Tulsa Theater: A look back through history

Tulsa Theater sign
Posted at 12:17 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 16:52:12-04

TULSA — Many know the Tulsa Theater for its great acoustics and a layout allowing every seat in the house to be a "great seat," but what about it's history?

Built in 1914, the historic theater, located on the corner of Boulder Avenue and Reconciliation Way in downtown Tulsa, originally, was designed to be a municipal auditorium and convention hall by the architectural firm Rose and Peterson of Kansas City, Kan., according to the theater's website.

People referred to it as the "Tulsa Theater."

Later, until 1952, it was known as the "Convention Hall." When the theater first opened, it was known as the "largest hall between Kansas City and Houston, Texas."

For a brief time, during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the National Guard used the building to detain black men, due to it's size and proximity to the Greenwood District, according to Wikipedia.

At one point, in 1930, the theater hired a world-renowned architect, Bruce Goff, to remodel the interior. He had 30 days to change the "barn-like interior into an elegant showplace."

The Art Deco style remodeling included draperies and seats, vertical wall panels of white plaster decorated with thin gold dividers, gilded air conditioning grilles, and acoustic ceiling tiles painted green, blue, white, and gold. Five massive green and white pendant light fixtures were installed centrally in the auditorium.
Tulsa Theater | Official website

From 1952 to 1979, the theater served as the "Tulsa Municipal Theater."

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, Peter Mayo purchased the building, renaming it the "Brady Theater." Locals gave it nicknames like, "The Miracle on Brady Street," Theater That Wouldn't Die," and "Old Lady On Brady."

In late 2018, the facility changed its name from the Brady Theater to the Tulsa Theater after the city of Tulsa voted to remove the name "Brady" from the street in Tulsa. The city voted to removed the name because of its namesake being a Tulsa businessman with roots in the KKK.

In 1921 it was known as Convention Hall and was used as a detention facility during the race massacre. It is very important to acknowledge this history and make a statement of support and healing to our community beyond the name change. We also plan to suspend a large Black Lives Matter banner from the building to demonstrate our allyship as Tulsa and the Black Lives Matter Tulsa Chapter celebrate Juneteenth.
Peter Mayo | Tulsa Theater owner

The new name is a return to the past for the theater. The old 1952 Tulsa Theater sign now hangs on the former Brady Theater building. Mayo placed the stainless steel "Tulsa" sign on the building on June 16, 2020.

The retro "Tulsa" sign now illuminates the building and the Arts District.

Nowadays, the Tulsa Theater showcases musicians, comedians and more behind it's doors.

Here are a list of some of the greats who have performed at the Tulsa Theater:

Don Henley, Louis Anderson, Chet Atkins, Burt Bacharach, Joe Bonamassa, Robin Williams, Tony Bennett, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Blood Sweat & Tears, Pat Boone, Sylvia, Glen Campbell, Steely Dan, The Cars, Dwight Yoakam, Roy Clark, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Rosemary Clooney, Phil Collins, David Allen Coe, John Conlee, Earl Thomas Conley, Alice Cooper, David Copperfield, Devo, Earth Wind & Fire, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Beck, Twenty One Pilots, John Fogerty, Kenny G, NF, Genesis, Al Green, Merle Haggard, Buddy Holly, Atlantic Starr, Tom Jones, Journey, Leon Russell, Kansas, B.B. King, Cyndi Lauper, Emmylou Harris, Motley Crue, Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent, Restless Heart, Chicago, Kenny Rogers, George M. Cohan, Will Rogers, Styx, Ed Sullivan, Survivor, Randy Travis, U2, Phil Vassar, Adam Ant, Leon Bridges, The Pretenders, and more.

For more information on the Tulsa Theater, click here.

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