Bright new future
Historic building receives major updates.
The 93-year-old Beacon Building is shining a new light in the downtown business district.
Purchased in 2015 by a local property group, the nine-story, art deco building at 406 S. Boulder Ave. is undergoing renovations and bringing in new tenants.
In an interesting twist, its largest new tenant is an insurance company. The occupancy harkens back to the Beacon’s original tenant: the Beacon Life Insurance Co., marked by a flashing 65-foot lighthouse beacon on the building’s northeast corner.
Known for its ornate art deco façade, the Beacon Building has long been a central structure of downtown’s Oil Capital Historic District. In fact, the exterior still closely resembles photographs from the 1920s.
Renowned Tulsa oilman and philanthropist Waite Phillips was the Beacon’s first owner. He retained the building among his last Tulsa possessions before leaving the city. He donated it to the Southwest Art Association in 1942 on the condition that its income from monthly rent be utilized to fund the Philbrook Museum of Art, which it did for 27 years.
Until the 1970s, a 65-foot lighthouse topped the Beacon. The tower symbolized its longtime tenant, the Beacon Life Insurance Co., and served as an aircraft navigational aid.
Interestingly, the lens of the original light tower was recently discovered in the basement, and the building’s owners are looking into its possible restoration, Sawyer says. Unfortunately, the wooden lighthouse itself is irreparable.
In 1983, a City of Tulsa electrical transformer exploded in an underground vault in the basement, followed by a second similar explosion of a replacement transformer six months later. The explosions spilled polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and the building was deemed unsafe.
In 1988, after frequent testing and thorough cleaning, the building received a clean bill of health.
Its new owners, Beacon Building Properties LLC, bought it and the adjacent 64-space parking lot for $4.3 million, with an eye on retaining the unique look and character of the building, according to Daniel Schulte, one of the investors.
“By investing in the infrastructure and adding upgrades, we are preserving the historic character and trying to restore the way the Beacon Building felt in the ’20s,” Schulte says.
In October, the building, which is comprised of mainly office space, was approximately 70 percent occupied. Insurance firm Insurica will expand to the fifth floor and part of the eighth floor, according to Brittany Sawyer, spokeswoman for the
A coffee shop was recently added to the first floor. Approximately $1 million more in renovations, including a gym for tenants in the basement, are expected to be complete by Jan. 1, according to Sawyer.