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Tulsa Union Depot facts for kids

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Coordinates: 36°09′20″N 95°59′26″W / 36.155523°N 95.990652°W / 36.155523; -95.990652

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Tulsa Union Depot
Tulsa union Depot Modern pict 2009.jpg
Tulsa Union Depot, 2009
Other names Tulsa Union Station
Location 5 S Boston Ave, Tulsa, OK 74103
Other information
Status School and Museum
History
Opened May 13, 1931
Closed May 13, 1967
Key dates
1980 Reopened

The Tulsa Union Depot (also known as the Tulsa Union Station) is the former central railway station for Tulsa, Oklahoma. It has since been turned into an office building. The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is currently headquartered in the former Depot.

History

The Depot was built in 1931 by the Public Works Administration and was considered "the single best PWA symbol of hope for economic recovery during the bleak days of the depression." It cost $3.5 million, paid for by a bond issue passed in 1927. The Depot was the first central station in the city of Tulsa, and it unified the small Frisco (St. Louis-San Francisco Railway), Katy (M-K-T), and Santa Fe depots. Upon its completion, a crowd of over 60,000 people came to see the opening ceremonies, which included speeches, singing, dancing, and Indian stomp dancing. The event was even broadcast on radio. A new locomotive was unveiled, and the locomotive said to have brought the first passenger train into the city (Frisco's "Old 94") was showcased. The depot opened "Tulsa's important front door." At its peak, the depot served 36 trains a day.

The upper floor was the concourse level, with segregated waiting rooms on the east and west, flanking a central area for ticketing and baggage check-in. Direct access was via elevated entrances connected to the Boston and Cincinnati Avenue bridges over the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway tracks. An enclosed, elevated concourse extended north over five platform tracks; stairs led down to three passenger platforms. Escalators were later installed. The lower level served postal traffic, the Railway Express Agency (train-carried mail service) and passenger baggage; trucks were able to access this area directly via First Street.

Because of declining passenger train travel and the rise of air travel and the Interstate Highway System, the depot was abandoned after hosting its last passenger train in 1967. (The Santa Fe maintained passenger service to Tulsa until 1971, but they utilized a separate station.)

1970 12 28 Tulsa Union Depot 5
Tulsa Union Depot interior, under renovation

Named passenger trains

Operators Named trains Northern destination Southern destination Year begun Year discontinued
Frisco Railway Black Gold terminus Oklahoma City 1938 1959
Frisco Railway Firefly Kansas City Oklahoma City 1939 1960
Frisco Railway Meteor St. Louis Lawton 1902 1964
M-K-T Bluebonnet terminus Galveston via Dallas and Houston 1928 1958
M-K-T Katy Flyer terminus Galveston via Dallas and Houston 1896
1900
1959
M-K-T Texas Special St. Louis San Antonio via Dallas 1915 1965
Santa Fe Tulsan Chicago terminus 1930 1971

Renaissance

In 1980, the Williams Companies purchased the structure, and tasked designer Urban Design Group and contractor Manhattan Construction (the same company that built the depot in 1931) with restoring the same. In 1983 after completion, those companies leased space to make it their headquarters and offices.

In 2004 Tulsa County purchased the building from the Williams Companies for $2.2 million, and used the balance of $4 million in Vision 2025 funds for renovations. The building was turned over to the Tulsa County Industrial Authority, which then signed a 99-year lease with the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame for $1. The Jazz Hall began operations at the site in 2007, though did not formally take control of the building until 2009. The lease calls for the Jazz Hall to cover its own operating expenses; and, some controversy has arisen on occasions when bill payments have been late. The Jazz Hall now calls the building the Jazz Depot.

Before possible restoration of passenger train service to Tulsa via the Eastern Flyer proposal fell through, Tulsa city councilors discussed the likelihood of using a portion of the Jazz Depot for its original purpose of serving as a downtown rail terminal for the city, although other sites were also proposed such as the Center of the Universe location further to the northwest in Downtown Tulsa.

In November, 2020, The Tulsa County Industrial Authority filed a lawsuit to terminate the building lease with the Jazz Hall and to recover $8,474 in past-due taxes and utilities. The suit alleged that the Jazz Hall was so far behind in its utility payments that electricity to the building was turned off on October 19th. In January of 2021 the Jazz Hall declared bankruptcy, at least temporarily staying the eviction.

Architecture

The Depot was built in an Art-Deco style by architect R.C. Stephens of St. Louis, MO. The Manhattan Construction Company served as the general contractor. Design elements included chevrons, winged wheels, and Deco sunbursts. The Art-Deco Style with machine-styled elements was very popular, even a "something of a mania" in Tulsa.


Preceding station Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Following station
Terminus Tulsa – Kansas City Mohawk
toward Kansas City, Missouri
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