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Encyclopedia > Tulsa
Downtown Tulsa
Downtown Tulsa

Tulsa is the second-largest city in Oklahoma. As of the revised 2003 census report, the city had a total population of 387,807, with the Metropolitan Statistical Area population at 803,235. It is the county seat of Tulsa County6.



The city now known as Tulsa was first settled by the Lockapoka Creek Indians between 1828 and 1836. Driven from their native Alabama by the forced removal of Indians from southeastern states, the Lockapokas established a new home at a site near present day Cheyenne and 18th Street. Under a large Oak tree, now called Council Oak, they rekindled their ceremonial fire. The settlement was referred to as "Tulasi," a Creek Indian word meaning "old town" and in the 1890s, a trading post in the village became a post office under the name "Tulsey Town."

The area surrounding Tulsa, once known as Indian Territory, was originally established to accommodate the relocation of tribes such as the Creeks, and also the Seminole, Cherokee, Quapaw, Seneca, and Shawnee tribes. These Native American tribes moved into the region after the passage of the Indian Removal Act (1830), when they were forced to surrender their lands east of the Mississippi to the Federal Government in exchange for land in Indian Territory. Each of the larger tribes was given extensive land holdings, individual governments were formed, and tribal members began new lives as farmers, trappers, and ranchers. However, this was not a permanent arrangement and throughout the mid-nineteenth century, the tribes were made to accept a number of treaties which continued to further limit the amount of land each of them held. White settlers continued to push forward,railroads moved into the territory, and in 1892, the land was officially opened and all tribal members were forced to accept individual allocations of land.

In 1882, the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad extended its line to Tulsa to serve the cattle business, the city's first industry.

Tulsa Skyline
Tulsa Skyline

Tulsa changed from a cowtown to a boomtown with the discovery of oil in 1901 at Red Fork, a small community southwest of Tulsa. Wildcatters and investors flooded into the city and the town began to take shape. Neighborhoods were established in Tulsa on the north side of the Arkansas River, away from the drilling sites, and began to spread out from downtown Tulsa in all directions. In 1904, Tulsans constructed a bridge across the river, allowing oil field workers, supplies, food and equipment to cross the river, reaffirming Tulsa's position as the center of the oil field.

In 1905, the Glenn Pool, oil field was discovered. This strike created such a large supply of crude oil that it forced Tulsans to develop storage tanks for the excess oil and gas and, later, pipe lines. It also laid the foundation for Tulsa to become a leader in many businesses related to oil and gas, in addition to being the physical center of the growing petroleum industry. Eventually, Glenn Pool, established Oklahoma as one of the leading petroleum producing regions in the United States. Many early oil companies chose Tulsa for their home base. By the time Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907, Tulsa had a population of 7298. By 1920 the population boomed to 72,000. When a second surge of oil discoveries occurred between 1915 and 1930, the city was well-established as the "Oil Capital of the World."

Another community that flourished in Tulsa during the oil boom was calledGreenwood. It was the largest and wealthiest of Oklahoma black communities and was known nationally as Black Wall Street. The neighborhood was a hotbed of jazz and blues in the 1920's. The scene in Greenwood was so hot, story has it that in 1927 while on tour, Count Basie heard a dance band in a club in Greenwood and decided to focus on jazz.

The Golden Driller
The Golden Driller

The early 1900s were filled with achievements fitting for a young city in a growing nation, but this period was not without tragedy.

In 1921, the Tulsa Race Riot occurred, one of the nation's worst acts of racial violence. The Thirty-five blocks of businesses and residences were burned in the Greenwood District of north Tulsa and as many as 300 persons were left dead, a large majority were black. The Oklahoma Legislature passed laws in 2001 aimed at revitalizing Greenwood, setting up a scholarship fund for college-bound descendants of riot victims and appropriating $2 million for a riot memorial. Greenwood has never fully recovered, but two blocks of the old neighborhood have been restored and are part of the Greenwood Historical District.

Following the "Oil Bust" of 1982-84 the title of “Oil Capital of the World” was relinquished to Houston. City leaders worked to diversify the city away from a soley petroleum-based economy, luring blue collar factory jobs as well as Internet and telecommunications firms to Tulsa during the 1990s. Showing that petroleum is still an important part of Tulsa’s economy, an abundant supply of natural gas also helped the recovery.

Important towns around Tulsa include Berryhill, Bixby, Broken Arrow, Catoosa, Claremore, Collinsville, Coweta, Glenpool, Jenks, Owasso, Sand Springs, Sapulpa, and Skiatook.

Eric Clapton & J.J. Cale playing the "Tulsa Sound"
Eric Clapton & J.J. Cale playing the "Tulsa Sound"

Famous musicians from Tulsa include several musicians: Roy Clark, Garth Brooks, Elvin Bishop, Joe Diffie, The Tractors, Dwight Twilley, Ronnie Dunn, Wanda Jackson, The Collins Kids, the GAP Band, David Gates, Hanson, Gus Hardin, J.J. Cale, Leon Russell, Carl Radle, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey and Bob Wills. Eric Clapton spent time in Tulsa as well. The radio commentator Paul Harvey, CNN broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff, and the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan were born in Tulsa. Tulsa athletic figures include Wayman Tisdale, Nolan Richardson, John Starks, Steve Largent (University of Tulsa), Satchel Paige, (manager of the baseball Tulsa Oilers), and Kenny Monday (Olympic Gold Medalist, Wrestling) Actors and directors from Tulsa include Tony Randall, Alfre Woodard, Mary Kay Place, Gary Busey, Gailard Sartain, Iron Eyes Cody, Blake Edwards, Jennifer Jones and Jeanne Tripplehorn. Authors and writers from the city include S. E. Hinton, John Hope Franklin, Daniel J. Boorstin, Michael Wallis, Lisa Haddock, Greg Perry, Wilhelm Murg, and Lewis Meyer. Important artists performing artists include P.S. Gordon, Jim Blanchard, and Marcello Angelini (ballet). Important families and people in the history of Tulsa include the Phillips family (Waite Phillips and Frank Phillips were founders of Phillips Petroleum), J. Paul Getty, William Skelly, Thomas Gilcrease, and Charles Page.

Tulsa is served by Tulsa International Airport. Road-wise it is served by Interstate 44, US 412, US 64, and US 75. It was also served by historic Route 66, and there are numerous reminders of this by the mid-20th century era motels and restaurants along 11th Street and Admiral Drive. Cyrus Avery, known as "The Father of Route 66", resided in Tulsa.


Location of Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa is located at 36°7'53" North, 95°56'14" West (36.131294, -95.937332)1 in the northeastern corner of the state, some 99 miles Northeast of Oklahoma City . Split by the Arkansas River, Tulsa has abundant parks and water areas including such local favorites as Woodward Park (where it's a local tradition to kiss your sweetheart on the bridge), McClure Park, LaFortune Park, Florence Park and Chandler Park. Mohawk Park, location of the Tulsa Zoo, (in 2004 named America's favorite zoo by a national contest), contains 2,800 acres and is the largest park in Tulsa and one of the largest urban parks in the country. Tulsa is also near the heart of Tornado Alley, a region known to experience more tornadoes on average than other parts of the country.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 483.9 km˛ (186.8 mi˛). 473.1 km˛ (182.6 mi˛) of it is land and 10.9 km˛ (4.2 mi˛) of it is water. The total area is 2.24% water.

Tulsa landmarks

Boston Avenue Methodist Church
Boston Avenue Methodist Church

The BOk Tower (formerly One Willliams Center) is the tallest building in Oklahoma and was designed in 1975 by Minoru Yamasaki & Associates, the same architect who designed the World Trade Center in New York. This structure is very similar to a single tower from the WTC. Tulsa is world renowned for its Art Deco landmarks, including the Philtower, the Mayo Hotel, Boston Avenue Methodist Church (designed by Adah Robinson and Bruce Goff) and the Adams building. Known for a time as "Terra Cotta City", Tulsa hosted the International Sixth Congress on Art Deco in 2001.

Another unique local landmark is the "Center of the Universe", which is located on the arched pedestrian bridge, next to the old Tulsa Union Depot (the future home of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame (http://www.okjazz.org/)). To experience the acoustic phenomenon of the Center of the Universe, all one needs to do is to stand in the middle of the circle on the arch of the bridge and speak. This part of downtown is always fairly empty of people, especially at night, and is a good place for urban exploration. At the bottom of the steps, next to the train tracks, is a sewer grate which, as legend has it, leads eventually to Tulsa's defunct system of underground tunnels, which supposedly stretch throughout downtown.

Tulsa Union Depot & Jazz Hall of Fame
Tulsa Union Depot & Jazz Hall of Fame

The Brady Arts District is located just North of the "Center of the Universe". The Brady District contains many of Tulsa's historic entertainment venues, including The Brady Theater (http://www.bradytheater.com/), built in 1914. Known affectionately as the "Old Lady on Brady", it is rumored to be haunted by the Ghost of Enrico Caruso, who performed there in 1920, and reportedly caught the cold that led to his death of pleurisy in 1921. North of the Brady on Main Street is the Cain's Ballroom (http://www.cainsballroom.com/), the "Home of Bob Wills", the Texas Playboys, the Light Crust Doughboys and to many, is the cornerstone of western swing music in the United States. In addition to this distinction, it is also the last still standing venue from the Sex Pistols infamous 1978 Tour. (They played Tulsa on January 11, 1978. Four days later at San Francisco's Winterland, Johnny Rotten would walk off stage as a Sex Pistol for the last time). The district is also the location of many local artist's galleries, restaurants, and bars such as the popular Caz's. Another popular downtown entertainment district is the Blue Dome, named for a distictive, domed building in the area.

Cain's Ballroom
Cain's Ballroom

The Tulsa State Fairgrounds is home to several unique Tulsa landmarks. In addition to the site being home to the AA Tulsa Drillers baseball team, the Art Deco Expo Square Pavilion, the Fair Meadows horse racing track, and the annual Tulsa State Fair, it boasts the Expo Center, the largest clearspan building in the world, providing 354,000 square feet of column-free space under a cable-suspended roof. In front of the Expo Center is the "Golden Driller", standing 76 feet tall. Built in 1966 as a symbol for the International Petroleum Expo, the statue serves as a reminder of Tulsa's oily past.

Other popular Tulsa destinations include Cherry Street, Brookside, and Utica Square.

Located near three of Tulsa's designated Historic Districts: the Swan Lake, North Maple Ridge, and Yorktown neighborhoods. The Cherry Street District is set near downtown in the northern midtown area, defined by a portion of 15th Street dubbed "Cherry Street." Visitors to this neighborhood find great local restaurants, boutique shops, art galleries, antique shops, and funky vintage stores, now filling old storefronts built in the 1920's & 1930's, as well as some fabulous old homes in the surrounding residential areas.

One of these residential areas is the Maple Ridge Historic District. This neighborhood contains "Black Gold Row", where the fabulous mansions built by the oil barons in the 1920s still stand, long after their original owners have gone.

The Blue Dome
The Blue Dome

Brookside, like Cherry Street, is another popular shopping and entertainment district. This area extends from the Arkansas River east to Peoria. Its defining strip is South Peoria between 31st and 41st Streets, where visitors find a variety of shopping delights, and is home to more than 35 restaurants and nightspots (many with patio seating), featuring everything from Sushi to old-fashioned burger and root beer stands. There are also plenty of swanky boutiques, decor shops and art galleries for window shopping. The atmosphere is chic and eclectic, appealing to a younger, more progressive set. Scenic Riverside Drive, which parallels the east bank of the river, and River Parks, the park that stretches along the riverbank, are also popular sections of Brookside.

Utica Square, is the most popular midtown shopping area, mixed with local and national retailers, such as Banana Republic, The Gap, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Several of Tulsa's most acclaimed restaurants are also located in Utica Square.

Located between Utica Square and Brookside is Philbrook Museum of Art, housed in what once was Waite Phillips' sprawling Italianite Villa, built in 1927. In 1938 Waite Phillips surprised Tulsans and those who built Philbrook with the announcement of his gift of the 72-room mansion and surrounding 23 acres of grounds as an art center for the city of Tulsa. The immense house, with its spacious rooms, wide corridors and great halls, was a “natural” for the art center that took possession. Because of its steel and concrete framework, minimal remodeling was required to make it suited for its new purposes. Today, it houses one of the finest permanent collections of Renaissance & Baroque art and scuplture in the United States, featuring work from such masters as Piero di Cosimo, Biagio d'Antonio da Firenze, Tanzio da Varallo & Bernardo Strozzi. In addition, Philbrook features 19th Century European artists, William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, American artists Thomas Moran, William Merritt Chase, and Levi Wells Prentice, as well as an outstanding Native American and African art collection.

Philbrook Museum of Art
Philbrook Museum of Art

Arguably the the finest and unarguably the largest Western Art collection in the world can be found at the Thomas Gilcrease Museum of Art. The art collection includes over 10,000 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures by 400 artists from colonial times to the present. Among the Western artists for which Gilcrease is renowned are Frederic Remington (including 18 of his 22 bronzes), Albert Bierstadt, William M. Cary, George Catlin, Woody Crumbo, William R. Leigh, Alfred Jacob Miller, Thomas Moran, Georgia O'Keeffe, Charles M. Russell, Olaf Seltzer, Joseph H. Sharp, Willard Stone and Charles Banks Wilson

Some of the important, non-western artists featured in the Gilcrease Collection include Thomas Eakins, Robert Feke, Charles Wilson Peale, Daniel Chester French, John Singleton Copley, James McNeil Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, John James Audubon, William Merritt Chase, and N. C. Wyeth.

In 1890, soon after the birth of Thomas Gilcrease, the Gilcrease family moved to Indian Territory. His mother's Creek Indian ancestry enabled the family to live in the Creek Nation, where Thomas grew to adulthood. In 1922 he founded the Gilcrease Oil Company and in less than ten years had greatly expanded his original holdings.

Gilcrease purchased his first oil painting in 1922, but most of the collection was amassed after 1939. The first Gilcrease Museum opened at his oil company head-quarters in San Antonio in 1943. Within a few years, Gilcrease returned to Tulsa with his oil company and his growing collection. He opened a gallery for public viewing on his Tulsa estate in 1949. During the early 1950s Gilcrease acquired numerous works of art, artifacts, and documents. Declining oil prices made it difficult for him to finance major purchases. Faced with a seemingly insurmountable debt, Gilcrease offered to sell his entire collection in order to keep it intact. In 1954, fearing that Gilcrease Museum would leave Tulsa, a small group of citizens organized a bond election which paid Gilcrease's outstanding debts. Thomas Gilcrease then deeded his collection to the City of Tulsa in 1955. In 1958, the Gilcrease Foundation conveyed the museum buildings and grounds to the City of Tulsa. In the years following the transfer of the collection, Thomas Gilcrease continued to fund archaeological excavations and acquire additional materials for the collection. Upon his death in 1962, he bequeathed to the museum the material he had collected during his final years.

Other important museums and facilities in Tulsa include the Sherwin Miller Museum (http://www.jewishmuseum.net/) of Jewish Art, formerly the Fenster Museum of Jewish Art. The Miller offers the largest collection of Judaica in the Southwest.


Tulsa Events Center model
Tulsa Events Center model

The Hotel Ambassador, a Tulsa landmark, actually began life as a temporary housing facility for oil tycoons who were building their mansions. Functioning as a full-service hotel these days, it gives its guests a taste of the luxury of the glory days.

The Tulsa Performing Arts Center (http://www.tulsapac.com/), occupys a half city block in Tulsa's historical downtown. The PAC is the design of Minoru Yamasaki, architect of the World Trade Center. It houses five theatres and a beautifully appointed reception hall. More than a quarter of a million people visit the Center each year to attend a performance from one of Tulsa's seven acclaimed musical and dramatic companies including the Tulsa Opera, Tulsa Ballet Theater, and a variety of symphonic groups. The PAC hosts a multitude of cultural events through the fall, winter and spring.

Continuing with its rich architectural history, in 2004 the City of Tulsa broke ground on a new 18,000 seat events center designed by renowned architect Cesar Pelli.


As of the census2 of 2000, there are 393,049 people, 165,743 households, and 99,114 families residing in the city. The population density is 830.9/km˛ (2,152.0/mi˛). There are 179,405 housing units at an average density of 379.2/km˛ (982.3/mi˛). The racial makeup of the city is 70.09% Caucasian, 15.47% African American, 4.72% Native American, 1.82% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 3.45% from other races, and 4.40% from two or more races. At least 7.15% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race, with more unregistered living within the city.

Tulsa also has significant religious diversity represented by its active Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Islamic and various other congregations. Popular places of worship include St. Pius X Catholic Church, Holy Family Cathedral, Temple Israel, All Souls Unitarian,Victory Christian Center, Asbury United Methodist Church and Boston Avenue Methodist Church. The city also has Bhuddist, Muslim, and other communities.

There are 165,743 households out of which 28.5% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% are married couples living together, 12.9% have a female householder with no husband present, and 40.2% are non-families. 33.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 9.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.31 and the average family size is 2.98.

In the city the population is spread out with 24.8% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 12.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females there are 93.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 90.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $35,316, and the median income for a family is $44,518. Males have a median income of $32,779 versus $25,587 for females. The per capita income for the city is $21,534. 14.1% of the population and 10.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 20.5% of those under the age of 18 and 8.3% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Tulsa is known for being one of few cities to rate a perfect 5.0 rating on the Stevenborg-Garcia Babe-o-meter, an index dealing with the attractiveness of a city's females.


Tulsa is home to a large variety of colleges and universities, including:

Oklahoma State University's nationally ranked College of Osteopathic Medicine and University of Tulsa's College of Law are also both located in Tulsa. Also nearby are campuses of Northeastern State University (Tahlequah, Broken Arrow, Muskogee), Rogers State University (Claremore, Bartlesville, Pryor), Oklahoma Wesleyan University (Bartlesville), Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Colllege (Miami), and RHEMA Bible Training Center (Broken Arrow).

Elementary education is offered by Tulsa Public Schools, Union Public Schools, Jenks Public Schools, Broken Arrow Public Schools, and Bixby Public Schools. In addition, there are multiple parochial elementary and middle schools in the Tulsa metropolitan area. There are nine public high schools in the Tulsa school district with many more in the suburbs. Among the most prominent private secondary schools are Bishop Kelley School, Cascia Hall Preparatory School and Holland Hall School.

The Tulsa City-County Library system is the largest in the state of Oklahoma, containing 1.7 million volumes in 25 library facilities, including one Central Library, four regional libraries, and the rest scattered about the city and many of its suburbs located inside Tulsa County.


Tulsa is often known as the city where the "South meets the West." With the city's interesting mix of Southern settlers, Northern oilmen, and Western ranchers and thanks to Tulsa's location in an area historically famous for Native Americans, the city and surrounding areas are home to many unique museums and atttractions:

  • Philbrook (http://www.philbrook.org/) Museum of Art
  • Gilcrease Museum (http://www.gilcrease.org)
  • Other Museums (http://www.tulsaweb.com/museum.htm)
  • The Tulsa Zoo (http://www.tulsaweb.com/museum.htm), which has recently been recognized as "America's Favorite Zoo" by Microsoft Game Studios as a promotion for their upcoming game, titled "Zoo Tycoon 2. [1] (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2004/nov04/11-24TulsaFaveZooPR.asp)
  • Bells (http://www.bellsfamilyfun.com/bells/) Amusement Park
  • Big Splash (http://www.bigsplashwaterpark.com/) Water Park

External links

Regions of Oklahoma
Cherokee Outlet - Little Dixie - Panhandle
Largest Cities

Oklahoma City - Tulsa

Lawton - Norman - Enid - Muskogee - Bartlesville - Stillwater - Shawnee - Owasso - Ponca City - Altus - Ardmore - Duncan - McAlester - Claremore - Miami - Tahlequah - Ada - Chickasha - El Reno - Durant - Okmulgee - Woodward - Guymon - Elk City


Adair - Alfalfa - Atoka - Beaver - Beckham - Blaine - Bryan - Caddo - Canadian - Carter - Cherokee - Choctaw - Cimarron - Cleveland - Coal - Comanche - Cotton - Craig - Creek - Custer - Delaware - Dewey - Ellis - Garfield - Garvin - Grady - Grant - Greer - Harmon - Harper - Haskell - Hughes - Jackson - Jefferson - Johnston - Kay - Kingfisher - Kiowa - Latimer - Le Flore - Lincoln - Logan - Love - Major - Marshall - Mayes - McClain - McCurtain - McIntosh - Murray - Muskogee - Noble -

  Results from FactBites:
Tulsa, Oklahoma - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (5776 words)
Tulsa was formerly part of Indian Territory, which was created as part of the relocation of Eastern tribes such as the Creeks, and also the Seminole, Cherokee, Quapaw, Seneca, and Shawnee tribes.
Tulsa is the main city in the part of Oklahoma known as "Green Country" due to the dense green vegetation in the area.
Tulsa is a heavily wooded city split by the Arkansas River, Tulsa has abundant parks and water areas including such local favorites as Woodward Park (where it is a local tradition to kiss one's sweetheart on the bridge), McClure Park, LaFortune Park, Florence Park and Chandler Park.
AllRefer.com - Tulsa, United States (U.S. Political Geography) - Encyclopedia (320 words)
Tulsa is the focal point of a major metropolitan area marked, since 1975, by a growing economy and population.
Tulsa is also a cultural and educational center with an opera, a large theater, art and history museums, the Univ. of Tulsa, Oral Roberts Univ., and an institute of American art and history.
Tulsa grew as a cattle-shipping village after the coming of the railroad in 1882 and boomed with the discovery of oil nearby in 1901.
  More results at FactBites »



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