Tulsa’s Underworld…To Lunch

Posted by Tasha on February 22nd, 2010 in Uncategorized

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

Guess who’s here at TDT for a guest post? None other than Andrea Myers, that’s who. 

Andrea is a downtown PR pro by day and a semi-rural Claremore mom by night and weekends. Anytime someone wants to know more about the system of pedestrian tunnels that lies beneath the streets of downtown Tulsa, Andrea is never far away. Here she gives us a tour of the tunnels that run from her office to one of her favorite downtown lunch spots. Enjoy!

There’s a magical place in downtown Tulsa that regularly takes me from my office in the BOK Tower to various places in the central business district of downtown Tulsa. What is this mysterious tube of transport? Why, it’s the downtown tunnel, of course. Not familiar? Well, walk with me.

The tour starts here. My office.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

It’s on the 50th floor of the BOK Tower in the One Williams Center complex. If Boston Avenue went straight through, I’d be standing at about the corner of Boston and Second Street. If you look out my office window, you can see straight down Boston.

We’re headed to the Atlas Life Building today. See the red building on the left? That’s the Kennedy Building. And the tall building behind it? That’s the Mid-Continent Tower. The Atlas Life Building is behind that. And we’re going to take the tunnel all the way there.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

You see, in my free time, and on my way to lunch, I enjoy showing tunnel newbies through the labyrinth of underground hallways. It’s especially handy on these frigid and windy Tulsa days. Off to the Tulsa Press Club – my lunch and after-work place to hang – in the Atlas Life Building.

We start by heading to the lobby of my building. On the plaza level, there’s a convenient pedestrian walkway that goes over Second Street into the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Many Tulsans will remember this area as the former Williams Forum, a shopping mall and ice skating rink. Today, it’s offices for Williams.

While you’re in the Crowne (as us locals call it), grab a latte at the Starbucks or a quesadilla at the Daily Grill. Take the escalator in the hotel down to the ground floor. Look back up and you’ll see this.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

These are not the only gold escalators you’ll see on this tour.

Go into the parking garage like you own the place. The Crowne staff is nice and doesn’t seem to mind that wanderers like myself use it as a sidewalk. When you get in the parking garage, hang a right and you’ll see a mysterious set of glass doors. Ever wonder what’s in there when you park to see a show at the PAC?

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

Don’t be scared. Walk on in. You’re now under Third Street around the intersection of it and Boston.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

At this point, you’re in the 320 Building. It’s the original home of the National Bank of Tulsa, now fondly and cleverly referred to as Bank of Oklahoma. There’s still a bank branch there – a fancy one, I might add. It’s probably the prettiest bank in town. If you haven’t seen the lobby of the 320 Building, check it out next time you’re downtown. Here’s a picture of it in its glory days.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

This photo hangs along the tunnel route, by the way.

You’re now at street level in the building, so walk through, again, like you own the place. Like you know what you’re doing. Like you’re not just passing through but rather, there to do some important business.

You’ll wind around and come to an escalator. If you go up, you’re in that fancy bank branch I mentioned. Go down the stairs and you’re in the vault, and it’s pretty fancy, too. Note, I wanted to take a picture of the vault to demonstrate its coolness – looks just like a vault in a movie about a bank robbery – but I decided they might think I was planning a heist so I walked on by.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

Now you’re under Boston Avenue. This is probably the least attractive portion of our tour. Evidently, it’s tricky keeping ceiling tiles from getting wet down there.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

Mind the “caution” signs and just walk on past the trash cans collecting the dripping road water.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

The tunnel now winds under Fourth Street and connects to the Kennedy Building, which is located at the corner of Boston Ave. and Fourth Street. There’s a Midfirst Bank branch in the lobby. If you haven’t noticed, lots of banking can be done while you’re in the tunnel.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

There are other special finds in the tunnel, too. Like the office for the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture in the bottom of the Kennedy Building. They have some cool old stuff displayed in their windows that you can check out if you’re running early for a lunch meeting, which I might have done a time or two.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

Other random things along the tunnel path? Doors. With no signs. Which appear to not have been opened for decades. I particularly like this one.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

We’re now headed into the Mid-Continent Tower, my personal favorite when it comes to downtown buildings. Not only because I’ve officed there a few times on a few different floors, but also because my gym is there and after I workout in the mornings, I reward myself with a delicious, probably previously frozen sausage roll to cancel out the calories I just burned. I hear they also have fruit.

When you first get into this portion of the tunnel, you can see some really great, and really big pictures of old Tulsa.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

Once you go through those doors, stop and grab a haircut or get your shoes shined or just have a chat with Vicki. She rocks.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

Head up these escalators to the lobby of the Mid-Continent.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

If you haven’t been to the Mid-Continent Tower, now is the time. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s really beautiful.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

Say hello to the guards and walk through. Hang a left to walk through the elevator bank. Then, take another left. You’ll see this guy.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

And then you’ll see some more glass doors.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

We’ve almost reached our destination. The Atlas Life Building is currently under construction. It’s being renovated and will later this year be a Courtyard by Marriott. Because it’s a historic building, also on the Registry, much care is being taken to restore it to its previous glory.

Head on in and you’ll find one of my favorite places in downtown Tulsa.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

The Tulsa Press Club is located in the lobby of the building and nonmembers are always welcome to try it out. The new hotel’s lobby will be on the second floor. Speaking of the lobby, it’s not pretty right now. Lots of burly fellows are working, and dust is flying. But it’s temporary. So come on in to the Club and have lunch served from the fabulous Atlas Grill across the hall or grab a drink after work.

When you’re in the Club, maybe play the piano like the old timers used to. Here, I pretend to play while I make a fellow board member take my picture.

Tulsa's Tunnels with Andrea Myers

You used to be able to go all the way the Philtower Building while staying indoors, but with the Atlas Life construction that’s not possible. According to this history (which is a fascinating read) the tunnel used to go to the Philcade Building, which is across Fifth Street on Boston, but that portion of the tunnel is closed.

No matter where you go when the tunnel ends, at least you arrived there about half warm, and maybe just a little dusty.

Confused about how we got here? Lost Tulsa has a map. I’m not sure it makes it any clearer, though. Maybe hire a real tour guide to show you around.

Or, next time you’re downtown, give me a shout and we’ll walk to lunch.

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12 Comments to Tulsa’s Underworld…To Lunch

  1. Ed

    On February 22, 2010 at 4:02 am

    1

    Nice description! I take the tunnels from City Hall all the time. So convenient when the north wind is really whipping in the winter.

    Have you ever spent time in the Philcade lobby? Possibly the only lobby more ornate than the Mid-Continent Building. My personal fave…

  2. Anonymous

    On February 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    2

    Man, now all the weirdos will be down there. Keep these a secret!

  3. Tasha

    On February 22, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    3

    Something I like about the tunnels are the different sounds and smells one finds along the way. Sometimes it's the click-clack of ladies' shoes on a marble floor; other times it sounds like a cave, complete with echo and dripping water. In parts it smells like garage, in others like breakfast – there's nothing like working downtown and getting to walk through historic buildings that smell like bacon and biscuits first thing in the morning.

  4. Yogi♪♪♪

    On February 22, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    4

    Congratulations on your awards Tasha.

  5. Mom Mayhem says:

    On February 22, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    5

    Wow-Interesting! I've heard a little bit about the tunnels but never really been there -Really cool guest post :)

  6. Andrea

    On February 22, 2010 at 9:07 pm

    6

    Ed, I don't know that I've been in the Philcade, actually. The tunnel doesn't go to there and they don't have lunch, right? So yeah, I probably haven't been there. (Wait, is the former chocolate place turned sandwich place in that building?).

  7. Ed

    On February 22, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    7

    Yep! That was where Kokoa Kabana was located. And Dwelling Spaces' little satellite shop, too. Next time you go to Elote, cross the street and wander through the Philcade lobby for just a minute. You'll be stunned. And check out all the animals carved into the facade of the building, too!

  8. Anonymous

    On February 23, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    8

    Sweet! I had no idea those were down there…thanks for sharing!

  9. Anonymous

    On May 9, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    9

    I am linking this to the Wikipedia article on House of Night because in that best-selling series of Tulsa vampire novels, some of the meanest vampires use these tunnels a lot. (Usually using a fictitious extension north to the old train station.)

  10. Shane Turner

    On May 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    10

    I love the BOK Tower. I wish they would build an observation deck on it. I was just at Hyatt Regency a little over a week ago and just could not stop thinking how big it was. Experts claim that one of the Twin Towers was two times the size of the BOK Tower combined. I could not imagine.

  11. Cary

    On June 24, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    12

    I made a video of the tunnels. Feel free to view it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLRIlABLKfE&feature=plcp

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