Swan Lake Historic District

Tulsa City, Tulsa County, OK

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The Swan Lake Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 [†]

The Swan Lake Historic District in Tulsa, Oklahoma consists of three main additions and eleven smaller additions. It was partially platted as Orcutt Addition in 1908 with the lots first offered for sale in 1910 by Samuel Augustus Orcutt. The land was part of a ranch in the late nineteenth century; in the early twentieth century it was an amusement park previously operated by the Orcutt family. In 1917 developer E.J. Brennan purchased the land adjacent to the south surrounding Orcutt Lake, renamed it Swan Lake, and platted Swan Lake Addition. To the west, Park Place Addition was platted the same year. Other smaller additions were platted through the 1910s and 20s. Located approximately one and one-half miles southeast of the original Tulsa central business district, the Swan Lake Historic District is generally bounded on the north by East 15th Street, on the east by South Utica Avenue, on the south by East 21st Street, and on the west by South Peoria Avenue, an area of approximately 127 acres.

Taken into the Tulsa city limits in 1917 and 1918, the Swan Lake Historic District exemplifies the architecture and community planning trends of the period from World War I through World War II, the initial phase of Tulsa's development from a small agricultural market town to the "Oil Capital" of the United States. In the 1920s a commercial strip one lot deep developed along the south side of East 15th Street, but Swan Lake remains primarily residential. The Swan Lake Historic District includes 563 resources, of which 415 are contributing. A church and its parochial schools date from the 1920s and 1930s, respectively, and are individually eligible. The Swan Lake Historic District demonstrates the architectural trends of the 1910s-1930s. Craftsman Bungalow and a few National Folk houses are predominant in the north half. Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival houses with a few Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival houses predominate in the south half. Most are single family residences, but the Swan Lake Historic District includes more two- and three-story 1920-1930 multi-family apartments and duplexes than any comparable residential area in Tulsa. A few residences on Swan Drive, the church and one school were designed by prominent architects, but most of the primarily middle-class homes were vernacular, some built by Hanna Biltby Construction or H. William Schlingman. Surrounding neighborhoods differ from the Swan Lake Historic District in age, patterns of development, scale of residences, or subsequent development and use. The Swan Lake Historic District, with its well-maintained homes and pleasant tree-lined streets, has been a preferred residential area of Tulsa since the late 1910s. Recent commercial development along its east and west boundaries are generally one lot deep, and the few new residences are architecturally compatible with pre-existing buildings. Throughout and since its development, the Swan Lake Historic District has maintained its architectural and historical integrity.


The Swan Lake Historic District, consisting of approximately 127 acres, is bounded generally on the north by East 15th Street, on the east by South Utica Avenue, on the south by East 21st Street, and on the west by South Peoria Avenue each a main thoroughfare. It includes twenty-nine blocks, two of which are triple length and one of which is quadruple. Most block boundaries conform to the streets, which are oriented north-south and east-west, with the exception of Swan Drive, which divides to encircle Swan Lake. Two blocks conform partially to the shoreline of roughly elliptical Swan Lake, which lies along a southwest-northeast axis. East-west East 15th, 16th, 17th, 19th, and 21st streets cut through the entire district. East 17th Place jogs north at South St. Louis Avenue. South St. Louis Avenue jogs east at East 19th Street. Only South Peoria, South St. Louis, and South Utica avenues pass north-south through the entire district. South Utica Avenue widens at East 17th Place, causing an irregularity in the curb line. East 18th and East 20th streets as well as South Quaker Avenue, South Quincy Avenue, South Rockford Avenue, South Trenton Avenue, and South Troost Avenue do not go through to the south boundary. In 1910 the trolley line extended along South St. Louis Avenue, ending at Orcutt Lake Park, accounting for the jog and brief branch to Swan Drive. One-way around Swan Lake, Swan Drive closely parallels the shore line. Lots in Orcutt Addition, which was platted in 1908, lie east-west and are 140 feet deep x 40 or 50 feet wide. Several blocks have north-south alleys. Lots in Swan Lake Park and Park Place additions vary more in size and orientation, some having been replatted several times. Lots from East 19th Street to East 21st Street, platted and developed generally in the 1910s and 1920s, are oriented north-south, and there are no alleys. Development in the Swan Lake Historic District was generally from north to south and from west to east. Previously rented from a Creek Indian citizen for ranching by Colonel Adolphus D. Orcutt, the land was sparsely inhabited in the first decade of this century. Its main attraction was the natural spring Orcutt enlarged as a stock pond. Transformed into an amusement park and partially platted in 1908, the area was not offered for sale to the public until 1910 by son Samuel Augustus Orcutt and his real estate partners. Bellview (later Lincoln) School, built in Block 8, Orcutt Addition in 1909, probably attracted buyers. The 1910 W.H. Hickerson House at 1530 South Trenton Avenue is probably the oldest of a handful that survive from that period. Development was confined to the northern two tiers of blocks through the 1910s. Included among the single family residences were duplexes and several substantial apartment buildings such as the Orcutt Apartments at 1322-1324 East 16th Street. These were meant to appeal to middle-class families and single people. However, E.J. Brennan's purchase of Orcutt Lake in 1917, his platting of Swan Lake Park, and donation of the park to the City of Tulsa focused attention on the southeast corner of the district and attracted somewhat more affluent home buyers. Real development of the area began in the 1920s as the construction of Bungalow/Craftsman residences continued southward. Eastward along East 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st streets, rows of Tudor Revival residences were built during the 1920s, many by Hanna Biltby Construction Company, which designated each of its products with a metal plate. The construction of the Tudor Revival cottage at 1304 East 19th Street in 1928 as the first edition of the annual Parade of Homes in Tulsa demonstrated the desirability and stylish nature of the Swan Lake area. Older frame residences along East 15th Street were pulled down and replaced by brick and stucco commercial buildings as a neighborhood shopping district developed in the 1920s. On South Utica Avenue the construction of the El Prado (1510-1512) [demolished], La Giralda (1514-1516) [demolished], Crestwood (1518-1520), Edgemere (1522-1524), and Utica Court (1604) apartments marked the development of this main thoroughfare and continued the district's focus on middle-class multiple as well as single-family housing. The mid-1930s Great Depression years sharply curtailed building in the Swan Lake Historic District as in the rest of Tulsa. But the few vacant lots remaining were filled in the late 1930s and early 1940s, generally with Minimal Traditional residences.

The Swan Lake Historic District remains primarily a 1920s-1930s neighborhood, its homes reflecting the popular styles of those decades. The most popular style at about 35 percent is the Bungalow/Craftsman with its characteristic low-pitched gabled roof, exposed rafter tails, exterior chimney, multiple-paned glazing, bands of windows, and porches with massive, complex supports. Second in popularity at 16 percent is the Tudor Revival style, characterized by steeply-pitched roofs, multiple gables, prominent decorative chimneys, half-timbering, and narrow windows with multiple panes. Ranking just behind at 14 percent is the Colonial Revival style with its side-gabled or gambrel roof, dormers, symmetrical arrangement of windows, and accentuated front door. About 5 percent of Swan Lake buildings are variations of the Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style with stucco walls, terra cotta tile roofs, arched openings, and balconies. Also represented are the Prairie School, Modern Movement, Classical Revival, Italian Renaissance, National Folk, and Minimal Traditional. The several apartment houses are most often Classical Revival, Commercial, or Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival in style. Business buildings along East 15th Street include Commercial style buildings as well as Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Modern Movement, and Beaux Arts styles. The great majority of residences in the Swan Lake Historic District still have the utilitarian detached garages characteristic of the decades before World War II. Many of these have been converted into garage apartments.

The Swan Lake Historic District includes two parks. Swan Lake Park surrounds the lake within the bounds of Swan Drive. It includes plantings, a paved path along the shore line, a chain link fence to protect the resident water fowl, and a concrete fountain, built by the Works Progress Administration in 1938 in the center of the lake. Changes in the size of the lake predate the period of significance. Swan Lake contributes to the integrity of the Swan Lake Historic District, and the fountain is individually eligible. Marquette Park on East 16th Street is a fenced playground with new equipment and a statue. Created in 1991 it is noncontributing.

The boundaries of the Swan Lake Historic District correspond generally to plat boundaries established in 1910 and 1917. The north side of East 15th Street has lost much of its integrity through infill. The area east of South Utica Avenue includes a large medical complex and the Utica Square shopping mall. The south side of East 21st Street and the west side of Peoria Avenue are marked by residences that are significantly different in scale, lot configuration, and arrangement. Across from the southwest corner of the Swan Lake Historic District is the popular Woodward Park. Commercial development along South Peoria and South Utica avenues within the Swan Lake Historic District boundaries is sporadic and limited generally to the depth of one lot. Block 8, Orcutt Addition is excluded because Bellview (Lincoln) School has been converted into a shopping center through extensive renovation. Block 27, Park Place is excluded because of different historic development and predominant modern construction.

Of the 563 buildings, sites, and objects in the Swan Lake Historic District 26 percent are noncontributing. However, such noncontributing buildings as the Mapleridge Condominiums at 1735-1739 South Peoria Avenue, the Woodward Park Apartments at 1323 East 21st Street, and individual residences are generally stylistically compatible with the remaining 74 percent that are contributing. Eight buildings and the fountain in Swan Lake may be considered individually eligible.

The Swan Lake Historic District, with its gently-rolling topography, pleasant tree-lined streets, and Swan Lake Park remains a favored middle class residential area with a high occupancy rate. Its many 1920s and 1930s duplexes and apartment houses as well as newer condominiums continue its history of offering multiple- as well as single-family housing. The Swan Lake Historic District has retained a high degree of its integrity in terms of location, style, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. The frequent use of the swan as a decorative motif in terra cotta inserts, stencils, plaques, statuary, and planters attests the continuing sense of identity and cohesiveness of the Swan Lake Historic District.


The Swan Lake Historic District is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places because it reflects the response to middle-class housing needs during the transformation of Tulsa, Oklahoma from a turn-of-the-century agricultural market town to the "Oil Capital" of the United States. The Swan Lake Historic District dates from January 1, 1910, the date on which Samuel Augustus Orcutt offered lots in Orcutt Addition for sale to the public. The date 1917 was the year developer E.J. Brennan purchased nearby Orcutt Lake, renamed it Swan Lake, platted Swan Lake Park Addition, and donated the lake to the City of Tulsa as a public park. Although extant buildings date from about 1910, most were built in the 1920s, the period of greatest pre-World War II economic development in Tulsa. Similarly, the decline in construction during the 1930s and resurgence in the early 1940s to complete development reflects changing contemporary local and economic conditions and needs. The Swan Lake Historic District is also eligible because it illustrates the architectural styles popular in Tulsa in the decades from 1910 to the early 1940s. In the Swan Lake Historic District these were adapted to commercial buildings and middle-class multiple-unit housing as well as single-family units. The Swan Lake Historic District contains more two- and three-story 1920s and 1930s apartment houses and duplexes than any comparable neighborhood in Tulsa. Also included as contributing are a church, two parochial school buildings, and Swan Lake Park. The period of significance begins in 1910 with the opening of Orcutt Addition and ends in 1946, the last year of eligibility. Of 563 resources in the Swan Lake Historic District, 415 (74 percent) are contributing.

Historical Significance

The Swan Lake Historic District lies in the southwest corner of Section 7, Township 19 North, Range 13 East, a part of Oklahoma that was once the Creek Nation, Indian Territory. Approximately one and one-half miles to the northwest near the Arkansas River lay the village of "Tulsey Town,"[1] an agricultural market town that grew up with the arrival of the railroad in the early 1870s. Tulsa catered to local Creek ranchers and their tenants, among whom was "Colonel" Adolphus D. Orcutt, a Union veteran from Kentucky. Orcutt brought his family to the Creek Nation in 1874 and settled on lands claimed by the prominent Creek Ferryman family. Orcutt built a home approximately six miles south of present downtown Tulsa, engaged in trade, promoted the early development of the city, and established a large ranch. To water his livestock he enlarged a basin near a natural spring, creating a pond known as Orcutt, later Swan Lake. One of the few ponds in the area, Orcutt's became a popular recreation spot.[2]

Orcutt's eldest son, Samuel Augustus Orcutt, born in Kentucky in 1870, also engaged in farming and stock-raising near Tulsa. "Gus" Orcutt married Annie B. Hodge, a Creek citizen, in 1890. When communal Creek lands were allotted in severalty near the turn-of-the-century, the Gus Orcutt family received eight hundred acres near Tulsa. Their infant son Archibald was allotted the lands surrounding the Orcutt pond as his share of the national estate. Annie Orcutt inherited Archibald's allotment at his death in infancy. Gus and Annie built a home near East 16th Street and South Peoria Avenue. Their pond then became known as Orcutt Lake, and its popularity with Tulsans as a place to escape the summer heat increased. In January 1908 Gus Orcutt and a group of investors took advantage of Orcutt Lake's reputation as a recreational area. They purchased the twenty-five acres adjacent to the pond on the north with the aim of developing Tulsa's first amusement park and a residential area. Orcutt Lake was enlarged to three hundred feet wide and a quarter-mile long. The Orcutt Lake Amusement Park offered swimming, fishing, boating, and picnicking. As Orcutt developed the shore, the park included a covered swimming pool known as the "Natatorium," a movie theater, a cafe, and an open-air pavilion (later enclosed) with dressing rooms below.[3] In 1910 Tulsa's new streetcar system extended a track to the electrically-lighted arched entrance of the park (presently at South St. Louis Avenue and Swan Drive). Advertisements described it as "Tulsa's only park resort that you can ride directly into by paying one car fare. The Union Traction Co. cars stop at the edge of the lake, within a stone's throw of the dancing pavilion, the airdrome, the swimming pool, the natatorium and all concessions. The cars are crowded these days by people who have the Orcutt Park habit, but there is no crowding after you reach the park. Plenty of room, shade, and pure water for little parties and neighborhood gatherings."[4]

In 1911 Orcutt added a forty-foot high, six hundred foot long roller coaster at a cost of $7,600. The same year Orcutt dynamited the dam and built a new one 150 feet northeast, creating the present smaller limits of the lake.[5]

At the same time Orcutt developed his amusement park, he pursued his related aim of creating a residential neighborhood near the lake. He platted Orcutt Addition, then outside Tulsa's city limits, in 1908, but he and Wesley P. Moore, a Tulsa realtor and oil man, did not offer lots for sale until January 1, 1910. Their initial advertisement built upon the popularity of the amusement park as it advised the prospective buyer to take the street car to "Orcutt Lake, a most beautiful scene. Look at the magnificent building sites surrounding you. Then think of two things. First: It is a delightful place to live. Second: These properties will save money for the purchaser." The advertisement concluded by noting that building restrictions protected the addition and that lots might be purchased by installment.[6]

The opening of Orcutt Addition coincided with a period of explosive economic growth in Tulsa. In 1901 the first commercially significant oil field in Oklahoma was discovered at Red Fork just across the Arkansas River from Tulsa. Successive discoveries at nearby Goody's Bluff and Cleveland in 1904 and the famous Glenn Pool in 1905 transformed the quiet town of 1,300 in 1900 to a hustling boom town of 18,182 by 1910. One year later, the inclusion of outlying additions such as Orcutt Addition brought the number to 26,468. Recognition of this expansion was evident in the construction in 1909 of Bellview (renamed Lincoln in 1914) School on the southeast corner of South Peoria (then Pearl) Avenue and East 15th (then Cherry) Street. Orcutt Addition, consequently, offered pleasant wooded building sites near school and recreational facilities that could all be reached by street car.[7]

From the beginning, Orcutt Addition was directed toward the middle class resident as evidenced by the emphasis on the affordability of the lots and ease of payment. Regularly 40 or 50 feet wide, the lots were 140 feet deep, allowing sixteen homes to a block with room at the rear of each home for outbuildings, most often a detached garage as the automobile gained popularity and became generally available in the 1920s. However, sales during the first seven or eight years appear to have been relatively slow, with construction spreading from the northwest corner near Bellview School south down South Peoria, Olive (renamed Quaker), Maple (renamed Quincy) and Jasmine (renamed Rockford) and east along East 15th and Orcutt (renamed 16th) streets. Most appear from Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps to have been frame National Folk houses such as the W.H. Hickerson House at 1530 South Trenton Avenue. Other areas of Orcutt Addition and beyond remained rural. In fact, the Tidwell family operated a dairy from their home at 1764 South St. Louis Avenue and watered their cows at Orcutt Lake.[8]

Perhaps the slow development of Orcutt Addition and the gradual decline of Orcutt Lake Amusement Park was the reason Gus Orcutt sold the lake in 1917 to Tulsa businessman and realtor E.J. Brennan. Orcutt may have invested his profits in the first Orcutt Apartments building at 1322-1324 East 16th Street. Gus and Annie lived at the two-story red brick building for several years while they managed a number of rental properties. Eventually these included several similar red brick apartment buildings labeled "Orcutt Apartments" along East 16th Street, including the renamed Lincoln Apartments at 1620 South Quaker Avenue. With their spacious private porches and balconies, the apartments appealed to single people as well as families, many of whom were transient or in the first stages of relocation in the days of the oil booms.[9]

Brennan, on the other hand, took development of the area in a somewhat different direction. He renamed the lake "Swan Lake" and platted Swan Lake Park Addition, orienting large, irregularly shaped lots toward the shore line. These he sold to some of Tulsa's more affluent people, such as oil man J.M. Hayner, president of the Monarch Royalty Company, who in 1919 built the first home on Swan Lake. The Italian Renaissance house at 1583 Swan Drive was designed by Kansas City architect Noble B. Fleming. Brennan donated Swan Lake to the City of Tulsa as a public park in 1917. Through the next decade it remained popular as a place to picnic, ice skate in winter, and occasionally to perform baptisms.[10]

World War I brought higher oil prices, boosted profits in Tulsa's economy, and continued development in the Swan Lake Historic District. Park Place, south of Orcutt Addition and beyond the edge of development, had been platted in 1908 but was not built up until the war years. Sanger-Douglass and Swan Park subdivisions were platted in 1917. All, including Orcutt Addition, were brought into the city limits in 1917 and 1918. Gradually Bungalow/Craftsman houses and a few two-story Prairie School residences extended southward down South Quaker, Quincy, Rockford, Trenton, and Troost avenues. This development was still residential even on East 15th Street's south (Orcutt Addition) side opposite commercial development on the north side.[11]

The great building boom in Tulsa and in the Swan Lake Historic District came in the 1920s, spurred by oil profits and what one analyst called "a speculative period relatively free of restraints on individual initiative."[12] Now secure in its claim to be the "Oil Capital" of the United States, Tulsa benefitted from the exploitation of the Osage, Gushing, Okmulgee, and Seminole oil fields in eastern Oklahoma. In the central business district, oil field and related profits were reflected in Tulsa's spectacular 1920s Art Deco buildings. In the Swan Lake Historic District, building contractors such as H. William Schlingman and Hanna Biltby Construction put up residences in Asa-Rose (1920), Biddison's (1920), Bragassa (1920), Burns (1925), Dent (1923), Halsey's (1923), Houston (1920) Lewkowitz (1920), Mary C. Kennedy (1920), and Russell & Sills (1920) subdivisions. Residential building permit totals for Tulsa climbed from 931 in 1920 to a peak of 1,337 in 1928. Bungalow/Craftsman houses continued to be popular in the district but gradually gave way to two-story Colonial Revival homes and some Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival examples as development on the north-south streets reached East 17th Place and beyond. Newly popular by 1922 were the Tudor Revival homes built along East 19th, 20th, and 21st streets. In 1928 the Tudor Revival house at 1304 East 19th Street was constructed under a tent so that it might be ceremoniously unveiled as the first edition of Tulsa's annual Parade of Homes. While these houses were still aimed at a middle-class market, impressive residences such as the E.J. Brennan house at 1568 Swan Drive gradually filled in the lots around Swan Lake. The Spanish Eclectic 1565 Swan Drive incorporated the old Orcutt Lake Amusement Park natatorium in its basement. At 1505 East 19th Street attorney G.C. Spillars bought three acres on which he built a Georgian style mansion designed by H.G. Thursby. Spillars briefly maintained a second lake, probably the remnant at the west end of Orcutt Lake. Following an accident in 1939, he filled the lake bed and donated the land, presently a space at the intersection of South St. Louis Avenue, East 19th Street, and East 17th Place, to the City of Tulsa. By 1925 the Swan Lake Historic District was well established, and by the end of the 1920s it had assumed its present boundaries: East 15th Street on the north, South Utica Avenue on the east, East 21st Street on the south, and South Peoria Avenue on the west.[13]

Although the majority of residences were single-family dwellings, duplexes and apartment houses remained popular with builders and tenants in the Swan Lake Historic District. The Ward Apartments (1617-1619 South Quaker Avenue), built in 1923, El Prado (1510-1512 South Utica Avenue) [demolished], La Giralda (1514-1516 South Utica Avenue) [demolished], Almeria Apartments (1717 South Quincy Avenue), all built in 1926, and the Nokomis, Hiawatha, and Pocahontas apartment buildings (1643-1645, 1647-1649, and 1651-1653 East 16th Street, respectively), all built about 1930, continued to offer convenient housing in a neighborhood atmosphere for single people and transient families. An innovation along South Utica Avenue, undergoing its first extensive development in the mid-1920s and early-1930s, was the Utica Court (later Manor) Apartments, built in 1929 around a courtyard to allow tenants space for outdoor recreation. [14]

As the Swan Lake Historic District developed, it included institutions that contributed to the community. The County Children's Home stood at 1710 South Trenton Avenue. The Church of Christ stood on the northeast corner of East 16th Street and South Quaker Avenue. Neither survives. Most spectacular was the combination Byzantine, Gothic, and Art Deco Christ the King Church designed in 1927 by Francis Barry Byrne, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. The second oldest Catholic church in Tulsa, it was nationally applauded for the beauty of its stained glass windows by Alfonso Iannelli. In 1932 Marquette School, replacing the smaller frame building on East 16th Street, was built on the same block in a similar style. Across East 16th Street stood Temple Israel on the site now occupied by Marquette Park. It was converted to a parish hall and demolished in 1991.[15]

Also during the 1920s commercial development took place along the south side of East 15th Street, opposite an established business strip dating back to the days during which it was known as "Cherry Street." The new commercial buildings, reflecting more affluent times, replaced older frame houses from the early days of the Orcutt Addition. Grocers, fruit vendors, dry goods stores, drug stores, specialty stores, gas stations, barbers, and beauticians catered to the needs of nearby residential areas, while professional offices occupied second-floor rooms. Even among the residences further south such home-based businesses as J. W. Attleberger's Home Portrait and Frame Company at 1601 South Quaker Avenue could be found.[16]

By 1930 residential construction in Tulsa dropped off sharply, reflecting the national trends of the Great Depression. Total building permits were halved to 355 in 1931 and fell to 45 in 1932, 27 in 1933, and 37 in 1934. Even so, many of those housing starts were in the Swan Lake Historic District. Swan Lake Park remained a popular recreation site during the 1930s. In 1937 or 1938 the Works Progress Administration rebuilt a lighted rustic concrete fountain in the center of the lake. By the time the national economy began to revive in the late 1930s, only a few lots remained available in the district. These were usually filled with the new Minimal Traditional style residences that reflected the pared-down expectations of the day and, with their attached garages, the importance of the automobile. An exception was the home of architect Joseph Koberling at 1543 Swan Drive with its terra cotta bas relief of a swan prominent on the primary elevation. The first residence to incorporate the swan motif, the Koberling House set an example that has been imitated often throughout the district.[17]

In the 1950s and 1960s the Swan Lake Historic District maintained its status as a desirable residential area. The construction of Utica Square Shopping Center in 1952 just to the southeast added to the desirability of the area. In the 1970s many young families preferred the district's convenience to the central business district combined with spacious houses and quiet tree-shaded streets. The construction of two large apartment/condominium complexes within the edges of the district and strip development just outside the district did not detract from its essential character. Neither has recent revitalization of East 15th Street as the "Cherry Street" commercial district. However, Swan Lake, to some extent the focal point of the district, declined over the years. In 1948 a water shortage cut off the water supply to the lake, leaving it nearly empty and stagnant. It was drained and refilled, but deterioration of the sidewalks, landscaping, and banks turned the lake into a nuisance. Rats, mosquitoes, stagnant water, and a collapsed drain line plagued the neighborhood through the 1950s and 1960s. But in 1986-1987 Swan Lake underwent a $1 million renovation project funded by a 1983 bond issue, a third-penny sales tax surplus, and private donations. Stocked with a collection of North American waterfowl, including Trumpeter swans, it regained its reputation as a Tulsa treasure.[18]

The Swan Lake Historic District has retained its essential character from the late 1910s to the present. The quiet tree-lined streets, spacious single-family residences, and substantial apartment houses conveniently located with respect to the central business district, a new medical complex, and Utica Square Mall continue an appeal that has endured eight decades. Its commercial buildings, church and parochial school buildings, and Swan Lake Park continue to complement the Swan Lake neighborhood setting.

Architectural Significance

The architecture of the Swan Lake Historic District is a sampler of popular residential styles from the late 1910s through the 1930s, from the late National Folk to the mid-twentieth century Minimal Traditional. Primarily vernacular and produced for the middle-class home buyer, it consists of single-unit and multiple-unit residences as well as associated commercial buildings. The Swan Lake Historic District also includes a few architect-designed residences, commercial buildings, a church, and two parochial schools.

Orcutt Addition, the first addition developed in the Swan Lake Historic District, reflects the architectural styles popular from 1910 through the 1920s. The oldest building extant is a National Folk house near the northern district boundary, where development first occurred. A few Prairie School houses were built during the late 1910s and early 1920s in Orcutt Addition. By far the most popular house type was the Bungalow/Craftsman, most prevalent in the northern three tiers of blocks. In the south half of the district, or the additions south of East 17th Place that developed in the 1920s and 1930s, the most prevalent style is the Tudor Revival, followed by the Colonial Revival. Interspersed throughout the southern tiers of blocks are Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival houses. Individual examples of the Classical Revival, Spanish Eclectic, French Eclectic, Italianate, Georgian, and Minimal Traditional residence are scattered throughout the district. While almost every house except the late Minimal Traditionals had a detached garage, most of these out buildings were utilitarian Bungalow/Craftsman examples. A few non-Bungalow/Craftsman residences had detached garages built in a matching style. Some had original garage apartments, but few residences in this primarily middle-class neighborhood needed the quarters for servants usually combined with the garage. Tudor Revival and Bungalow/Craftsman duplexes are found along with Classical Revival, Commercial, Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival, and International apartment houses. Commercial buildings along East 15th Street are adaptations of the Tudor Revival, Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival, Beaux Arts styles as well as the standard Commercial architecture popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Christ the King Church and Marquette School (1932) combine Byzantine, Gothic, and Art Deco characteristics. The fountain in Swan Lake is typical of the rustic landscaping popular in the 1930s and prevalent among New Deal program products.

Resources in the Swan Lake Historic District that are noncontributing because of age include late examples of the Minimal Traditional, the Neo-eclectic, and Contemporary styles.

While the great majority of resources in the Swan Lake Historic District are vernacular, some were designed by noted architects. Among these resources are individual examples of the work of Noble B. Fleming, Joseph Koberling, Francis Barry Byrne, Frederick W. Redlich, and H.G. Thursby.

National Folk Style

The National Folk Style appeared first in the Swan Lake Historic District, which began development in 1910. Exported throughout the United States between 1850 and 1890 through the influence and agency of the rail system, many of Oklahoma's territorial and early statehood homes were of this style, reflecting the backgrounds of in-migrating residents from longer-settled areas and Eastern influences on Indian Territory citizens. National Folk houses are characterized by a moderately-pitched gabled roof, one or two stories, wood siding, and porches. Examples of this style in the Swan Lake District are usually of the one- or two-story gable-front-and-wing variety. However, there are also one- and two-story pyramid variations.

Bungalow/Craftsman Style

The most prevalent architectural style in the Swan Lake Historic District at 35 percent is the Bungalow/Craftsman style, characterized by a low-pitched gabled roof with wide eaves and decorative details such as exposed rafter tails, false exposed beam ends, and false braces. Windows with multiple panes may be set in bands. Full and partial porches typically have complex supports combining piers, caps, and columns of different materials. Some extend to the side to form porte cocheres. The most common examples of this style in the Swan Lake Historic District are the rows of simple Craftsmen in the northern half. Typically they are rectangular with front-gabled roofs, chimneys on the side, weatherboard siding, wood surrounds on doors and bands of multiple-paned windows, and wide porches with Bungaloid supports combining brick, ornamental concrete block, or stucco balustrades and piers with wood columns. About half are cross-gabled. A few have second-story "airplanes." Exposed rafter tails, exposed beam ends, and triangular knee braces are common. Less common is stick-style trim, generally shown as a decorative wood truss in front-facing gable ends. The full-blown Bungalow with its asymmetrical porches and elaborate trim is rare in the Swan Lake Historic District. An unusual example is the H. William Schlingman House at 1823 South Quincy Avenue, which incorporates Mediterranean features such as flailed stucco piers, a crenelated parapet, and paired eave brackets. The Bungalow/Craftsman architectural style, dating from 1905 to 1930, is quite prevalent throughout Oklahoma neighborhoods dating from this era. The generous windows, particularly on second-story airplanes, wide eaves, and porches were effective against Oklahoma's summer heat in the days before air conditioning.

Tudor Revival Style

The Tudor Revival Style (1890-1940) was highly popular in Oklahoma in the 1920s and 1930s. Approximately 16 percent of Swan Lake Historic District buildings are Tudor Revival, a style characterized by asymmetrical arrangement, steeply-pitched roofs, multiple gables, prominent decorative chimneys, half-timbering, and narrow windows with multiple panes. Swan Lake Historic District examples include brick, weatherboard-sided, shingle, and stucco versions, some in combination, in one, one-and-one-half, and two-story sizes. Most are relatively modest in keeping with the middle class nature of the district but still incorporate stucco and wood trim gable ends, rolled roof edges, double gables, extended and flared eaves, gabled dormers, tiny turrets, elaborate chimneys with multiple pots, garden gates, arched porch entries, arched doors, and leaded windows of several types. Brick walls and chimneys may include herringbone or basket weave detailing and concrete, stone, or wood inserts. One of the more elaborate examples is the individually eligible house at 1304 East 19th Street, built for the first (1928) edition of the annual Tulsa Parade of Homes. The Tudor Revival style was also adapted to the commercial building in the district as exemplified by 1502 South Utica Avenue.

Colonial Revival

Ranking just behind the Tudor Revival in the Swan Lake Historic District at 14 percent is the Colonial Revival style with its side-gabled or gambrel roof, dormers, symmetrical arrangement of windows, and accentuated front door. Popular from 1880 to 1955, Colonial Revival residences in the Swan Lake Historic District are generally one and one-half-stories with large dormers or two-stories. Walls may be brick or weatherboard-sided, rarely in combination. Roofs are both side-gabled and gambrel. Windows are often multiple-paned with shutters. Entries with pediment and broken-pediment style porches and entablatures often rest on pilasters or wood columns. Doors generally have sidelights and fanlights. Less common than the centered entries are off-set entries. Many have flat-roofed side porches, some of which have been enclosed or topped with a second floor. An individually eligible example is a variation, the Dutch Colonial E.J. Brennan House at 1568 Swan Drive. Also individually eligible is the Spillars Mansion at 1505 East 19th Street. Architect H. G. Thursby adapted the Georgian style for this house in 1924. It has the characteristic front door with an elaborate decorative crown supported on pilasters, an elaborate cornice with dentils, and multiple-paned windows arranged symmetrically.

Spanish Styles

Spanish styles, which were nationally popular from 1915 to 1940, are scattered throughout the Swan Lake Historic District, amounting to about 5 percent of the resources, including single-family houses, apartment buildings, and commercial buildings. They are characterized by frequent use of stucco, terra cotta tile roofs, arched openings, and balconies.

The Mission Style variation which includes a shaped or arched parapet is exemplified by the Almeria Apartments building at 1717 South Quincy Avenue. It includes characteristic decorative details such as iron balustrades and terra cotta inserts. The Natatorium at 1565 Swan Drive, individually eligible, is Spanish Eclectic with its low-pitched tile roof, stucco walls, prominent front-facing gable, multiple arches, and Monterey-style balcony. The Spanish Eclectic residence at 1544 East 17th Place has a Pueblo Revival style extension.

Prairie School

About 3 percent of Swan Lake Historic District resources are Prairie School, generally two-story houses with a low-pitched roof, wide overhanging eaves, facades that emphasize strong horizontal lines, and massive porch supports. Popular from 1900 to 1920, Prairie School houses are scattered through the northern half of the Swan Lake Historic District, which was developed first. The stucco house at 1728 South Rockford Avenue is a good example.

Minimal Traditional

About 3 percent, and among the last built during the period of eligibility, are the Minimal Traditional houses (1935-1950) characterized by low- to moderate-pitched roofs, close eaves, large chimneys, front-facing gables, and lack of ornamentation. This style of house filled in the last available lots in the Swan Lake Historic District just before and during World War II. Most are one story, several have brick or stone veneer, and most have attached one-car garages, signifying the full acceptance of the automobile as a necessary part of daily life.

Classical Revival

Classical Revival buildings make up about 3 percent of Swan Lake Historic District resources. Typically one-or two-storied with symmetrical arrangements, side-gabled roofs, cornices, accentuated entries, and columns, Swan Lake Historic District examples include a number of red brick apartment houses. Brick columns extend from ground level to roofline, supporting symmetrical porches on the first floor and balconies on the second. The Ward Apartments at 1617-1619 South Quaker Avenue is an excellent example of the Classical Revival style adapted to an apartment house.

Italian Renaissance

The Swan Lake Historic District includes a few Italian Renaissance houses, characterized by low-pitched ceramic tile roofs, smaller and less elaborate second-floor windows, arched doors and first-floor windows, and facades accented with small columns or pilasters. Although fairly common in affluent neighborhoods in contemporary Oklahoma neighborhoods, this style, dating generally from 1890 to 1935, is rare in this district. However, the first house built on Swan Lake, 1583 Swan Drive, is individually eligible as an excellent example of this style.

Commercial Style

The Commercial Style building, with a flat roof, brick detailing along rooflines and nameplates, display windows, and occasional recessed entries is found among two types of Swan Lake Historic District resources, apartment houses and commercial buildings along East 15th Street. These comprise less than 2 percent of district resources.

Modern Movement

The Modern Movement is represented in the Swan Lake Historic District by approximately 2 percent of the resources. These are mostly commercial buildings located along East 15th Street. However, 1520-1526 East 17th, built about 1945, is a two-story apartment building with the glass block inlays and windows characteristic of the style popular from 1920 to 1940.

Late Gothic Revival

Two of the most spectacular resources in the Swan Lake Historic District, Christ the King Church and Marquette School (1932), both individually National Register eligible, are in the Late Gothic Revival style. These two buildings also have Byzantine and Art Deco characteristics. The buildings have strong vertical lines, pilasters, finials, and windows with pointed arches. Christ the King Church, designed by Francis Barry Byrne, has stained glass windows designed by Alfonso Iannelli.

French Eclectic

A variation on the French Eclectic style popular from 1915-1945 is the 1944 house of architect Joseph Koberling at 1543 Swan Drive. It includes the steeply-pitched hipped roof with slightly flared eaves, stone walls, and decorative half-timbering. It has a flat-roofed projecting portal with a terra cotta bas relief swan, along with a two-car garage.

Beaux Arts

One commercial building, 1542 East 15th Street, built about 1922, is the sole example of the Beaux Arts style adapted to a commercial building in the Swan Lake Historic District. Its flat roof, brick walls, concrete entablature around the parapet, dentils, and medallions are characteristic of the style dating from 1885 to 1930.

Noncontributing Resource Styles

Noncontributing resource styles in the Swan Lake Historic District, amounting to about 8 percent are primarily Contemporary residences and commercial buildings and Neo-eclectic single-family residences and condominiums.


  1. "Tulsey Town" was the name of a traditional Creek Indian ceremonial town replanted in the vicinity after the Creek forced removal from Georgia and Alabama in the 1820s and 1830s. It was chartered as Tulsa in 1897.
  2. A prominent Republican, Orcutt later promoted the development of Tulsa, founded the town of Coweta, Oklahoma, and served in the first state legislature. "A.D. Orcutt, Indian Territory Rancher," The Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, March 14, 1959, Vertical File, "O" Biographies, Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma; Luther B. Hill, A History of the State of Oklahoma (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1909), 403-404.
  3. "S. Augustus Orcutt," Biographical Index, and Allotment Record of Archibald M. Orcutt, C-4178, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; A Neighborhood History of Tulsa's Historic Swan Lake (Tulsa: Tulsa Preservation Commission, the City of Tulsa Urban Development Department, and the Swan Lake Neighborhood Association, 1994), 1-2; "Swan Lake: A Graceful Resurgence," The Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, May 25, 1987.
  4. Quoted in The Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, February 7, 1965.
  5. "Swan Lake: A Graceful Resurgence."
  6. The Tulsa (Oklahoma) Daily Democrat, January 1, 1910.
  7. Arrell Morgan Gibson, Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, second edition, 1981), 270; Hoffine's City Directory. Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1910, microfilm, Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma; A Neighborhood History of Swan Lake. 36-37.
  8. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1915, 1923, microfilm, Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma; "Swan Lake; A Graceful Resurgence."
  9. A Neighborhood History of Swan Lake, 5, 17.
  10. Ibid., 5, 10, 11.
  11. Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1915; Polk-Hoffine Directory, Tulsa, Oklahoma. 1914, 1917, 1918, 1919.
  12. L. D. Melton, After the War in Tulsa (Tulsa: Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, 1945), 25.
  13. Ibid. , 26; The 1992 Tulsa Historic Preservation Plan Report (Tulsa: City of Tulsa Urban Development Department, 1992), 126-127;
  14. A Neighborhood History of Swan Lake, 34.
  15. Ibid., 43-44; Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, 1923; The 1992 Tulsa Historic Preservation Plan Report, 130.
  16. Tulsa City Directory, 1934 (Kansas City, Mo.: R.L. Polk Co., 1934).
  17. Melton, After the War in Tulsa, 26; A Neighborhood History of Swan Lake, 18, 14.
  18. "Swan Lake: A Graceful Resurgence."


"A. D. Orcutt, Indian Territory Rancher." The Tulsa (Oklahoma) World. March 14, 1959. Vertical File. "O" Biographies. Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Gibson, Arrell Morgan. Oklahoma: A History of Five Centuries. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, second edition, 1981.

Hill, Luther B. A History of the State of Oklahoma. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1909.

Melton, L. D. After the War in Tulsa. Tulsa: Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, 1945.

Neighborhood History of Tulsa's Historic Swan Lake, A. Tulsa: Tulsa Preservation Commission, the City of Tulsa Urban Development Department, and the Swan Lake Neighborhood Association, 1994.

1992 Tulsa Historic Preservation Plan Report, The. Tulsa: City of Tulsa Urban Development Department, 1992.

Orcutt, Archibald M. C-4178. Allotment Record. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

"Orcutt, S. Augustus." Biographical Index. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Polk-Hoffine City Directories, Tulsa. Oklahoma. 1910, 1914, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1925, 1934. Microfilm. Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Tulsa, Oklahoma. 1915, 1923. Microfilm. Edmon Low Library, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma.

"Swan Lake: A Graceful Resurgence." The Tulsa (Oklahoma) World. May 25, 1987.

Tulsa (Oklahoma) Daily Democrat. 1910.

Tulsa (Oklahoma) World. 1965.

Adapted from: Dr. Mary Jane Warde, Swan Lake Historic District, Tulsa, OK, nomination document, 1997, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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