Photo: Home in the Yorktown Historic DIistrict, Tulsa. The DIstrict was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Photographed by wikipedia username: W. R. Oswald, 2012, [cc-3.0], accessed January, 2023.
The Yorktown Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. [†]
The Yorktown Historic District is a residential area developed primarily between 1921 and 1931 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Located about one mile southeast of downtown Tulsa, the district has retained a high degree of integrity. Over the last seventy years, a five block area in the Yorktown neighborhood has been redeveloped with buildings associated with the historic Saint John's Hospital and Nursing School, originally located at the corner of 21st Street and Utica Avenue. Due to a lack of integrity and historic significance, the St. John's complex is not included within the boundaries of the Yorktown Historic District. On the northeast corner of the neighborhood, a two-and-a-half block area developed for the upper middle class has been separately listed on the National Register as the Gillette Historic District. The Gillette district is not included within the Yorktown boundaries as the Gillette area is composed of a greater variety of architectural styles and larger, more expensive residences on relatively spacious lots. As such, the feeling and association between the two areas is distinct.
The Yorktown Historic District developed over a ten-year period during the height of the oil-related expansion of the city. During this boom period, Tulsa developed into one of the two major urban centers in the state of Oklahoma. As an example of a working middle class neighborhood in Tulsa, Yorktown represents the impact of the oil industry on the common man. The Yorktown Historic District is a middle class neighborhood dominated by the Craftsman Bungalow style with a good representation of the Tudor Revival style. Together, these styles represent ninety percent of the extant housing stock in the neighborhood. Although these styles were widely used in Tulsa, within the Yorktown neighborhood they illustrate the shift in popular taste from the Bungalow/Craftsman style to the Tudor Revival.
By 1910, Tulsa's population stood at 18,182 and a building boom was well underway in the city with brick plants working at capacity. Hotels, office buildings and fine residences were under construction as the streets were paved. By 1920, Tulsa's population had grown to 72,075, a tremendous increase 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."
Similar to many of Tulsa's closer-in neighborhoods, actual construction in the Yorktown neighborhood began to occur in the third decade of the twentieth century when the impact of oil revenue in Tulsa became apparent not only in the large mansions of the oil men but also the common house of the working middle class. Although the first addition in the neighborhood was platted over a decade prior to the 1920s, activity in the far eastern section of the Orcutt Addition in the Yorktown district was uncommon until the first years of the 1920s. Subsequent additions platted in the late teens, including Bungalow Court, Maywood and Woodward Park, also did not experience much growth until about 1921. In 1920, as the town continued to expand its borders and interest began to increase in the Yorktown area, an additional two additions were laid out, Weaver and Edgewood Place. Despite the mounting interest in the neighborhood spurred by the breaking of ground for St. John's Hospital and Nursing School in the southwest corner of the district on 11 February 1920, significant residential development took better than a year to materialize. In 1921 as activity in the neighborhood began to percolate, the Bell-McNeal Addition was platted. The final addition in the Yorktown district, Reddin Third Addition, was platted and developed by a real estate speculator in 1925 who enjoyed the advantage of knowing the area was a hot bed of construction. By 1931 as the price of oil dropped and many Tulsans faced unemployment and other depression-era hardships, the neighborhood was nearly fully developed with only a few lots unoccupied.
Although the neighborhood weathered the trying years of the 1930s to enjoy the prosperity of the following decades, it did not get by unchanged by progress. Commercial redevelopment obliterated the majority of historic residences along the primary arteries of the area, South Utica and South Lewis avenues and 15th and 21st streets. Additionally, St. John's Hospital, heeding the necessities of modern day advancements and lifestyles, tremendously expanded in the southwest corner of the neighborhood. As the hospital has built new, large, modern facilities, historic residences have disappeared from roughly a five block area. Despite these changes, the Yorktown Historic District continues to represent an important development period in Tulsa's history. The explosion of residential development in Yorktown during the 1920s is illustrative of Tulsa's emerging importance as the "Oil Capital of the World." The significance of Yorktown as a working middle class neighborhood developed over a remarkably short ten-year period further shows that oil built not only grand mansions but also common bungalows. Additionally, the neighborhood differs from many in Tulsa in that actual development did not occur for several years after the original plats were first advertised for sale and this only after several real estate speculators undertook construction of numerous homes in the area.
The first addition in the neighborhood was platted in 1908 by Samuel Augustus Orcutt. However, the sale of lots in the Orcutt Addition did not occur until 1910 when the Tulsa Suburban Street Car extended its line to the addition. Advertisements for the addition then proclaimed "Orcutt Addition is the ideal home addition property to Tulsa." The addition was located "... on the car line and has a modern city school on the property." Additionally advertisements proclaimed "Besides these improvements, its natural surroundings in all parts are ideal, as a heavy growth of trees cover practically every portion of the property." The Orcutt Addition only slowly developed over the next decade with the majority of growth first occurring in the northwest corner of the addition in what is now the Swan Lake neighborhood. It took almost eleven years from the opening of the addition for a handful of residences to be constructed in the portion of the Orcutt Addition lying in Yorktown.
Prior to the explosion of building activity in Yorktown starting in about 1921, several additions were platted but for unknown reasons had little activity. The first of these was the picturesque Bungalow Court Addition, platted in 1918. Comprised of only one street, East 16th Place, the addition first opened in 1920 as "The Real "Home Spot" of Tulsa." Advertisements for the addition boasted that only Bungalows costing at least $7,500 were allowed in this idyllic setting of thirty-three lots facing a single "wide roomy driveway." The original plans for the addition also included an "...artistic stone retaining wall and entrance..." which was to be built at the new homeowners expense but apparently never was. Advertisements for the addition in 1920 also noted that the "Sewer (was) all ready in, paving (was) now ready for bids, and all other modern conveniences (were) available." The John H. Miller Company spearheaded the 1920 efforts for development in Bungalow Court.
Also in the local real estate section of the local 1920 papers were advertisements for the Weaver and Edgewood Place additions. The Weaver Addition, located on East 17 Street between South Victor and South Yorktown Avenues, was noted as being "...right in the path of rapid development." With lots ranging in price from $1,100 to $1,500, "... ample building restrictions..." were promised to ensure a "profitable investment." Additionally, it was noted that the Weaver Addition "lie(d) in the heart of the Southeast extension and is entirely surrounded by highly restricted additions where prices have doubled in the past year." O.G. Weaver, possibly a relative of the original owner Bettie Weaver, and A. C. Thompson proffered the Weaver Addition as desirable in 1920.
Edgewood Place was located directly south of the Weaver Addition. Also offered by the John H. Miller Company, Edgewood Place offered lots ranging in size of 45 to 50 feet by 190 or 165 or 154 feet. The prices of the lots rose from $750 to $1,600 with twenty percent down and the balance paid in "eighteen month quarterly payments." Buildings in the Edgewood Place addition were restricted to $4,000 and $6,000. The February 1920 advertisements noted that "Paving and sewer petitions (would) be handed in this week." By March 1920, numerous sites in the addition had been sold by Adams & Walker Real Estate Company for the John H. Miller Company.
For unknown reasons, neither of the 1919 additions, Maywood and Woodward Park, were opened with fanfare in the newspapers. By 1920, there were simple classified advertisements for property in these areas. For example, Edward E. Barrett noted that "$900 buys 50 x 150 feet in Woodward Park." Also the T.M. Hollyman Company offered property on North Yorktown and North Zunis. Although the exact addresses were not provided, these houses were possibly in the Yorktown district as neighborhood development in Tulsa did not extend south of 21st at that time. Throughout the years of development, neither of these additions attracted the attention of the other smaller additions. The 1921 Bell-McNeal Addition also did not benefit from a grand advertising scheme.
Although the majority of the neighborhood was opened for development by 1920, actual construction did not occur for over a year. The exact reasons for this are not known; however, within two years, construction in the Yorktown district was set to explode. In 1922 the recently merged firm of Adams & Reddin Realty and Brokerage Company began to advertise homes in the Bungalow Court Addition. These new homes were offered at "...terms and prices ... so reasonable they will astonish you." Adams & Reddin also noted that "Bungalow Court is the only addition in the city restricted to bungalow alone." They also boasted that "Some of the most beautiful bungalow homes in the city are located in this exclusive district." At the same time, the Silsby Realty Company offered lots in Bungalow Court which had to be getting near sold-out as the addition had only thirty-three lots total.
The following year, Adams & Reddin in association with W. Frank Walker (former Manager of Sales with the Adams & Walker Real Estate Company) offered sixty new homes in the Weaver Addition. The joint owners planned to "...build up the entire addition at once...," thus indicating that the previous efforts at advertising the addition were unsuccessful. By March 1923, "A most wonderful assortment of attractive, five, six and seven-room homes in this high-class residence addition (were) finished and ready for immediate occupancy." With twenty-five homes finished by 1 April 1923, the owners proclaimed "Having bought the lots in wholesale and at much less than the prevailing prices of today, we are positive in our statement that we are giving More and Better House for the Money than can be bought elsewhere in the city." Local firms that worked on houses in the Weaver Addition included Hale Hardware, Hanna Lumber Company, Guaranty Roofing Company, Robertson Plumbing Company, Barclay Paint and Wall Paper Company, Dodge Electric Company, Tulsa Vitrified Brick and Tile Company and George Forster Painting. The houses were finished down to the wall paper, lighting fixtures and, in some cases, furnishings. Advertising continued for houses in the Weaver Addition through 1924 with furnishings provided by Rosser-Casebeer Furniture Company. As noted in one advertisement "Built and Furnished for the man of average means, at the same time has the conveniences and quality of finish only found in the finest homes," houses in the Weaver Addition were intended to satisfy the middle class consumer.
By 1925, the Yorktown area was fairly well developed. Although lots remained for sale in some areas and homes were under construction in other areas, the neighborhood's infrastructure was pretty much in place. The neighborhood had paved streets and sewer systems. Street cars and bus service could also be found in the neighborhood. One of the bigger developments in the neighborhood in 1925 was the construction of Barnard Elementary School on East 17th Street and South Lewis Avenue. Although the Tulsa school system acquired the nearly four acre site in 1919, the school was not constructed until 1925. Within a year, St. John's Hospital and Nursing School opened its doors on the southwest corner of the neighborhood. Construction of the hospital began in 1920 but funds ran out in 1922 which halted construction for three years. The hospital was operated by the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, who also had hospitals at Wichita, Kansas; Marshfield, Oshkosh, Rhinelander, Tomahawk and Stevens Point, Wisconsin; Mankato and Wabasha, Minnesota; Roswell, New Mexico; and, Denville, New Jersey. By 1926, two floors of the south wing were finished, fifty beds were ready for occupation and the nursing school opened. Within two years, the fifth floor was in use for surgery, laboratory and x-ray purposes. This was followed by construction of a chapel and convent which were complete by 1931.
Approximately 112 properties were built in the Yorktown area between 1926 and 1931. Thus, this period is also significant in the development of the neighborhood. Representing twenty-nine percent of the total extant building stock, these five years saw the virtual completion of the district. After 1931, only twenty-four homes, or six percent of the neighborhood, were constructed. Seven of these were built during the 1930s, eight in the 1940s, three in 1950 and the remaining six after 1960. Despite the expansion of St. John's medical facilities which has resulted in the demolition of blocks in the Orcutt, Edgewood Place and Reddin Third additions, Yorktown has continued to maintain a high degree of integrity. The feeling and association of the neighborhood remains apparent in those areas retaining their historic residential stock.
† Adapted from: Cynthia Savage, Architectural Historian, Savage Consulting for Urban Development Department, City of Tulsa, Yorktown Historic District, Tulsa County, OK, nomination document, 2001, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.