What do Miami South Beach, Chicago, and Tulsa, Okla., have in common?
In the majestic sweep of America’s Great Plains, the land of cowboys and “Big Oil & Gas” fortunes, is one the the largest art deco architectural areas in America.
Miami and Chicago have capitalized their art deco areas into major tourist attractions as has Tulsa, which offers an art deco museum, tours, and three downtown deco districts.
“Throughout the city are art deco churches, schools, gas stations, dry cleaners and residences designed by masters such as Bruce Goff, Frank Lloyd Wright, Francis Barry Byrne,” says a brochure. Tulsa Historical Society website gives a good summary.
Art deco, an architectural design style first appearing in France before World War I is characterized by “bold lines and geometric zig zag forms and the use of new materials, such as plastic.”
Remaining true to its origins and heritages, one of Tulsa’s premier gems is Gilcrease Museum, which holds a renowned collection of western art and Native American art. In nearby Glenpool, there is an annual Tulsa Indian Art Festival featuring Native American tribes. In August, the annual Powwow of Champions features Native American dancers from many states.
Oral Roberts University features a 200-foot prayer tower visitor center and offers campus tours. In the summers of my childhood, Oral Roberts used to set up tents in the 10-acre field across the street from my house in Michigan. My friend Bernard and I used to sneak over there to listen to the spellbinding “preachin’ and singin’.”
There is also J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum, the Tulsa Garden Center, the Oklahoma Aquarium, a zoo and the Blue Dome center of nightlife.
Tulsa presents itself as a vibrant city, brimming with family friendly attractions including Philbrook Museum of Art, housed in an Italian Renaissance style villa built for oilman Waite Phillips, surrounded by gardens with Oklahoma native plantings. In homage to one of the Oklahoma’s internationally famous citizens, the Will Rogers Memorial museum in nearby Claremore features the accomplishments of the humorist and social commentator.
About 30 minutes southeast of Tulsa, the main street of the small community of Broken Arrow is a delightful surprise of upscale restaurants and non-chain, individually owned shops. STG Gelateria offers a homemade gelato and coffee and waiter Gage Fromazak can fill you in on what “to do” in Broken Arrow. As with most small towns, the shopkeepers are super friendly.
Tulsa really has mastered tourist offerings.