Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Camelot Demolition In Near Future

A report tonight from Channel 8 indicated that the owners of the former Camelot Hotel (built 1965) were in talks with the City of Tulsa regarding a loan to safely demolish the asbestos-ridden castle. The plan is that once the structure has been removed, owners Maharishi Global Development can sell the prime property and repay the loan. The removal is expected to cost approx. $1 million and could begin as soon as this Summer.

It had been formerly announced that the Camelot was not in the planned path for the upcoming expansion of I-44, and would not be bought out like the rest of the properties being forced out.

Update: According to this KOTV story, The Tulsa Industrial Authority approved the agreement Wednesday (4/11/07) morning. The city will back the loan as long as the owner agrees to tear down the building. Demolition is expected to be completed by September.

Northland Center Revisited

Originally built as one of Tulsa's first malls, the open-air Northland Shopping Center has been renovated after many years of neglect. It has successfully been re-purposed as a office complex, dubbed Northland Center. Presently, the primary tenant is a community outreach center.

Although they've modernized the front facade of the buildings, the rear still looks much the same. Also, they left the wonderfully huge Northland Shopping Center sign standing tall on the hill behind the mall. I've been taken by the design of this sign since I first saw it. I was pleasantly surprised that they left the sign intact, although all the former neon has been gone for a long time. My imagination runs wild when I think of how it looked when it presided over a thriving new retail center in the '50s and '60s.

Click on either photo above to visit the former Northland Shopping Center's newest photoset. I first wrote about this mall in this early Lost Tulsa entry. Lots of people who remember growing up with this mall commented and clarified much of the history of the place. Pics from a previous Northland photoset shows it as it was before the renovation.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Eastland Mall Metamorphosis

There's been a lot of activity over at Eastland Mall with a $45 million (increased from $30m) renovation in full swing. The newly dubbed Eastgate Metroplex is off to a good start. The biggest news so far is the signing of Coca-Cola Enterprises, who will open customer support offices in the former JC Penney space on the West end of the mall. They will occupy 61,850 square feet and expect to employ ~300 people. Eastgate developers are also busy building out classrooms for a new childhood education center operated by the Community Action Project of Tulsa County.

The external facade is beginning to change as well. I have watched them carefully remove a former incinerator chimney that took over a week. I can only a assume there were some asbestos abatement issues, or that rebar-reinforced concrete was just really giving them a challenge. They have removed the "tents" over the main entrance and will be replacing the square-tube open framework with a more traditional (read: boring) stucco treatment. Since Eastgate is going to be primarily commercial, there will not be as much need for a huge main entrance. Most of the tenants will have their own main access. Staying for sure is Mickey's bowling center. The theater will probably return after the renovation. Dillard's is in discussion over their future there. Very much in limbo is the fate of the former food court, which is simply too large for the smaller scale retail planned for this mixed-use facility.

I found this very informative Tulsa World article the other day, after visiting Eastgate Metroplex with my son for one last attempt at taking some shots. When I saw the photo at the top of the article, I was stunned. I've been trying to figure out for some time what part of this mall I visited as a kid in the early '80s, when I snuck into a cavernous uncompleted mall. Now I realize that I once wandered around in what would eventually become the 150,000 sq. foot basement below the main level of Eastland Mall. This basement surprised even the developer, who was unaware of its existence. I love the mention of the "stairs to nowhere" in the article. I'm sure there's many things like that remain from the original construction started in the mid-'70s.

Even though I couldn't go underground, I took a final opportunity to wander this mall before things really start to change inside. I always loved the waterfall that dropped to the food court level. Now, it's beautifully abandoned, dry as a bone with hard water stains streaking the stone tiles...dead plants surrounding the area. See my Eastland Mall 3 photoset for one last view of this structure as an abandoned/dying retail center. At the rate they're going, this will all be cleaned up renovated and repurposed in another year.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Classic Peaches Pics!

Huge thanks to Lanette, who has posted some classic pics of her time at Peaches Records and Tapes ('79-'82). I really appreciate the time spent scanning in these great photos. They really give you a feel for what a "record store" used to be all about.

Guess The Eyesore

What we have here is a basic concrete water fountain. It's located on a pad that indicates that it was once surrounded by a huge covered patio. Identify this abandoned fountain's location. Bonus points for posting any history of this forgotten eyesore.

Ding, ding, ding!! We have a winner! After exercising their very impressive powers of observation, Flickr user thXtreme commented:

Ha! I saw this only last week while running some errands at lunch. I remember this because it looked so odd.

This is located near 51st and Memorial, to the West and on the South side of the street. It can be seen from the Office Depot parking lot (building directly to the West).

Here's the satellite image. I tried to center the fountain in the middle of the image, but it's sort of hard to make out.

This is exactly right. I spotted this eyesore when exiting the Office Depot a couple of weeks back. The fountain is located on a pad behind the Aaron Rents building next door. I remember picking up a dinette set from a furniture store located in this building in 1984, but I don't remember any type of access to the back. Does anybody know the story behind this? I may have to actually go inside and ask but I doubt any of the current employees would know.

Congratulation, thXtreme! Thanks for playing "Guess the Eyesore". Maybe next time we'll have fabulous prizes too.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Price Tower Designated Historic Landmark

From the Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Price Tower, a 19-story structure in Bartlesville designed by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was designated Wednesday by U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne as a National Historic Landmark.

The Price Tower was one of 12 sites in 10 states so designated on Wednesday. Fewer than 2,500 historic places in the United States bear the National Historic Landmark designation, the highest such recognition accorded by the federal government to historic properties, according to the Interior Department.

Two other buildings designed by Wright also were designated Wednesday as National Historic Landmarks — the Hollyhock House at the Aline Barnsdall Complex in Los Angeles and the Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pa.

Congratulations to a most deserving landmark. If you're ever in the Bartlesville area, make a point to do the Price Tower tour. It's a wonderfully unique look into mid-century architecture and F.L. Wright. The only drawback is their insistence that you not take photographs inside the building. I was only able to get these shots when I toured there last year.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Bell's Deconstructed

I've hesitated to comment on this for months, since it's had so much media exposure. But after visiting / taking pictures there this past week, I had to post it up. Besides...I realize LT has been dormant for too long and owe it to all of you to get something new online. Bell's Amusement Park is being forced out of it's location in mid-town Tulsa after 55 years of service. Only the Skyride will remain, as it has been sold to the County and will remain in operation during the State Fair. The owner, Robby Bell has until June 15th to have everything removed from the grounds.

This is particularly sad, since they had a better-than-ever Summer last year, after being closed for several weeks due to a extreme downdraft thunderstorm that demolished their antique ferris wheel and generally made a mess of things. They cleaned everything up and opened to record crowds for the remainder of the season. Also last Summer, they were finally cleared to add a modern steel roller coaster in the area of the miniature golf course, which had not been operational for several years. A new roller coaster had been protested by surrounding neighbors for years. Alas, their time was up and rather than renewing as expected, Tulsa County decided not to extend a new lease.

They are furiously busy at work, taking down all of the rides. Most of them, including the Zingo roller coaster will be put into storage until Mr. Bell can secure a suitable location to re-open. Sand Springs, Broken Arrow and Jenks have all expressed interest in having Bell's open in their towns. The Zingo (built 1968) is famous among wooden roller coaster lovers around the world. It's being numbered and disassembled piece by piece. What a painstaking process that must be! It's said that it will take 12 weeks to tear it down and 5 months to rebuild it. The log ride is similarly marked and is being slowly removed little by little. The areas farthest North, containing the Mind Meld, Himalaya and Phantasmagoria are all completely cleared now.

Check out the new Bell's Deconstructed photoset for some really depressing photos. Please help me identify some of the attractions that were located on the blank spots where they've already removed everything.

Here's some additional links (Thanks, Brewcaster!) related to the recently-demolished dark ride, Phantasmagoria:

Laff In The Dark - Photos and detailed history of the Phantasmagoria.

Secret Fun Spot - Flash animation honoring Phastasmagoria. Also visit their main site (Secret Fun Spot) for more info on Bell's as well as better photos of the destruction than I was able to take.