Do You Remember The Epic Tulsa Coliseum?

A 1948 postcard depicting the Tulsa Coliseum, formerly at East Fifth Street and South Elgin Avenue


The East Village District, which runs along East Fifth Street between South Elgin Avenue and Highways 75 and 244, is a popular hangout, with restaurants, bars, galleries and shops.

But for 23 years — from the time it opened in 1929 until it was destroyed by fire — the Tulsa Coliseum, an indoor arena located along those same streets, was where Tulsans flocked for hockey games, rodeos, track meets, ice skating, professional wrestling, boxing matches, charity events and conventions.

Constructed in 1928 for $800,000 by entrepreneur Walter Whiteside, founder and president of Douglas Oil Co., the Coliseum boasted a Saracenic design, an architectural style used by British architects in India. The building was a block long with terra cotta art tiles and columns decorated with geometric designs in soft pastels. Inside, it seated 4,500 and could be enlarged to hold 8,000 for conventions and entertainment. It had an acoustic ceiling and a $25,000 pipe organ. 

The building was known primarily as the home of the Tulsa Oilers hockey team from 1929-1951. Wrestling promoter Sam Avey purchased the building in 1942, when it became known as Avey’s Coliseum. Radio station KAKC, also owned by Avey, broadcasted from the Coliseum basement. 

During a storm on Sept. 20, 1952, a lightning strike hit the Coliseum’s wooden roof, and it burned to the ground.


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