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Tulsa Traveler: 12 "Must See" Landmarks in Tulsa

Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.

Tulsa Landmarks: 12 Places to Visit In Tulsa

While there are hundreds of Tulsa Landmarks that could be included on this page, only the best have been listed. With a wealth of history and a past full of extraordinary men, Tulsa was destined to be a leader among cities. It is one of the few cities across the country that can boast pridefully of it's detailed Art Deco buildings, as well as being formerly known as "The Oil Capitol of the World." Tulsa offers everything from the extraordinary to the bizarre.

If you're in the mood for more must see Tulsa landmarks, be sure to check out the Insiders' Guide to Tulsa. This is one of the best books about Tulsa that exists! Also, if you have your own Tulsa attraction that you've been to and want to share, please leave a comment in the comment box below.

Tulsa Landmarks: The Center of the Universe

Tulsa Landmarks: The Center of the Universe

The Center of the Universe and the Artificial Cloud sculpture

The Artificial Cloud Sculpture is an odd sculpture created by artist Bob Haozous in 1991 and installed the following year. The Artificial Cloud sculpture stands 72.5 foot tall, and is one of the most detailed and well known sculpture in Tulsa. When asked about the meaning behind the sculpture, Haozous stated it is "...a statement about technology; the cloud stands at the top, symbolizing a threatened hope." When asked about the construction, he then went on to state, "Because the structure was welded together with mild steel, it is meant to corrode, depending on the level of pollutants in the environment."

The Center of the Universe hides in the shadow of the Artificial Cloud Sculpture.  It is a place full of mystery, as strange and abnormal acoustic effects can be made when one stands at the center of a brick circle on top of the pedestrian bridge.  Many claim that this place is haunted, others claim that it is a secret entrance into another dimension.  However one wants to describe this place, the word "strange" is almost always included.

20 E Archer St Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa Landmarks: Boston Avenue United Methodist Church

Tulsa Landmarks: Boston Avenue United Methodist Church

Boston Avenue United Methodist Church

Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1999, the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church (completed in 1929), is considered to be one of the finest examples of ecclesiastical Art Deco architecture in the United States.

1301 S Boston Ave Tulsa, OK 918 583-5181

Tulsa Landmarks: Creek Council Oak Park

Tulsa Landmarks: Creek Council Oak Park

Creek Council Oak Park

In 1834, the Lochapoka clan of the Creek Indians had begun their involuntary migration from Alabama towards what was then known as Indian Territory. They were heavily guarded by the U.S. government as they made their slow and painful trek across the country. Of the original group of 630, 161 died along the way. Finally, in 1836, they arrived on a low hill overlooking the Arkansas River. They marked their arrival with a solemn ceremony depositing the ashes that they had carried over the trail from their last fires in Alabama.

It was on this same hill that the Tulsa-Lochapoka, a division of the Creek Nation, established their "town." The Creek Council Oak Park is often referred to as Tulsa's first City Hall. The Tulsa-Lochapoka gathered here for ceremonies, feasts and games as late as 1896. Commemorative tribal ceremonies are still held at the park each year. The Creek Council Oak Park features an ethno-botanical garden displaying plants that were used by the Creek Indians for food, fiber, ceremonial and medicinal purposes. Several Interpretive signs identify the plants and provide information about their use. This park is protected by Historic Preservation zoning and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Standing at the center of this park, the Creek Council tree, a mature post oak, marks the traditional "ceremonial ground" chosen in 1836 by the Lochapoka clan of the Creek Indians.

1750 South Cheyenne Ave.Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa Landmarks: The Tulsa Golden Driller

Tulsa Landmarks: The Tulsa Golden Driller

Golden Driller

The Golden Driller has been claimed to be the largest freestanding statue in the world.  While this fact is unproven, it is still a great source of pride for Tulsans.

The Golden Driller was first introduced to Tulsa in 1953 at the International Petroleum Exposition.  Once the event was over, the great statue was disassembled and moved by to Fort Worth by the owners, the Mid-Continent Supply Company.  The Statue would not appear in Tulsa again until the 1959 exposition, where it attracted so much attention that the company had it rehabilitated and donated it to the Tulsa County Fairgrounds Trust Authority.  In 1966, it was permanently installed at the 21st Street and Pittsburg Avenue site, where it still rests today. 

At the base of the Golden Driller, the inscription on the plaque reads, "The Golden Driller, a symbol of the International Petroleum Exposition. Dedicated to the men of the petroleum industry who by their vision and daring have created from God's abundance a better life for mankind."

Golden Driller Statistics:

  • Weight - 43,500 pounds
  • Height - 76 feet
  • Belt size - 48-feet in circumference
  • Shoe size - 393DDD
  • Hat size - 112 hard hat

4145 East 21st Street Tulsa, OK 74114

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Tulsa Landmarks: Greenwood Historical District as it was in the early 1900s.

Tulsa Landmarks: Greenwood Historical District as it was in the early 1900s.

Greenwood Historical District

During the oil boom of the 1910s, this area was one of the most successful and wealthiest African American communities in the United States.  Known as "the Negro Wall Street" (now commonly referred to as "the Black Wall Street"), the area was home to several prominent black businessmen, many of them millionaires. Great Jazz Legends such as Ernie Fields, Al Dennie, and Clarence Love called Greenwood home.

The prosperity of the black community in Greenwood suddenly came to a halt in 1921.  The Tulsa Race riot was one of the most devastating race riots in history and it destroyed the once thriving Greenwood community.

During the Tulsa race riots, 35 square blocks of homes and businesses were torched by mobs of angry whites.  The official death toll claimed that 26 blacks and 13 whites died during the fighting, but the Red Cross estimated the toll to be at 300.  Some historians maintain that as many as 3,000 African Americans were killed.

Over 600 businesses were lost during the Tulsa race riot, including 21 churches, 21 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and two movie theaters, plus a hospital, a bank, a post office, libraries, schools, law offices, a half-dozen private airplanes and even a bus system. Property damage totaled $1.5 million.

Even though the city was devastated, the local community quickly mobilized its resources and rebuilt the Greenwood area within the next five years. For over 30 years, the community thrived, until it fell prey to an economic and population drain in the 1960s, and much of the area was leveled during urban renewal in the early 1970s to make way for a highway loop around the downtown district. Several blocks of old Greenwood were saved from demolition and have been restored, forming part of the Greenwood Historical District.

Even after the riots, Greenwood still remained a hotbed of jazz and blues.  The legendary jazz musician Count Basie himself claims the first big band he heard—Walter Page and His Blue Devils—was in Greenwood in 1927. 

Today, the Greenwood Historical District is slowly being brought back to life.  While little remains of Old Greenwood, the area today offers numerous museums and dedications to those who were affected by the Tulsa Race Riots.

Tulsa Landmarks: The Harwelden Mansion

Tulsa Landmarks: The Harwelden Mansion

Harwelden Home

The Harwelden Home was originally the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Palmer Harwell. Completed in 1926, the home is the only Collegiate Gothic English Tudor style of architecture in Tulsa. Harwelden Home has 30 rooms, four levels and seven fireplaces. Throughout the home, the rooms and stairway are decorated with hand carved wood designs, all a part of a motif which comes from a coat of arms. The outside of the home is adorned with carved Indiana limestone, a slate roof and limestone gargoyles, not to mention a gold fish pond and carriage house where the servants lived. Harwelden Home is on the National Register of Historic Places and the neighborhood in which Harwelden belongs, the Mapleridge District, is on the National Register of Historic Districts.  The home is also the home of the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa.

2210 South Main Street Tulsa, Oklahoma

North Tulsa Heritage Foundation / The Mabel B. Little Heritage House

The Mackey home (known as the Mabel B. Little Heritage House) is significant because it is the only house still standing in the original 1920s Greenwood residential area that is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

The Mackeys made their living doing domestic work and yard work for prominent local Tulsans in the early 1900's.  The Mackeys first home in the Greenwood area was a small white frame house, one of more than 1,000 homes destroyed in the 1921 race riot. While helping the community rebuild, the Mackeys completed construction of the stately two-story brick home in 1926, and it quickly became an integral part of the community for social events and weddings. The two story home is currently maintained as a museum by the North Tulsa Heritage Foundation, and hosts home furniture, pictures and other artifacts that has been preserved from that era.

322 N Greenwood Tulsa, Oklahoma Phone: 918-596-1006

Tulsa Landmarks: Oral Roberts Praying Hands

Tulsa Landmarks: Oral Roberts Praying Hands

Oral Roberts Praying Hands

Noted as the largest bronze sculpture in the world, these mighty hands stand 60 feet high and weigh over 30 tons.

In 1980, evangelist Oral Roberts outsourced the casting of the giant hands to Juarez, Mexico. Originally, the hands were called "The Healing Hands" and they stood in front of Oral Robert's "City of Faith," a medical center devoted to faith healing. In 1989, the City of Faith declared bankruptcy due to a number of lawsuits. Shortly after, the hands were moved to the entrance drive of Oral Roberts University.

7777 South Lewis Tulsa, Oklahoma Directions: I-44 exit 227, then south 2.5 miles on Lewis Ave. At the entrance to the grounds of Oral Roberts University.

Tulsa Landmarks: Penguins on Parade

Tulsa Landmarks: Penguins on Parade

Penguins on Parade

Scattered throughout Tulsa, there are hundreds of whimsically dressed penguins standing about.  These statues seem to adorn every street corner and business in Tulsa, and even once you believe that you've found them all, another one pops up.

The Penguins on Parade campaign began as a result of the addition of an African Black-footed Penguin exhibit at the Tulsa Zoo.  Tulsa Zoo Friends and the Tulsa Zoo introduced the penguins as a community beautification project as well as a fundraiser for the new exhibit. 

Local Businesses or individuals adopted (cost: $2500) or bought (cost: $3500) 6-foot-tall fiberglass penguins from the Zoo and then hired local artists who gave them their final appearance.

There used to be a complete list of all the Penguins on Parade, but the website that hosted the list no longer supports the page, and the list is all but lost to history.  Although the list has disappeared, Penguin hunting is still a popular sport in Tulsa.

The Cave House

The Tulsa Cave House is a local legend. Many claim that it was a front for prohibition era bootleggers, while others claim that the unusual structure is a favorite site for ghost hauntings. The truth is, nobody really knows. The legends that surround this local building are as numerous as grains of sand.

Still, one thing remains: the stories about the Tulsa cave house are just as amazing as the  Tulsa cave house looks.

1623 Charles Page Blvd. From downtown, go west on 3rd St. It will turn into Charles Page Blvd. You will see a long, rock wall on the right side just before you arrive.

Tulsa underground tunnels

There are several tunnels that run deep under Tulsa. During the 1920s, these tunnels were used as escape routes for wealthy millionaires, as well as a convenient way to avoid the hustle and bustle of the city streets above. While there are a few tunnels that are closed off to the public, most are still accessible to the urban explorer.

Tulsa Landmarks: The Williams Center Tower (BOK Tower)

Tulsa Landmarks: The Williams Center Tower (BOK Tower)

Williams Center Tower

Commonly known as the Bank of Oklahoma Tower, and also as One Williams Center

Standing at 667 feet and 52 stories, this skyscraper is Oklahoma's tallest building. In fact, the Bank of Oklahoma tower is the tallest building in any of the five "Plains States": Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota, as well as the surroundings states of Missouri, Arkansas, and New Mexico.

The Bank of Oklahoma Tower was built in 1975 and designed by Minoru Yamasaki & Associates, the same architect who designed the World Trade Center in New York. The BOK Tower is very similar to the WTC towers in both appearance and construction. The tower's lobby has marble walls and wall hangings which have a noted similarity to the décor in the former World Trade Center. The similarities between the buildings are based upon the building's history. The BOK tower was built for the Williams Companies. At the time of its construction, CEO of Williams Companies was so impressed by the Twin Towers in New York that his original idea was to build four small-scale replicas of the towers in Tulsa. However, prior to the actual construction, he was informed of the difficulties that would be created from having 25 story towers on the small plots of land he had in mind with the required elevators. The plan for a 1/4 scale replica was changed to a single tower. The tower was a quarter of the footprint of a trade center tower but double the height of the four planned towers.

Williams Center Tower Statistics

  • Height: 203m (667 ft)
  • 52 floors
  • Architect: Minoru Yamasaki
  • Completed: 1976

101 East 2nd Street Tulsa, Oklahoma

© 2010 Eric Standridge


Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on January 09, 2015:

I have to admit that this is the first time I have heard of Tulsa. You have given us a very comprehensive guide to the city. It is like knowing it now after reading your hub.

Written Up from Oklahoma City, OK on July 09, 2012:

I lived in Tulsa for five years and still haven't heard of all of these landmarks. Great job, I'm ready to go back and explore.

Linda Collier on April 13, 2010:

Thank you for including "The Cave" on your list of places to visit! I've owned it for 13 years now, and it's place in Tulsa History still tickles me!

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