Architecture In Tulsa

by Joe Cinocca Writer
(Tulsa Skyline at Night)
(Tulsa Skyline at Night)
Source: Erin Conrad

As I get older, I find myself appreciating the simpler things in life. A good cup of coffee, well-manicured lawns or quiet time on the porch always gives me a sense of calm and tranquility. It's so easy for us, as humans, to get bogged down with the day-to-day minutae in this thing called "life".

I'm a transplant, originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, but currently calling Pasadena, California, my home. While the years continue to pass me by, I find myself growing ever-fonder for the few return visits I make each year. One of the main reasons for this is that the architecture in Tulsa provides me with a cool backdrop for reconnecting with friends and family. It gives a sense of modern sophistication that we expect, but combined with nods to Tulsa's past history.

(View Of Downtown From 71st Street Bridge)
(View Of Downtown From 71st Street Bridge)

I will readily admit that I do not enjoy coming back to tornadic weather activity and crazy amounts of pollen, but I find myself having newfound respect for the interesting cross-sections of neighborhoods that make the city what it is.

Have you ever been able to immediately pick out which city a movie was filmed in, simply based on the skyline shots at the beginning of the movie? Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City all have their signature B-Roll shots that give the flair necessary for the script.

Tulsa might not be a Top 25 market, but on a smaller level, it has pocket areas of charm that make the city unique. I thought I would share some of my favorite spots and Tulsa Architecture marvels that help me appreciate what the town has to offer.

(Phoenix Cafe - Pearl District)
(Phoenix Cafe - Pearl District)

Pearl District

For the last 30 years, the Pearl District was just a collection of rundown warehouses and dilapidated housing.

Concerted efforts were made to make capital improvements to tourist areas in downtown, thus the Brady District, Greenwood District and Blue Dome District were born. The entire point of the branding is to create a sense of commonality among businesses and residences in those areas of town.

Seeing this trend, the Pearl District was created and infrastructure upgrades soon began. Street widening, the installation of light poles and other amenities soon began to flourish.

A farmers market began opening up on a weekly basis and the Tulsa architects soon swooped in to transform these areas into a more modern look with a sense of nostalgia thrown in the mix.

The buildings we see today have a sophistication, but the materials that were used to create that look harken back to the 60s and 70s era of Tulsa construction.

It's amazing to see the transformation that has taken place for this area over the last 5 years. The widening of the street and addition of street lamps and paved brick sidewalks has really made this section of Tulsa "pop" with color.

One of my favorite features of this area is the usage of dark red bricks. Sure the new glass installments and uniquely shaped rooftops are cool, but for me, I have some sense of comfort with the bricks (old school perhaps?).

(Blue Dome District)
(Blue Dome District)
Source: Wikipedia
(Rooftop Dining Downtown @ El Guapo)
(Rooftop Dining Downtown @ El Guapo)
(Elote = Mexican Food + Luchadores)
(Elote = Mexican Food + Luchadores)

Blue Dome District

The Blue Dome District is a group of businesses that have banded together to brand downtown and give a new sense of identity to a once-dilapidated area. 

Several of the old warehouses that made this area run-down have since been reimagined by forward-thinking architects that have added a new level of sophistication and charm to the area.

Entrepreneurs sprouted up and created concept restaurants like Joe Momma's, Dilly Deli, White Flag, El Guapo, Elote, Yokozuna, Fasler Hall and McNellie's.

Local establishments like Dwelling Spaces, Boomtown Tees, Lyon's Indian Store and Lee's Bicycles bring a vibrant outlet for creativity to the area and Dust Bowl Lanes gives bowling fanatics a place to find their groove.

The EDM and electronic music scenes have shown amazing growth over the last 10 years, as places like IDL Ballroom, Electric Circus and Enso pave the way by bringing in national DJ's, as well as creating a great space for local and regional artists.

Cherry Street

The Cherry Street neighborhood has been a historic area of town between Utica & Harvard on 15th Street. One of the older neighborhoods, Cherry Street has been an integral part of the coffee, food truck and farmers market movements over the last 10 years or so.

CHOCS is one of the better coffee shops in town and host live music acts at night. As far as nightlife is concerned, Cherry Street has been one of a few destination spots in town and features a gamut of restaurants and live music. Several areas are nearby, which makes pub crawling and meetups a snap.

My favorite thing to do on Cherry Street are the Saturday morning Farmers Markets. It continues to get bigger and the number of vendors is respectable. The architectural stylings of the apartment complexes, residential homes and shopping centers leans heavily on a distinct red brick look, but if you look closely enough you can see new twists on old themes on the walls and rooftops.

Cain's Ballroom
Cain's Ballroom
(OneOk Field - Tulsa Drillers)
(OneOk Field - Tulsa Drillers)

Greenwood & Brady Arts Districts

The Brady District is a newer effort that centers around the burgeoning revitalization of the Downtown landscape, just North of Admiral (the center of Tulsa).

Brady Theater, Cain's Ballroom, several eateries, Guthrie Green and the Woody Guthrie Museum are just a few of the attractions that make this neighborhood thrive. Once a week, the Food Truck vendors show up and make their delicious cuisine available for Tulsans, while bands perform.

Just East of the Brady District resides the Greenwood District. This area is the backdrop for Greenwood Cultural Center, Oklahoma Jazz Hall Of Fame and John Hope Franklin Park, among others.

OneOk Park serves as the home for the Tulsa Drillers, which are the Double-A Minor League Affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Spending time at the ballpark is both therapeutic and a relaxing endeavour for me. There's nothing like eating a Driller Dog, drinking a pint and watching a little baseball action on a weekday afternoon.

There's something about staring off into a well-manicured outfield that calms my nerves and puts me at ease. The stadium is a top-notch design that is a major upgrade from their previous location. When I go to Minor League games, keeping my expectations low is always a must. It's a pleasant surprise when you go to a ballpark that has all of the amenities you would normally see at a Major League game.

(76' Tall Golden Driller @ Expo Square)
(76' Tall Golden Driller @ Expo Square)
(Joe Momma's - Blue Dome District)
(Joe Momma's - Blue Dome District)

Other Areas In Tulsa :

Architecturally speaking, there are a few other areas in town that provide an interesting backdrop for "date night" or intrigue while shopping. Everyone knows I'm a sucker for older homes and interesting design.

Expo Square

Until recently, a decent-sized amusement park made it's home in this area. Bell's was a place that we went as kids. The neighbors are glad it's gone because of the rollercoaster noises at night and the traffic that it would cause. In the 80s and 90s, Expo Square was a thriving area for horse racing, water parks, amusement parks and baseball.

Nowadays it's seeing modest improvements in its architecture, mostly due to new construction by mega chains like Wal Mart, Panda Express and Chipotle. This area has been in decline for years and it's nice to finally see some life being breathed back into the area.


I managed a store on Brookside for several years and feel that Brookside is the most popular destination for most people living in the Southern part of town. "Southies" tend to not liking driving into downtown, paying to park or fussing over traffic. 

Brookside was the original destination for cruising and meeting friends. If you are born and raised in Tulsa, chances are pretty good that your parents cruised in an old convertible along Peoria Drive, back in the day.

(Tulsa Ballet - Midtown)
(Tulsa Ballet - Midtown)


Many of the homes you see in Midtown were built before 1950. One of the reasons that owning a home is coveted in this area of town is because some of the best school districts are there. Edison Preparatory, Cascia Hall, Monte Casino, Bishop Kelley and Undercroft Montessori are just a few.

Midtown runs from the edge of Brookside to 51st & Memorial. Once you drive past 51st Street, you have entered South Tulsa. Midtown is considered to be trendy and hipster, while featuring a blend of old homes and modern ideas.

Utica Square

Before the advent of the indoor mall, Tulsa had Utica Square. Even in today's economy, Utica Square more than holds their own. As far as unique retail establishments and ambience, it's hard to beat Utica. 

Most of my local friends say that Utica is "old money", which means that our parents and grandparents shopped there before we did and investment money poured in from the oil and gas industries. Taking a quick walk around Utica Square will bring you back to yesteryear and it's one of the cooler things that Tulsa has to offer.

About Joe Cinocca Freshman   Writer

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Joined APSense since, May 20th, 2015, From Pasadena, CA, United States.

Created on Dec 31st 1969 19:00. Viewed 0 times.


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