Saturday, May 19, 2007

Weird and Ugly Buildings in Tulsa

Blogger: Chester
(Photo credit: Chris Bouldin)

Hello? It’s Chester, finally. Today I managed to convince Natasha, who thinks she’s the boss of everything, to post my eloquent critique of eight weird and/or ugly buildings in Tulsa. She said something about being afraid I'd write something “crass,” but I didn’t pay attention to what else she said. Who actually uses the word “crass” anyway? People who can’t be trusted to feed you every day, that’s who.

Presenting eight weird and/or ugly buildings I found in Tulsa on the Internet when Tasha wasn't hogging the computer:

  1. Diamond Tower
    “A box covered in nipples” is the best way to describe this architectural mega-disaster on South Boulder between 17th and 18th Streets.
    The seven-story, windowless building was built in 1957 for famed televangelist Oral Roberts, who claimed he spoke directly to God.
    Unfortunately for Roberts, architecture asceticism and potential resale value weren't often topics of conversation. After a brief early '80’s stint as a Southwestern Bell district headquarters, the building was abandoned. No wonder.

    2. University Club Tower
    This 32-story, 377-foot building at 1722 S. Carson Ave. resembles a lime green beer can wearing a concrete sombrero, complete with an antenna. I had a fish friend back in the tank at Wal-Mart who said the building looks kinda like a syringe. Anyway, the sombrero-wearing syringe is now home to hundreds of Tulsans who apparently find living in beer cans charming and homey.
    The structure was developed in 1966 by Dick Wheeler, who also happens to be the developer of the aesthetically challenged Camelot Hotel (see number five). Coincidence? I don't think so, Tim.

    3. The Mabee Center
    The 10,575-seat Mabee Center, 7777 S. Lewis Ave., has since its opening in 1972 played host not only to Jesus mega-meetings, but also to concerts, high school and college graduations, and Oral Roberts University basketball.
    The arena is an elliptical cable-suspension structure and bears the name of John Mabee, the Tulsan credited with the founding of the Mabee Foundation. Mabee died in 1961, fortunately before witnessing the golden eyesore resembling a robot’s head that would later bear his name.
    Surely not many Tulsans have managed to avoid subjecting their eyes to the Mabee Center during the past month, thanks to graduation ceremony obligations. Here is some late-arriving advice: looking directly at the Mabee Center has been known to cause temporary blindness, dreams of robots, and embarrassing Transformers commercials reenactments.

    4. CitiPlex Towers
    The CitiPlex Towers were built after a 900-foot Jesus kindly urged Oral Roberts to erect the City of Faith Medical and Research Center, a massive, pro-bono hospital at the corners of 81st Street and Lewis Avenue.
    The building, comprised of 2.2 million square feet of converted office space on 60 floors, was completed in 1981, and served as a hospital for a mere eight years before closing in 1989. Someone is remodeling large parts of the first floor, which joins the three buildings. Judging by the way the place looked through my fish bowl when Chris Bouldin took me on a walking tour, I decided that perhaps the founding of Tulsa hospitals should be left to nuns.
    Though the building was commissioned with the noble goal of saving lives, the sight of the structure is partially blamed for the 1985 death of Hollywood-legend Rock Hudson.

    5. Camelot Hotel
    Built in 1965 and condemned in 1996, the Camelot Hotel, an eight-story, 330-room hotel that wishes it was a castle, came complete with a moat, drawbridge, guard towers and spacious lodgings for the future boarding of Tulsa’s most famous natural resource, the homeless.
    Though abandoned, the building still stands at 4956 S. Peoria Ave. The Tulsa Industrial Authority recently struck a deal for the remediation and demolition of the structure with The Maharishi Ayur-Ved University, which has done nothing
    since it bought the hotel for $1.15 million in 1993 to improve or renovate the property. Unfortunately, cross-legged humming and positive thinking cannot save the Camelot or its giant signage – which would actually be kinda cool if it weren’t positioned right next door to a major interstate highway. Anyway, this fairyland is due to be razed later this year. The drive through Tulsa to Oklahoma City (who’d want to do that, anyway?!) will be more pleasant for it.

    6. Reynolds Amphitheatre
    The city of Tulsa boasts over 40 miles of Arkansas River shoreline, which features the worst in sights and smells.
    From gravel plants in the south to oil refineries and tank farms to the north, a float down the river in Tulsa today would be enough to make a colorectal surgeon dry heave. I sure as heck wouldn’t trade my small, unkempt home on Tasha’s desk for freedom in that stream of stench and sadness.
    Of all the man-made structures gracing the banks of the river, the Reynolds River Parks Amphitheater located in River Park West is certainly one of the most hideous.
    The combination of a chocolate-brown river, the smells of stagnant water and goose droppings only add to the lovely experience of staring at this thing, which resembles a zit at high-noon with room for tap dancing, during concerts on the river in the middle of summer, when mosquitoes swarm and the temperature doesn’t drop below 95 until 2 a.m.

    7. International Tower
    Built in 1970, the International Tower at 5200 S. Yale Ave. is the only six-story building in Tulsa that carries the regal sounding title, “tower.” Methinks someone is compensating for something – or, maybe he’s just being honest and having a little fun. That’s probably it, now that I think about it.
    The structure features the tall, narrow windows normally reserved for much taller buildings - which could double as arrow slits if the clan from the Camelot threaten to steal International Tower maidens - and an exterior of drab, cut-rate red brick.
    The landscaping is just as breathtaking. The giant, spherical bushes do nothing to better pronounce the puny glass entrance.
    As they say in the real estate biz, “it’s a must see.”

    8. Creek Nation Casino
    One would think that in exchange for my weekly mission to binge drink myself numb while mindlessly shoving $20 bills into a “Wheel of Fortune” slot machine from my domestic, watery prison that the Creek Nation Casino could give me a more exotic environment in which to wager away my goldfish sadness. But, no such luck.
    Just a drive by this dreadful building at 1616 E. 81st St. is enough to make me long for the semi-attractive backroom casinos and speakeasies of the prohibition era. The structural statistics of this place are guarded like the gold in Fort Knox, but who cares. I don’t have to know how many square feet of gaming fun is inside to know that no one tried to make this ugly metal building look like something else besides an ugly metal building. Guess local casinos and churches love metal buildings like little girls love Troll dolls – they’re so ugly, they’re cute. The girls must collect them all.

That’s it for me for today. I’m off to try to convince Tasha to either increase the vodka-to-water ratio in my tank, or to take me to Sushi Train for some grub. Later!

All photos thanks to Chris Bouldin, except for the link to the Lost Tulsa Flickr site.


Anonymous said...

I think the ranch was bad, hahahahaha! Don't eat the ranch. OMG, that's hilarious!

Bob Tilton said...

Oral Roberts and his posse certainly did a lot to contribute to bad architecture in Tulsa. Not to mention the town's reputation nationwide as one of religious nuts.

John-Kelly W. said...

After looking at that pic of the Reynolds Ampitheatre in the middle of that smelly, brown, mucky water, I ask myself: The Channels? What the hell was I thinking?

Shane Hood said...

"Oral Roberts and his posse certainly did a lot to contribute to bad architecture in Tulsa. Not to mention the town's reputation nationwide as one of religious nuts."

True enough because of the architecture of Cecil Stanfield and Frank Wallace Oral Roberts contributed a lot towards putting Tulsa on the map for good architecture. ORU, The Abundant Life building and The University Club tower were all huge hits at the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in October 2008.

Visit our website: and meet others who appreciate these buildings for the great architecture they are.

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