Sunday, February 21, 2010
Guess who's here at TDT for a guest post? None other than Andrea Myers, that's who.
Andrea is a downtown PR pro by day and a semi-rural Claremore mom by night and weekends. Anytime someone wants to know more about the system of pedestrian tunnels that lies beneath the streets of downtown Tulsa, Andrea is never far away. Here she gives us a tour of the tunnels that run from her office to one of her favorite downtown lunch spots. Enjoy!
There’s a magical place in downtown Tulsa that regularly takes me from my office in the BOK Tower to various places in the central business district of downtown Tulsa. What is this mysterious tube of transport? Why, it’s the downtown tunnel, of course. Not familiar? Well, walk with me.
The tour starts here. My office.
It's on the 50th floor of the BOK Tower in the One Williams Center complex. If Boston Avenue went straight through, I’d be standing at about the corner of Boston and Second Street. If you look out my office window, you can see straight down Boston.
We’re headed to the Atlas Life Building today. See the red building on the left? That’s the Kennedy Building. And the tall building behind it? That’s the Mid-Continent Tower. The Atlas Life Building is behind that. And we’re going to take the tunnel all the way there.
You see, in my free time, and on my way to lunch, I enjoy showing tunnel newbies through the labyrinth of underground hallways. It’s especially handy on these frigid and windy Tulsa days. Off to the Tulsa Press Club – my lunch and after-work place to hang – in the Atlas Life Building.
We start by heading to the lobby of my building. On the plaza level, there’s a convenient pedestrian walkway that goes over Second Street into the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Many Tulsans will remember this area as the former Williams Forum, a shopping mall and ice skating rink. Today, it’s offices for Williams.
While you’re in the Crowne (as us locals call it), grab a latte at the Starbucks or a quesadilla at the Daily Grill. Take the escalator in the hotel down to the ground floor. Look back up and you’ll see this.
These are not the only gold escalators you’ll see on this tour.
Go into the parking garage like you own the place. The Crowne staff is nice and doesn’t seem to mind that wanderers like myself use it as a sidewalk. When you get in the parking garage, hang a right and you’ll see a mysterious set of glass doors. Ever wonder what’s in there when you park to see a show at the PAC?
Don’t be scared. Walk on in. You’re now under Third Street around the intersection of it and Boston.
At this point, you’re in the 320 Building. It’s the original home of the National Bank of Tulsa, now fondly and cleverly referred to as Bank of Oklahoma. There’s still a bank branch there - a fancy one, I might add. It's probably the prettiest bank in town. If you haven’t seen the lobby of the 320 Building, check it out next time you’re downtown. Here’s a picture of it in its glory days.
This photo hangs along the tunnel route, by the way.
You’re now at street level in the building, so walk through, again, like you own the place. Like you know what you’re doing. Like you’re not just passing through but rather, there to do some important business.
You'll wind around and come to an escalator. If you go up, you’re in that fancy bank branch I mentioned. Go down the stairs and you’re in the vault, and it’s pretty fancy, too. Note, I wanted to take a picture of the vault to demonstrate its coolness – looks just like a vault in a movie about a bank robbery – but I decided they might think I was planning a heist so I walked on by.
Now you’re under Boston Avenue. This is probably the least attractive portion of our tour. Evidently, it’s tricky keeping ceiling tiles from getting wet down there.
Mind the “caution” signs and just walk on past the trash cans collecting the dripping road water.
The tunnel now winds under Fourth Street and connects to the Kennedy Building, which is located at the corner of Boston Ave. and Fourth Street. There’s a Midfirst Bank branch in the lobby. If you haven’t noticed, lots of banking can be done while you’re in the tunnel.
There are other special finds in the tunnel, too. Like the office for the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture in the bottom of the Kennedy Building. They have some cool old stuff displayed in their windows that you can check out if you’re running early for a lunch meeting, which I might have done a time or two.
Other random things along the tunnel path? Doors. With no signs. Which appear to not have been opened for decades. I particularly like this one.
We’re now headed into the Mid-Continent Tower, my personal favorite when it comes to downtown buildings. Not only because I’ve officed there a few times on a few different floors, but also because my gym is there and after I workout in the mornings, I reward myself with a delicious, probably previously frozen sausage roll to cancel out the calories I just burned. I hear they also have fruit.
When you first get into this portion of the tunnel, you can see some really great, and really big pictures of old Tulsa.
Once you go through those doors, stop and grab a haircut or get your shoes shined or just have a chat with Vicki. She rocks.
Head up these escalators to the lobby of the Mid-Continent.
If you haven’t been to the Mid-Continent Tower, now is the time. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s really beautiful.
Say hello to the guards and walk through. Hang a left to walk through the elevator bank. Then, take another left. You’ll see this guy.
And then you’ll see some more glass doors.
We’ve almost reached our destination. The Atlas Life Building is currently under construction. It’s being renovated and will later this year be a Courtyard by Marriott. Because it’s a historic building, also on the Registry, much care is being taken to restore it to its previous glory.
Head on in and you’ll find one of my favorite places in downtown Tulsa.
The Tulsa Press Club is located in the lobby of the building and nonmembers are always welcome to try it out. The new hotel’s lobby will be on the second floor. Speaking of the lobby, it’s not pretty right now. Lots of burly fellows are working, and dust is flying. But it’s temporary. So come on in to the Club and have lunch served from the fabulous Atlas Grill across the hall or grab a drink after work.
When you’re in the Club, maybe play the piano like the old timers used to. Here, I pretend to play while I make a fellow board member take my picture.
You used to be able to go all the way the Philtower Building while staying indoors, but with the Atlas Life construction that’s not possible. According to this history (which is a fascinating read) the tunnel used to go to the Philcade Building, which is across Fifth Street on Boston, but that portion of the tunnel is closed.
No matter where you go when the tunnel ends, at least you arrived there about half warm, and maybe just a little dusty.
Confused about how we got here? Lost Tulsa has a map. I’m not sure it makes it any clearer, though. Maybe hire a real tour guide to show you around.
Or, next time you’re downtown, give me a shout and we’ll walk to lunch.