The Gillette Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The Gillette Historic District is comprised of thirty-one single family residences and six duplexes built between 1924 and 1941 primarily for business executives and professionals. The Gillette Historic District is bounded by an irregular line along East 15th Street to the north and East 17th Street to the south. All of the homes except one front either South Yorktown Place or South Gillette Avenue. The Gillette Historic District's irregular northern boundary excludes later commercial strip development (1958-1966) along East 15th Street, a major artery to downtown Tulsa. The diverse architectural styles of the homes and historical importance of past and present residents set this neighborhood apart from adjacent areas. Brown fieldstone from Southern Arkansas, brick and stucco construction differentiate this area from the surrounding neighborhoods of predominately frame homes.
The Gillette Historic District is named after the home of J.M. Gillette which is located at 2130 East 15th Street. It is a large three-story Gothic Tudor house constructed of brick, stucco and heavy timbers. It has rock accents, many multi-paned leaded glass windows, Gothic arches, and a slate roof.
South Yorktown Place is one of Tulsa's five remaining boulevards. The original elm trees became diseased and were replaced with hardier trees. The homes along this street are larger than the cottages and bungalows along South Gillette Avenue.
One of the more historic houses of this Gillette Historic District is located at 1546 South Yorktown Place and was the Tulsa World Model Home of 1923. Designed by Tulsa architect W. Alva Fry and built by K.M. Vaughn, it was advertised in the Tulsa Daily World (a local newspaper) as "built by Tulsans, for Tulsans, from Tulsa materials." It is a two-story brick Jacobean/Tudor house, and is unique in that it has the only Tudor arches in the district.
The most architecturally pure structure is the home of J.B. McGay (1551 S. Yorktown Place). The house is an example of streamline Art Deco with elements of the early Zigzag style. It is constructed of painted brick and features Spanish style wrought iron window balconies. It was considered unusual for its time because of its corner windows, front garage, and five-level construction.
The alterations consist of four homes in which the sun porches have been enclosed with glass, and one house has had a wing added.
The Gillette Historic District, as a neighborhood, is significant to Tulsa because of its history, wide variety of architectural styles, use of building materials, and home sizes. The other neighborhoods that developed at the same time as this Gillette Historic District are of more uniform architectural styles and sizes. This sets the Gillette Historic District apart from the others and makes it worthy of National Register recognition.
The Gillette Historic District is a potpourri of architectural styles which includes Cottage, Bungalow, Art Deco, and Jacobean/Tudor. The area was developed with the larger structures on Yorktown Place for executives and the area on South Gillette Avenue for middle management (the first Tulsa Society Register lists one-third of the area residents). This area was one of Tulsa's early commuter communities; three other similar areas developed at about the same time. The neighborhood has retained much of its original fabric and character through the efforts of an active neighborhood association. Only minor alterations have been made to these homes, and all changes have been architecturally compatible.
James Max Gillette was an important merchant, real estate entrepreneur and oilman. He was President of the J.M. Gillette Investment Company and the Max Oil Company. He was one of the organizers of the Central National Bank and served on its board. He was also a partner in the Boulder Building Corporation, builders of the Gillette-Tyrrell Building. These were two of early downtown Tulsa's most outstanding Art Deco buildings. Gillette sited his home outside the city limits in 1921 and raised purebred cattle on this "country place" for several years.
Norvesta Avenue was platted by Joseph S. Hopping, a founder of the Fourth National Bank, partner in Evans and Hopping Farm Loans, and community leader. Hopping built his house at 1532 South Norvesta Avenue in 1922. He named the road in front of his home for his three children, Norris, Velma, and Esta. In 1927 this area was annexed to the city of Tulsa and the street was renamed to coincide with North Gillette Avenue. In 1923, the house at 1528 South Gillette Avenue was constructed by Hopping's daughter Velma Hopping Filley and her husband, E.R. Filley; and in 1929, the house at 1518 South Gillette Avenue was built by his son, Norris J. Hopping. The bricks for these three homes were made by the Mid-Continent Brick and Tile Company, owned by Albert H. Maile, original owner of 1540 S. Gillette Avenue.
The Tulsa World Model Home of 1923, located at 1546 South Yorktown Place, was sponsored by the newspaper and was furnished by Tulsa World advertisers with the latest in appliances, furniture and accessories. Fifty thousand Tulsans visited it during the few weeks it was open to the public, and an entire section of the newspaper was devoted to it on opening day.
John B. McGay, who still  resides at 1551 South Yorktown Place, came to Tulsa in 1928. In 1932, he and a partner formed the Macnick Company which manufactured the world's first parking meters in 1934. His other inventions included a gas calculator and various gauges. In 1942 McGay invented the tubeless tire. He donated his invention to the tire industry.
Attorney Thaddeus D. Evans built his home at 1514 S. Gillette Avenue in 1929. Evans and J.S. Hopping founded Evans and Hopping Farm Loans. Evans was elected mayor of Tulsa in 1920 and served until 1922. During his administration, Tulsa experienced its greatest disaster, the race riot of 1921. One of Tulsa's greatest booms also began during his administration, the promise of an abundant supply of pure drinking water. Working on his theory that pure water from Spavinaw Lake, if properly channeled, would flow by gravity to Tulsa. Evans retained George W. Geothals, chief engineer of the construction of the Panama Canal. Evans created Tulsa's first Water Commission.
The Gillette Historic District enjoys a cohesive spirit promoted through the Gillette Historic District Association. The Gillette Historic District Association. The Gillette Historic District Association is unique to Tulsa in that it was formed (April, 1979) specifically to coordinate preservation activities within its neighborhood and provided research assistance in the preparation of the nomination of the district to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Tulsa Historic Preservation Office surveyed the area in 1978. A review committee of national, state, and local preservation experts determined in June, 1978 that the Gillette District met the Department of Interior criteria for Historic Preservation District designation. The Gillette Historic District was named to the Oklahoma Landmarks Inventory on January 18, 1979.
Douglas, G. B., History of Tulsa. Oklahoma. Vol. III, 1922.
"Gillette Historic District News," July 1, 1979.
Oral History Interview, Miriam E. Morrison. Tulsa County Historical Society, June 12, 1979.
Oral History Interview, Velma Hopping Filley. Tulsa County Historical Society, June 14, 1979.
Oral History Interview, John B. McGay. Gillette Historic District Association, July 7, 1979.
Oral History Interview, Lois Dow Bonnell. Gillette Historic District Association, July 1, 1979.
Presenting Greater Tulsa, October 1923.
The Tulsa Spirit, March 1925.
Tulsa Daily World, Sunday, October 28, 1923.
The Junior League, Carol Newton Johnson, Tulsa Art Deco, 1980.
The Tulsa Society Register, 1937.
The Tulsa Historic Preservation Plan Report, 1980.
‡ Sharry White, Gillette Historic District Association and Andrew A. Kinslow, American Institute of Architects, Gillette Historic District, Tulsa, Oklahoma, nomination document, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
15th Street East • 17th Street East • Gillette Avenue South • Yorktown Place South