Wednesday, May 5, 2010

History Mystery

I've been working on a little mystery and now I need your help! 

I was contacted by a resident of the Harvard Terrace Apartments (around 25th and Harvard)  who was wanting to know what the mysterious parking lot, hidden behind the apartments, was for.  She sent along this satellite image:
Here is a zoomed-in picture of it:


My first inclination was to drive by this site and see it for myself.  As I drove through the streets of these wonderful, quaint apartments I couldn't see much of anything.  Hidden indeed.  It wasn't until I drove back to the resident parking area of the west apartments that I could make out this strange lot covered in cement.  Barely.  Although I was there on a bright, sunny afternoon I didn't feel right about parking and getting out of my car to investigate.  I didn't want to scare any residents living there by having a stranger in their parking area get out (with a camera no less).  So, I drove around to 25th Street and came upon an entrance that was gated shut. Without a doubt, it leads back to this lot, but I was not going to leave my car and traipse back there alone.  Again: just didn't feel right.  I drove in a semi-circle around the neighborhood and, while I'm sure those whose house backs up to this lot can see it, there is no other view of it anywhere else. 

The A marks the lot.  You can see the road I was talking about, that leads to it from 25th.  This was also the exact line where railroad tracks used to be.  It used to veer off of where they are now, in the middle of the expressway, and head north right on that route.  

The first resource I used was the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps that are available on the Library's website (you just need to have your card number to use it).  

It took me quite a while to figure out the maps and find what I was looking for (but this is the stuff I love doing).  The area I wanted was on 2 maps- 414 and 415 so I spliced what I wanted together to get this:



And, while the apartments and streets (and RR) are on here, there is nothing on the other side of the RR where the lot is.  And I could find no other maps that continued on from that direction.  If someone does know of one, please let me know.

My next stop was the downtown library to my favorite place: the 4th Floor Resource/Research area.  The librarian on duty was as intrigued as I was to try and figure this one out.  First she pulled up the information from the County Assessor's office and we learned who owns the property.  It also shows that this has been a parking lot since 1988.  And that's about it, other than tax information.  OK so at least I now know who owns it.  Using some other maps that she pulled from storage we learned that an oil well was once dug on this property (a long time ago).  I did a little digging around on Doctors Hospital, using their vertical file and confirmed what someone had suggested (but wasn't sure)- that this whole area used to be coal mines.   Newspaper articles tell about the mines when construction began on the hospital.  Interesting stuff! but not the answer I am looking for.

I pulled up the zoning information from INCOG's website.  No help.

The next day I visited the Land Records Dept. in the County Clerk's Office.  They had no useable information either.  Attempts have been made to call the owner, but no answer.

So now I am turning to you.  Do you know what this cemented lot was for?

19 comments:

GreenEyes said...

This is such an interesting question. Do you know if that is really where the MKT line ends? That seems like an odd location for the end of the line. If it was really the end then I would think the additional space is related to the railroad. It also could be an industrial spur if the main line continues in a different direction.

I hope you can figure it out. I know I'm not the only one who's dying to know the answer.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

This is really intriguing. I'm also guessing that it was associated with the railroad since it adjoins the old right of way.
It would be cool to look at successively older topographic maps until one is found that predates the subdivisions and apartments.
I'd love to go back there a take a look but I'm afraid that it would spook the residents who back up to it.
I've learned through my geocaching to avoid situations where you might end explaining what you are doing, especially to police or security guards. That is never very comfortable.

Tulsa Gentleman said...

I have no idea what it is but won't let that keep me from commenting. My guess would be that it is the footprint of a building or facility associated with the railway which is long gone.

charlestace said...

It was not the "end" of the main line. It was a branch that veered off the main track to serve local industry. Find out which businesses were once located there and you will find the purpose of that branch.

charlestace said...

The main M-K-T line, BTW, is the same line which still runs down the middle of the Broken Arrow Expressway. It goes downtown to the west, and to Muskogee on the east, via Broken Arrow and Coweta.

THE RUNNER CHICK said...

I would assume it had something to do with the railroad - but now I am not so sure - knowing that there use to be an oil well there. Had a friend who lived in those apartments during college and I always wondered what that lot was about.

Fiend said...

I havent been able to find anything on it yet, but it could still be owned by the railroad. Also, its located above abandoned coal mines. I bet those tracks were specifically used to transport coal.

Jill of All Trades said...

Very interesting discussion...will pass this off to The Hubby and see if he knows anything as I grew up in BA but he is a lifelong Tulsan and knows stuff that amazes me sometimes. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting, Tulsa Gal!! I am the one who initially posed the mystery and have some more information that answers some of your questions only to leave more. I have gone back into the parking lot, twice. The railroad, although shown on the old maps, does not have a current footprint there. There are no tracks anywhere on the property, and there is no place where the parking lot connects to any open area where tracks could have been since it was paved. The apartments and the surrounding houses completely encompass it. Some of the houses even have gates that lead to the parking lot and one family has a basketball hoop there. (I can't imagine that this was the purpose of the lot.) Also I walked around the entire parking lot to look for a foundation for a potential building. But almost the entirety of the space was marked for parking. There are also three elevated areas (like medians?) that have what looks like some electrical stuff run to them that has manholes that have been painted within the last five years. Also what looks like a road, in the picture, is also part of the parking lot, with additional parking running up either side.

Nate said...

I am interested in what you find out. I lived in Harvard Terrace during my college days and never noticed the lot at all.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I think this parking lot was used to off-load railroad cars. It probably originally was not concrete, but gravel. It may have been where the coal from the coal mines was loaded into cars. There was a mine under Drs. Hospital area, and one further to the North on the fairgrounds and at the corner of what is now 15th and Yale. That is why the railroad went beyond the point you are researching. In later years, the railroad transported oil fields equipment to the International Petroleum Exhibition on the fairgrounds.

Bill said...

The lot was a lumberyard in the 70’s. There was a traffic light on the expressway. When the train was going in and out of the yard, traffic would come to a complete stop. It was an odd sight.

Chip said...

This is almost exactly over the site of the entrance to the old Hickory underground coal mine as shown on a 1915 map of the area. I wouldn't be surprised if the lot had something to do with coal transport.

Chip

Will Shelton said...

It seems as though (if memory serves me) that the rail line running down the middle between the lanes spurred off and went that direction. It would've been 30 years ago at least. If you zoom in closely on Google Maps, you can sort-of see ground disturbances (most likely coincidence this many years later), but then if you zoom out...you can follow the treeline of sorts all the way to the Expo center. This would make sense, especially if there was a need for a rail line to load coal from the mines in the area.

Anonymous said...

I was born in 1969 and lived in that neighborhood my whole life and still do! As kids we roamed the streets and played back there, it was the staff parking lot for Doctors Hospital at one point but did have abandoned railway cars that we used to play on and in! This was in the mid 70's and has been a basically an empty lot there as long as I can remember!

Anonymous said...

One resource to check would be the Creek Nation's claim for loss of title to "railroad reservations" (station grounds, water towers, coal yards, "Y"s, etc.

TU has the documentation in their Indian Claims Commission collection. Those maps were very detailed.

Anonymous said...

bert

Anonymous said...

I currently live at Harvard Terrace and I can tell you the city uses it on occasion for parking vehicles, many times diring the winter months. I assumed it was there originally for the railroad but later was just used for this purpose. Of course that's only a guess