Diving into Tulsa’s History

Diving into Tulsa’s History

While we were in Tulsa for our date day last week, I looked for something interesting for us to do.  I know there are cool art galleries, but I would enjoy that more than Tyler. And I found some outdoor stuff, but Tyler would have been more into that. I knew there had to be something we would both equally enjoy.

*disclaimer, I got a discount on the tour for blogging my review…but all opinions are my own.*

Enter Tours of Tulsa. I had heard about them on another blog and checked out their website.  I decided we had time for the one hour Tunnel Tour showcasing Tulsa’s art deco architecture and history.

I contacted the email on their website and got a super fast response to book the tour. The tours are private- so you can take your family or a group or just a couple. It’s awesome.

We met up with our tour guide Mike that afternoon on a (very windy) street corner outside the Philcade building.

I knew I would like him right away when he said “I’m not much of a tour guide. I’m more of a storyteller.  Today I’m going to tell you the story of these buildings and this town.”


We started inside the Philcade where we heard the story of the Phillips family who built this building, the Philtower, and the Philbrook museum home. It was so interesting!

We also took some time admiring different buildings from the outside, since we were going underground to get into them!


The building with the white spire was the tallest building in the city for a long time. It used to showcase weather beacons on top to show residents what the weather for the day would be.

The buildings in downtown Tulsa were amazing.

Many were built in the early 1900s and show that the builders wanted to make Tulsa grand.  Our tour guide Mike told us these oil barons wanted Tulsa to feel metropolitan, not like a cow town, so they dressed the buildings in gold, marble, and fancy things.

I know this picture below is dark, but I LOVED the art deco light fixture, and had to lower my exposure to see the detail.

The ceiling was painted BEAUTIFULLY. So grand.


All over the Philcade (which was the first air conditioned shopping area in Tulsa!) were Ws for the building’s owner and his brother Waite and Wiate Phillips.  You can see the W in the window design over the door.


Next up in the Philtower we saw some BEAUTIFUL carved marble ceilings. Like breathtakingly beautiful. This building is now apartments, but there’s a neat secret in the basement.


We found an old tunnel that connected this building underground to others. Mike said in the time of the Lindberg baby being stolen, and bad people being out to get rich people, that they wanted a way to escape without going to the street.

This tunnel was dark, and the exit on the other end was closed off.  It was a bit spooky, but really neat.


We ventured into other buildings, like the Atlas Life building, which is now a hotel.

We loved the Lego model of the building in the lobby.


We got to go up to the historic floor where everything is preserved.

I loved the door numbers, with Atlas, and he’s even on the door knobs!  These rooms used to be offices, but now they are hotel rooms.  Very cool!


Next up was one of my favorites, the MidContinent Tower.

It had BEAUTIFUL stained glass ceilings.


And such ornate details, like the Moroccan-inspired details above the elevator, the golden art deco elevator, and the ornate light fixtures. IMG_3025

There was gorgeous marble and a beautiful glass mural at the end by the escalator.


There’s a bronze statue showcasing the oil workers there too, underneath a great light graphic ceiling.


We went next door to a law firm to see this amazing mural in the lobby.


Then we were back inside the MidContinent Tower to take a tunnel underground to the Kennedy Building (I think…we were in so many it’s hard to remember which was which!)


It had the most amazing marble which had been cut to be mirror-images giving it a great effect.IMG_3034

Then it was time for another tunnel underground (which was GREAT on such a windy day to stay inside!)IMG_3037

We saw a giant bank vault and heard the amazing story of it being brought to this location via train tracks, which were built JUST for delivering this vault!  Then the building was built around it.


We took the oldest escaltor in Tulsa up to the final lobby.


Which was a beautiful bank lobby.  It’s a blurry picture, but you can see the carved marble, the gold elevators, and the painted ceilings.


Here’s a close up of the ceilings, which feel very Egyptian inspired.


We finished up the tour walking downtown past the outside of the buildings we had been inside.  Here’s the Atlas Life from the outside.IMG_3047

And I LOVED the gargoyles outside the Philtower, the one on the right is holding the building!


It was a seriously fun and interesting hour.  I think school kids would love it, couples, families, older parents….and while Mike did talk about Tulsa history- we aren’t from Tulsa and we LOVED it.

Check out Tours of Tulsa and explore Tulsa’s history. You’ll love it.


  1. Nifty! I didn’t know they gave tours of Tulsa. I have been there so many times since it is so close to Northwest Arkansas, but I never knew. It certainly has a lot more to it than people would think. 🙂

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