On the evening of Thursday, March 2, the Schusterman Library and the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture celebrated the opening of the exhibit “Old is New: #TransformingTulsa with the Oklahoma Historic Tax Credit.” The exhibition tells the story of the Oklahoma Historic Tax Credit by examining the renovation of the Mayo Hotel, a long-standing Tulsa institution that once played host to distinguished guests such as John F. Kennedy, Charles Lindbergh, Marilyn Monroe, Paul McCartney, Mickey Mantle, and many more. By 1981, however, the Mayo was in shambles: a vacant shadow of its former self destined for demolition. With the help of Tax Credit funds, however, the Mayo re-opened its doors in 2009, and is once again admired as one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Tulsa. By encouraging restoration of long-vacant buildings like the Mayo Hotel, Oklahoma Historic Tax Credits continue to transform Tulsa and shape our local culture.
The “Old is New” opening reception began with drinks (served by celebrity bartender Ted Reeds, AIA, co-founder of TFA!) and hors d'oeuvres to be enjoyed while browsing the exhibit. Attendees observed the exhibit through digital slideshows showcasing photographs of the Mayo Hotel in its original glory days, before and after pictures of the Hotel’s recent transformation, and highlights of celebrities who have stayed at the Mayo over the years. An interactive digital display also allowed attendees to learn about other building transformations in Tulsa made possible thanks to Historic Tax Credits. Artifacts from the Mayo Hotel were on display as well, including vintage postcards, stationery, matchbook covers, and an original elevator indicator light from the building.
Erica Argyropoulos, Exhibit Curator and TFA Archivist, kicked off the evening’s opening remarks with a brief introduction of the exhibit before passing the microphone to TFA Executive Director, Amanda DeCort. Ms. DeCort highlighted the incredible economic, cultural, and aesthetic benefits Historic Tax Credits have brought to Tulsa, before introducing guest speakers Joel Slaughter, co-owner of Phillips Slaughter Rose Inc., and John Snyder, owner of Brickhugger, LLC. Mr. Slaughter painted a vivid picture of the destruction and decay he discovered inside the Mayo Hotel during a structural study in 1995, while Mr. Snyder relayed his tale of purchasing the Mayo Hotel for a dollar and the accompanying parking lot for $250,000 in 2001. Together Slaughter and Snyder worked to renovate the Mayo Hotel in order to contribute to the revitalization of downtown Tulsa.
As the evening drew to a close, architects, citizens, and students engaged in lively conversation in the exhibit space, sharing their passion for Tulsa’s ability to transform.