A gem on Boulder

An architectural firm has restored an art deco structure on the edge of downtown.



Boulder on the Park has been home to a school, a cartography business, a local broadcasting company (as in the undated photo above), an engineering firm and, now, an architectural firm.

Across the street from Veterans Park, formerly Boulder Park, the neat three-story building at 1850 S. Boulder Ave. is a perfect example of Tulsa’s art deco architecture. It’s only fitting an architectural firm has restored the early Tulsa structure and makes its home there.

Father and son architects Charles A. Sanderson and Roy Wesley Sanderson constructed the building for Holland Hall School in 1922. Tulsa oilmen Waite Phillips, W.G. Skelly and George S. Bole helped fund the project, according to the Tulsa Preservation Commission. The building originally included nine classrooms, a shop, a gym, an auditorium, offices and a science lab. Holland Hall left in 1932 to build a larger campus.

In 1938, Aero Exploration Co., an aerial cartography business, purchased the building and operated there until CBS affiliate KTUL Radio and Tulsa Broadcasting Co. took ownership in the late 1940s. KTUL broadcast on 1430 AM from its South Boulder Avenue studios from 1947-1955.

It was KTUL that dubbed the structure “Boulder on the Park.” The station renovated the building in 1948, but it became vacant after 1955 and fell into disrepair. In 1957 Holway Engineering Co. purchased and occupied the building until 1974. It remained vacant until 1977 when it was converted into commercial office space.

Today, Boulder on the Park houses architectural firm The McIntosh Group.

Susie Woody and I bought the building (from Pan Western Energy) in the fall of 2000 for our two companies’ offices, and we renovated the building together and collaborated on the design,” says Lanny McIntosh, the firm’s founder.

Woody, an interior designer, has since sold her half of the building to McIntosh, who now owns the building with his wife, Becki.

Shortly after purchasing the building, McIntosh and Woody found a photo from its KTUL renovation in which art moderne elements had been added and the exterior painted. They used the photo and some physical clues that were discovered during the renovation process as a blueprint for their restoration.

“The art moderne-ization happened in 1947-ish when the Vitrolite*, glass block, turquoise tile, metal canopy and paint were added,” McIntosh says.

Some time after that, the tile was painted over, a stair tower was added, and the Vitrolite and metal canopy were broken off and covered up.

“We were lucky to find a company in St. Louis who had enough of the Vitrolite to restore it (by stripping the paint) exactly as it had been,” he says.

Besides matching the façade color to its original cool blue, the firm also restored the building’s stair tower; replaced all the major mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems; and gutted the interior to make it more open and take advantage of light from the windows.

The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Sept. 3, 2003. 

“The building is a wonderful art deco gem,” says Amanda DeCort, preservation planner for the City of Tulsa.

Thanks to some Tulsans who appreciated Boulder on the Park’s potential, it now shines as brightly as it once did.

*Vitrolite: a brand of opaque, pigmented glass manufactured in the first half of the 20th century.

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August 2019

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