Photo: Home in the Buena Vista Park Historic District, Tulsa, OK. The District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007. Photographed by User:W. R. Oswald, own work, 2012, creative commons [cc-3.0], via wikimedia, accessed January, 2023.
The Buena Vista Park Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.
The Buena Vista Park Historic District is a small residential district located just over a mile south of downtown Tulsa. The Buena Vista Park Historic District encompasses portions of three blocks of the Buena Vista Park Addition. Platted in 1908 by Charles A. Sanderson, the addition originally consisted of seven irregular shaped blocks. The shape of the blocks reflect the convergence of the grid pattern of land development with the reality of the Arkansas River. While the compass-oriented grid system dominates Tulsa's residential neighborhoods platted during this and subsequent periods, the diagonal presence of the Arkansas River along the southwest side of the property required accommodation. This resulted in the wedge-shaped blocks on the western edge of the addition which align on their east sides with the more prevalent rectangular-shaped blocks.
Although conceived in the early boom days of the first decade of the twentieth century, building activity in the addition was slow until the late teens and early 1920s. The single family homes constructed along South Cheyenne Avenue and South Carson Avenue in this area form an excellent collection of houses built for the upper middle and upper class during this time. Initiating a trend that would come to dominate along the river front portion of this area of Tulsa, are the three brick apartment buildings constructed off of Riverside Drive and West 19th Street between 1923 and 1924. Together, these buildings form a small, distinct pocket of period architecture which maintains a high degree of integrity.
There are a total of thirty resources in the Buena Vista Park Historic District. All of these resources are residential in nature. The majority of resources are houses with a scattering of garage/apartments. Of the thirty resources, twenty-five are considered contributing to the Buena Vista Park Historic District, being both present during the period of significance and retaining their historic integrity. Notably, one of these, the James Alexander Veasey House at 1802 South Cheyenne Avenue West, was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 for its architectural significance as a local landmark example of the Colonial Revival style. A total of five resources are counted as noncontributing with three lacking sufficient historic integrity to contribute to the significance of the district and two being constructed after the end of the period of significance.
The period of significance for the Buena Vista Park Historic District covers a twenty year span from 1913 to 1933. This time frame represents the development period for the district. The period of significance begins when the earliest extant house in the Buena Vista Park Historic District, the Veasey House, was constructed. It extends to 1933 when all but two properties in the district were constructed.
The Buena Vista Park Historic District is composed of the buildings along the 1800 and 1900 blocks of South Cheyenne Avenue West, the 1800 block of South Carson Avenue West and the 200 block of West 19th Street South which retain their historic integrity. The buildings in this area form a cohesive, historic group which sets itself apart from the surrounding modern apartment buildings which have proliferated in other portions of the historic addition. The Buena Vista Park Historic District covers only portions of three blocks of the original Buena Vista Park Addition. Block 5, a mid-sized rectangular block, is situated on the northwest side of the district. The block contains a majority of single family residences, with a large, rectangular, modern apartment building covering the northwest portion of the block. Because the apartment building, constructed in about 1974, does not contribute to the significance of the district, it has been excluded from the Buena Vista Park Historic District boundaries. The remaining portion of the Block 5 maintains its historic pattern of single family residential development.
Across South Cheyenne Avenue, is the historically longest block of the addition, Block 6. As originally conceived, Block 6 was a rectangle with even-sized lots on both sides. Originally, attached to the east side of the block was a large, square city park. By 1939, South Boulder Avenue had been continued through to West 21st Street and the large, curved Boulder Drive had further cut up the city park block. Around 1950, a portion of Boulder Avenue on the east side of the block was abandoned and the adjacent irregular shaped block remaining from the city park block was adjoined to the Buena Vista Park Block 6. Because the properties situated along the east side of Block 6 do not conform stylistically, functionally and age-wise to the majority of resources in the Buena Vista Park Historic District, this area was not included as part of the district. According to the Sanborn maps, there has never been any historic development in the far north lots of the west side of Block 6. Combined with the empty lots in exclusion from the district boundaries are the first two buildings on this section of the block. Both buildings were constructed after the period of significance and do not conform with the dominate stylistic trends of the district. The remaining section of Block 6 maintains a highly rhythmic, cohesive pattern of single family, historic development.
Only Block 7 of the Buena Vista Park Addition was replatted. Filed in 1917 by Lionel E. and Cynthia T. Aaronson, Aaronson's Subdivision of Block 7, Buena Vista Park Addition reshaped all of the lots on the block. The lots on the east side of the block were enlarged to each measure 140 feet long, except for lot 8 which was shortened on the south side to accommodate the original wedge shape of the block. The west side of the block was divided into six lots of various sizes and shapes. Lots 10 through 12 were located on the northwest side of the block and were subsequently occupied by the brick apartment buildings constructed in 1923-1924. In the 1950s, several modern, concrete apartment buildings were erected on both sides of the south portion of the block. As these buildings do not match the architectural period or style of the north side of the block, they have been excluded from the Buena Vista Park Historic District boundaries.
The dominant street in the Buena Vista Park Historic District is the north-south South Cheyenne Avenue. The majority of properties in the district are located off this street which extends south only to West 21st Street and north past downtown Tulsa. As with Boulder Avenue to the east, South Cheyenne Avenue jogs to the west at 18th Street. The other north-south street in the Buena Vista Park Historic District, South Carson Avenue, jogs west at West 17th Place. Both jogs are physical remnants of the various sized and configured plats forming this section of Tulsa. South Carson Avenue ends within the district at West 19th Street. Carson Avenue extends north only to West 11th Street; thus, it does not extend through downtown Tulsa. West 19th Street, the only east-west street in the Buena Vista Park Historic District with properties located on it, breaks at Riverside Drive; although the street continues on the west side of the river, the corresponding street is located north of the Buena Vista Park 19th street. West 19th Street also stops at South Cheyenne Avenue on the east side before picking up again east of South Cincinnati Avenue.
As originally platted, South Carson Avenue was called Myrtle Avenue, West 18th Street was Hickory Avenue and West 19th Street was May Avenue. By 1915, Myrtle and Hickory avenues had been renamed to their current names. West 19th Street, however, was not named according to the 1915 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map. Within two years, as recorded on the Aaronson's Subdivision plat, May Avenue had become West 19th Street.
The Buena Vista Park Historic District is dominated by two architectural styles. With nine examples, the Colonial Revival style was the most popular in the neighborhood. As the dominant style of residential buildings nationwide in the first half of the twentieth century, the Colonial Revival style had many different subtypes. Character defining features of the style include an accentuated front door, symmetrical facade and paired windows, often ornamented with decorative wood shutters. While brick dominated the choice of building material for high-style houses and generally after 1920, weatherboard examples, such as the Veasey House, were also common.
The next most popular style in the Buena Vista Park Historic District with eight examples is the Prairie School style. The Prairie School style was nationally popular from about 1900 to 1920. The typical Prairie School style house was a two-story, square building topped by a low-pitched, hipped roof with broad, overhanging eaves. The facades are typically symmetrical with a full-width, single story front porch. The low-pitched, hipped porch roofs are usually supported by massive piers topped by wood columns.
With half the number of the Prairie School style, the Bungalow/Craftsman style was the third most used style in the Buena Vista Park Historic District. Three other properties in the district were classified as having No Distinctive Style. Two examples each of the Italian Renaissance and Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival styles were found on related properties. Although not as elaborate, the garage/apartment at 1830 South Cheyenne Avenue was classified as the same style as the main property. The two Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style properties in the neighborhood are both brick apartment buildings. With only one example each, the Classical Revival and Minimal Traditional styles were in a definite minority of district architectural styles.
Only seven buildings in the Buena Vista Park Historic District have been altered by replacement siding. Four houses have been clad with asbestos siding and three with vinyl. Four other buildings were built of stucco. Of the total thirty, nine were built of weatherboard with an additional one using a combination of weatherboard and wood shingles. The remaining nine were all erected using brick for material.
The boundaries for the Buena Vista Park Historic District were drawn to include the majority of historic buildings in the area which retain their integrity and developed within the period of significance. All of the buildings in the district, including the brick apartment buildings, share a residential character, feeling and association that is typical of the period of development. The majority of buildings are good examples of the various architectural styles popular for residential construction between 1913 and 1933. The later apartment buildings in the larger neighborhood were excluded from the district due to their disparate style, building material, form and development era.
The properties in the Buena Vista Park Historic District were dated using a combination of crisscross city directories and Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps. The crisscross directories for Tulsa are available for most years from 1912 forward. There are no properties in the Buena Vista Park Historic District constructed before 1912 so the lack of crisscross directories for this early time period was not a problem. The 1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps did not include this section of town, probably due to the lack of buildings in this newly developed area. Except for the southernmost portion of the district, the 1915, 1939 and 1962 Sanborn maps did include the district area.
The Buena Vista Park Historic District retains a high degree of integrity with an eighty percent contributing rate. Of the total thirty resources, only five are considered noncontributing. Of these, three lack historic integrity and just two were erected after the period of significance.
Over the passage of time, minor modifications have been made to many of the individual houses. Although each house is assessed for its overall retention of historic integrity, there are several common alterations which affect the categorization of the property as contributing or noncontributing. The most frequent alteration is the covering of the original wall material with asbestos shingle or aluminum or vinyl siding. Buildings with replacement siding are usually counted as contributing unless the replacement wall material was applied in an inappropriate manner, such as a vertical direction.
A property is almost always considered noncontributing if the front porch has been completely infilled or enclosed in a permanent manner. The permanent enclosure of the porch dramatically alters the feel and design of the house, particularly for the Prairie School and Bungalow/Craftsman styles where the porch is one of the major defining features. Typically in a porch enclosure, the original openings are filled with windows and some type of filler material such as wood or brick. If the porch is only screened, this does not impact the contributing/noncontributing status of the property. The enclosure of a side porch does not have as dramatic impact on the integrity of the house and consequently does not by itself impact the contributing/noncontributing determination.
Additions to the property impact the contributing/noncontributing status of the building depending largely on the location of the addition, as well as size. If the addition is confined to the back of the property, this does not affect the status of the house. If the addition is attached to the side and alters the view of the facade, the house is typically determined to be noncontributing. A second story addition after the period of significance automatically results in the classification of the property as noncontributing due to the radical change in the building's historic design. Similar to other modifications, other types of additions are viewed on an individual basis with the deciding factor being the impact on the house's integrity of design, feeling and association.
The Buena Vista Park Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural significance as an excellent collection of popular architectural styles and housing types in Tulsa during the period of 1913 to 1933. Dominated by the Colonial Revival and Prairie School styles, the Buena Vista Park Historic District also includes good examples of the Italian Renaissance and Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival styles. While the district predominately consists of upper middle and upper class, single family dwellings, it also includes several multiple family dwellings. The brick apartments built in the west central portion of the district reflect a trend in building types which spread throughout Tulsa as the city grew to unanticipated limits in the 1920s and beyond. For various reasons, the construction of apartments was particularly popular along Riverside Drive. In addition to having ready access to downtown Tulsa, this locale also afforded tenants with a striking view of the Arkansas River.
The town of Tulsa existed as early 1879 when a post office was established on the Perryman Ranch in the Creek Nation. The town, first called "Tulsey Town," grew slowly. During the early 1880s, the town was a haven for gamblers and "bad men" due to its isolation. At the time of the first government townsite survey in Indian Territory in 1900, Tulsa's population stood at merely 1,390.
Shortly after this survey, a momentous event occurred near Tulsa, Indian Territory. This event not only had a major impact on Tulsa but the entire future state of Oklahoma. In 1901, the state's first important commercial oil well blew in. Located in Red Fork, this landmark well was across the Arkansas River from Tulsa. Two years later, the Secretary of the Interior allowed the leasing of restricted Indian Territory lands under Department of the Interior supervision. The oil rush was on as oil men from Pennsylvania and other states flocked to Indian Territory. In 1904, three men built a toll bridge over the Arkansas River connecting Red Fork and Tulsa. In addition to allowing Tulsa to benefit from the Red Fork strike, the toll bridge also enabled the town to profit from the fabulous 1905 Glenn Pool strike which blew in. Within months of the discovery, the Glenn Pool field was "famous throughout the industry as the richest small field in the world."
At the time of Oklahoma's statehood in 1907, Tulsa's population had jumped to 7,298, an increase of nearly six thousand in just seven years. In just three years, Tulsa's population more than doubled to reach 18,182 in 1910. As to be expected, a major commercial and residential building boom accompanied this tremendous population boom with brick plants working at capacity. Hotels, office buildings and fine residences were under construction as the streets were paved. By late August 1910, construction activity underway in Tulsa was valued at over one million dollars. Pipelines to the Gulf of Mexico opened as oil prices climbed. In 1912, a third major oil pool, the Gushing field, blew in. Although the incredible production from the Gushing field temporarily resulted in a drop in crude oil price by 1916, the United States' entrance into World War I rallied the market. Additionally, it was during this time that the first oil refining plant opened in Tulsa. By 1920, Tulsa's population had grown to 72,075, a tremendous increase of almost fifty-four thousand persons in merely ten years. Nearly doubling in the ensuing decade, Tulsa's population by 1930 was 141,258 and the city was the second largest in the state. Although oil drilling activity occurred all over eastern Oklahoma, the oil companies' headquarters were generally located at Tulsa and that is where the oil men in charge made their homes. As such, Tulsa became known as the "Oil Capital of the World."
Like the rest of the nation, the oil business and Tulsa did not escape unscathed by the Great Depression of the 1930s. Further worsening the status of the oil industry in Oklahoma was the October 1930 discovery of oil in the East Texas field. Forty-five miles long and five to ten miles wide, the East Texas field quickly yielded a sufficient amount of oil by itself to satisfy national demand. The worsening economic conditions combined to such an extent that by 1933 the price of oil had reached bottom of the barrel prices and a good portion of Tulsa's residents were jobless. Although oil prices stabilized between 1934 and 1940, the decade of the 1930s proved to be difficult for Tulsans, as all Americans. In 1941, the city's population stood at only 142,157. This represented a growth of only 899 citizens since 1930.
America's involvement in World War II proved to be a major redeeming event for Tulsa, as well as the nation as a whole. Although Tulsa and Oklahoma did not benefit from the increased military spending of early 1940, it quickly became apparent Tulsa enjoyed certain important characteristics that made it ideal for subsequent military spending. These features included its central, secure location in the middle of the country; ready sources of cheap fuel; a good network of roads and highways; and, a large pool of trained and unemployed workers. According to one source, the only drawback Tulsa had was the lack of available workers' housing for the thousands of laborers necessary to make Tulsa "...a center of war production." Nonetheless, in early 1941, the War Department named Tulsa as a potential site for the new $15 million Douglas Aircraft Company plant. On 2 May 1941, a ceremonial ground breaking heralded the start of construction on the mile long building which by the summer of 1942 occupied one-and-one-half square feet of floor space. By the fall of 1942, the Douglas plant was in need of expansion and the plant payroll included nearly fifteen thousand workers earning an average of just over $185 a month.
The Douglas Aircraft plant was not the only wartime plant impacting Tulsa in the early 1940s. Although the aircraft industry expended more than twenty million dollars during the period to expand their facilities in Tulsa, other factories in Tulsa spent more than seven million dollars in expanding their industrial plants during the war. In 1939, Tulsa manufacturers employed eleven thousand Tulsans in primarily oil-related manufacturing jobs. By 1945 forty-two thousand residents worked in local manufacturing plants. The majority of these in non-oil related capacities. In 1945, the United States Department of Labor determined that Tulsa was among the top three cities impacted by the wartime industrial expansion. In terms of the number of residents, between 1940 and 1945, Tulsa's population expanded by nearly a third to reach 185,000.
Following the end of World War II, Tulsa continued to enjoy a prosperity unthought of in the 1930s. Responding to consumer demands for goods of all types, Tulsa continued to expand its industrial base. Further boosting the city's economy was the continued spending by the Federal government on military-related industries during the Cold War of the late 1940s through the early 1990s. This remarkable varied industrial development spurred Tulsa's growth through the 1950s and 1960s. By the early 1970s, Tulsa led the state in manufacturing.
Situated just over a mile south of downtown Tulsa, the Buena Vista Park Historic District is an interesting, representative collection of residential buildings constructed between 1913 and 1933. The dominate style of architecture is almost evenly divided between two nationally popular styles, the Colonial Revival and Prairie School styles. Together, these two styles represent fifty-six percent of the buildings in the district. Other noteworthy styles present in the Buena Vista Park Historic District in lesser numbers include the Bungalow/Craftsman, Italian Renaissance and Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival.
With nine examples, the Colonial Revival style has the most representations within the district. This style of home was popular nationally throughout the first half of the twentieth century, as well as for the last two decades in the nineteenth century. An excellent example of the style within the Buena Vista Park Historic District is the James Alexander Veasey House, located at 1802 South Cheyenne Avenue West. This house, designed by local architect John Blair in 1913, was listed on the National Register in 1989. The two-story, weatherboard house has a side-gabled roof and a symmetrical facade. The recessed, round-arched entry is accentuated by a pedimented crown supported by Classical columns. Decorative details include wood quoins, dentils and decorative wood shutters. The house is touted as one of the best Colonial Revival examples in Tulsa. While not as remarkable as the Veasey House, the other examples of the style in the Buena Vista Park Historic District are also representative of the development of this style in Tulsa.
The Prairie School style was the second most popular style in the Buena Vista Park Historic District with eight examples. This style of home was popular nationally only from the turn-of-the-century to about 1920. Obviously within Tulsa, the style lingered for several years as many of the examples in the Buena Vista Park area were constructed after 1920. This style of home, typically constructed of weatherboard but also built of stucco and brick in the district, was predominately two-stories with a single story, full-width porch. The roof of the house was usually hipped with broad eaves. The low-pitched, hipped porch roof frequently was supported by tapered wood columns on brick piers.
One of the more common architectural styles found in Tulsa's historic neighborhoods was the Bungalow/Craftsman style. Notably, the four examples of this style in the Buena Vista Park Historic District are not the typical one-story, front-gabled houses found in Tulsa's middle class neighborhoods, such as the Yorktown Historic District. Reflecting the wealthier class of the area, the Buena Vista Park Bungalow/Craftsman houses are predominately two-stories.
Also noteworthy within the Buena Vista Park Historic District is the impressive Crestview Manor, located at 1830 South Cheyenne Avenue West. Designed by the St. Louis, Missouri, firm of Barnett-Haynes-Barnett in 1919, the house is an excellent example of the Italian Renaissance style. This three-story, stucco residence has a ceramic tile, hipped roof and a brick foundation. In addition to the front partial porch, Crestview Manor has a porte cochere on the north side. Behind the porte cochere and house is a matching garage/apartment used for servants quarters during the Buena Vista Park Historic District's heyday. The main house was originally occupied by Pauline and Frank Walters, the daughter and son-in-law of one of Tulsa's leading businessmen and civic leaders of the period, Robert McFarlin.
That the neighborhood was for the upper levels of Tulsa economic strata is evidenced by the construction of many of the garage/apartments at the same time as the main dwellings. These facilities were not originally intended as rental properties, as was common in other Oklahoma communities which experienced housing shortages in the 1920, 1930s and 1940s, but instead to shelter servants working for the families, as well as the increasingly popular means of personal transportation, the automobile. Notably, the Tulsa Street Railway Company had cars running along South Main Street, just two blocks east of South Cheyenne Avenue, from downtown to Seventeenth Street by 1910 and subsequently to 21st Street, providing ready transportation for businessmen locating in the Buena Vista area to their places of employment in downtown Tulsa. Thus, the automobiles in the neighborhood were luxury items rather than necessities.
The three brick apartment houses in the Buena Vista Park Historic District represent a trend in multiple family residences which quickly proliferated within Tulsa, especially along Riverside Drive. The two apartments on West 19th Street were erected around 1923. The large apartment house on Riverside Drive was constructed in about 1924. While none of the apartments are particularly high style, all three are good representations of their styles. As with much of the rest of the neighborhood, the Riverhouse Apartments at 216 West 19th Street South was designed in the Colonial Revival style. The red brick building has an accentuated entry consisting of a pedimented, front-gabled roof supported by tapered, round, Classical columns. Decorative details on the building include a dentilated cornice and triple windows. Set closer to the street, the three-story, red brick, Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style at 220 West 19th Street South is similar to the three-story, red brick, Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style apartment building at 1901 Riverside Drive. Both have paired windows, low parapets, simple accentuated entries and use green ceramic tile to enhance the Mediterranean feel of the buildings.
The apartment buildings in the Buena Vista Park Historic District are distinct from other multiple family dwellings in the area because of their use of popular period residential styles. The majority of apartment buildings in the immediate vicinity of the Buena Vista Park Historic District are Modern or Contemporary style buildings, void of the decorative details that enhance the blending of the Buena Vista Park apartment buildings with the other single family buildings of the district. Farther north on Riverside Drive, is a line of historic, brick apartment buildings which also used a popular residential style. Distinguishing these buildings from the Buena Vista Park apartments was the use of the Tudor Revival style. This style grew in popularity in Tulsa beginning in the late 1920s through to the 1940s. Thus, these buildings, erected in the early 1930s, reflect a later trend in residential multi-family architecture in Tulsa than the Buena Vista Park apartments. On the far north side of the Riverview area, along West 12th and 13th streets, there is also a number of brick, two-story apartment buildings. These buildings, however, tend to be classified as Commercial style and, thus, lack many of the associative qualities of the Buena Vista Park apartment buildings with the surrounding single family homes.
Overall, the Buena Vista Park Historic District represents a noteworthy collection of residential architecture in Tulsa developed between 1913 and 1933. The Buena Vista Park Historic District maintains a high degree of integrity and ably reflects the trends in single and multiple family dwellings during the period. Dominated by the Colonial Revival and Prairie School styles, the Buena Vista Park Historic District also contains good examples of the Bungalow/Craftsman style, as well as an outstanding, upper class Italian Renaissance style home. The three brick apartments in the district are also notable as relatively early examples of multiple family dwellings designed in the popular residential styles of the day. This type of housing, frequently lacking the ornamental detail of the residential-inspired architectural styles that highlights the Buena Vista Park apartments, became increasingly popular as the town continued to grow.
Debo, Angie. Tulsa: From Creek Town to Oil Capital. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943.
Dunn, Nina Lane. Tulsa's Magic Roots. Tulsa, Oklahoma: The Oklahoma Book Publishing Company, 1979.
Goble, Danney, Ph.D. Tulsa! Biography of the American City. Tulsa, Oklahoma: Council Oak Books, 1998.
McAlester, Virginia and Lee McAlester. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.
The WPA Guide to 1930s Oklahoma. Lawrence, Kansas: The University Press of Kansas, 1986.
† Adapted from:Buena Vista Park Historic District, nomination document, 2006, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.