Tulsa Historical Society.
The Beacon Building Today
"The family’s Tulsa lineage begins in Alabama with Benjamin Perryman, a Creek Indian who in 1828 came to Indian Territory with his six sons and two daughters. Their journey ended, in all likelihood, underneath the sprawling branches of the Council Oak Tree on the east bank of the Arkansas River Bank.It was Benjamin’s son, Lewis, whose four wives and 16 children helped kick-start the Tulsa branch of the Perryman family, part of the Lower Creek tribe. Three of his sons, issuing from his fourth wife Ellen, became intimately connected with the Tulsa area and a vital impulse in the creation of a bustling new community.
The imposing home/ranch headquarters for Lewis’ ranch was situated north of East 33rd Street and Rockford Avenue and included a trading post that operated successfully up until the Civil War.
On March 25, 1879, Josiah Chouteau Perryman oversaw the beginning of official postal service in Tulsa, serving as postmaster for the 200 or-so residents in brother George Beecher Perryman’s ranch house, just north of present day East 41st Street.
George was married to a colorful character, one Rachel Perryman affectionately known by friends and family simply as “Aunt Rachel.” Although there is some discrepancy as to her exact date of birth—a 1927 Tulsa World article dates her birth to 1831, though family sources record a date in April of 1846—there is no doubt Rachel lived a long and interesting life.
Aunt Rachel was known for her generosity and fondness for visitors, especially young children. When chiefs would gather in Okmulgee for peace councils, they were often invited back to Aunt Rachel’s to celebrate with food and drink. She, in fact, kept a well-stocked larder for her myriad unexpected guests, who would more than likely end up staying (at Aunt Rachel’s insistence, of course) for days on end.
She was herself mother to seven children, though she raised, fed and cared for some 30 others, each of which she put through college and helped them later to establish businesses.
Her husband George’s vast property stretched from the Cherokee line north to Wagoner, and the whitewashed farmhouse/post office/trading post he owned soon became known to those it served as the “Perryman White House,” with Aunt Rachel as it’s unofficial First Lady.
It was around this same time that the Perryman’s began using the small plat of land near what is now East 32nd Street and Utica Avenue as a family cemetery. Thirty-six gravestones still remain, identifying various members of the Perryman family (including Josiah and George) and a few friends.
The last interment was done in 1941 (one William Shirk), though it is impossible to tell exactly how many persons were actually buried in the cemetery since the graveyard’s original boundaries extended well beyond today’s fenced-in, corner lot. Because the land was communally owned by the Creek Indians, burials were done “around,” and consequently no exact record exists of the location of many family graves.
Fueled by complaining neighbors and a lack of ability to maintain the property, the cemetery was almost eliminated in 1958 with a petition that would have authorized the removal of the 42 known bodies buried there, declaring the 150-by-150 foot plot a “nuisance and health hazard.”
The cemetery’s maintenance soon became the responsibility of the Tulsa Historical Society, who through private funding refurbished the landmark, adding a fence, a historical marker and landscaping.
Arthur Perryman, grandson of Lewis, built a house about 1900 on the southwest corner of East 31st Street and Utica Avenue, where he lived with his wife Daisy and raised his sons Philip Ward, William Thomas and Robert.
At the time when the Perryman family was living in the house, the cemetery’s boundaries extended to the south end of their lot and was owned and maintained by George, the son of the George who owned the first post office.
The family’s many achievements ultimately helped shape not only the great city of Tulsa, but the neighboring Muskogee Nation as well. The innovative and strong-willed family helped nurture the roots of Tulsa during a time when its future as a big city (let alone the oil capital of the world) was nothing more than a pipe dream." Link
“We came upon the banks of the Arkansas [River], at a place (near Tulsa) where tracks of numerous horses, all entering the water, showed where a party of Osage hunters had recently crossed the river on their way to the buffalo range . . . ." "A little farther on, we reached a straggling Osage village, on the banks of the Arkansas. Our arrival created quite a sensation. A number of old men came forward and shook hands with us severally; while the women and children huddled together in groups, staring at us wildly...." The scene in the painting portrays the parties' camp the evening of the encounter at the Osage village. "...several Osage Indians, visitors from the village were mingled among our men." "We gave them food, and, what they relished, coffee; for the Indians partake in the universal fondness for this beverage, which pervades the West." - A Tour of the Prairies, Washington Irving, 1835. Link
The Washington Irving Monument, located in north Tulsa, was dedicated on May 1915.
“This monument was erected and donated to the public by Mr. and Mrs. Gabriel Norman Wright to commemorate the visit of the great author to this locality on October 14, 1832, in company with a party of U. S. Rangers from Cantonment Gibson. They camped that night about thirteen miles west of this point, near the present town of Wekiwa.” Link
A Tour on the Prairies
In "A Tour on the Prairies," Irving takes us with him on his exploration of Pawnee country, into regions that had not yet traversed by white men. Irving's narrative is a romanticized retelling of his adventures into these unexplored Western lands, which is now part of Oklahoma. As he writes in the beginning, "Who can tell, when he sets forth to wander, whither he may be driven by the uncertain currents of existence; or when he may return; or whether it may ever be his lot to revisit the scenes of his childhood!"
Irving says, "There is something exciting to the imagination and stirring to the feelings, while traversing these hostile plains, in seeing a horseman prowling along the horizon." The weather was perfect; the game was plentiful; and the "glorious country" spread out "far and wide in the golden sunshine." His descriptions of the dangers of the hunt are remarkable, though the thrill of the chase often overwhelmed any fear of danger or death.
In his quixotic quest, Irving witnesses strange and almost-unbelievable episodes. And, along the way, he learns something of the traditions and culture of the Native Americans, devouring their myths and legends with awe. He hears the story of a young warrior who was visited, and guided, by his bride in ghostly form. After his retelling of the tale, which he'd heard by the fire, Irving writes: "I give this simple little story almost in the words in which it was related to me as I lay by the fire in an evening encampment on the banks of the haunted stream where it is said to have happened."
After a month of venturing through the uncharted territory, Irving returns to civilization, only to find that he felt restricted. He missed sleeping in the open air. As he writes: "The atmosphere seemed close, and destitute of freshness; and when I woke in the night and gazed about me upon complete darkness, I missed the glorious companionship of the stars." Link
It is well worth the trip to Owen Park to visit this monument within that historic neighborhood.
Started in 2007, Forgotten Tulsa's goal is to document the city's rich history. Any pictures that I have not created will be credited. All suggestions and memories are encouraged and appreciated. Follow on Instagram @forgottentulsa.