I was contacted recently by Jim M. regarding the History Mystery post from last year- the one regarding the mysterious parking lot by the Harvard Apartments. The mystery of this lot still remains, but Jim shares some insights and memories from growing up near this area which are, as always, great to share. Enjoy (and thanks Jim).
I grew up in the neighborhood now called Florence Park South,
that is just West across Harvard from the area in question. Back in the
late '60's, the paved parking lot East of the Harvard Terrace
Apartments was a mixture of woods and brush to the north
with a grass field to the south.
A spur off of the MKT line ran on the east side of the covered
parking for the apartments and terminated on the Tulsa State Fairgrounds.
The railroad tracks must have already been in place when the
neighborhood was constructed as Marion, Oswego, and Oswego Place
follow the railroad alignment. Evidence of the tracks is still present
at the 23rd, 24th Place and 25th St. crossings. The spur must have been
put in place after the coal mines as the Coal Mine Map does not show
My older sister and her friends called the area Hobo Jungle, named for
the occasional transient they would see. Kids on foot and bikes
find the fastest paths through a neighborhood, without regard to roads.
Back-routes out of that part of the neighborhood to Madalene School,
Lanier Elementary, Warehouse Market (formerly at 21st and Harvard),
Jones Drug (now Empire Optical), or to the Quik Trip originally located
at 25th and Harvard would have been through Hobo Jungle.
By 1968, my buddies and I would ride our bikes over to the area. Kids
had made bike trails throughout the field and trees. There were lots
of bumps and jumps by the tracks. In the areas close to the houses
were long flats. Sting Ray style bikes did well. My single speed paper-
route cruiser, a Penny's "Foremost", was a challenge.
Realizing that our parents were reluctant to turn us loose in a place called
Hobo Jungle, we referred to the area as "The Bike Trails". Evidence of
hobos remained in the form of camp fire ashes, empty canned food
tins, discarded clothing, empty bottles of cheap alcohol, and the occasional
curious magazine featuring rather scantily clad women. I only have one
vague memory of actually seeing anyone camping there.
By mid summer, the grasses would be 5 ft tall. You could only see
the head of someone riding in the east part of the trail. Countless
hours were spent holding timed bike competitions, building grass forts,
launching military campaigns, and just hanging out. It was like being
in the country in the middle of town. There was absolutely no adult
supervision. Needless to say, for all of the above reasons, we loved
August would come, and the 5 ft grasses would dry out. One of
the adults living in a house that backed up to the field would start a
not-unfounded worry about a brush fire and brush-hog the whole
place and and ruin it all.
I have a very dim recollection of there being some sort of concrete
8'x8' platform in the center of the field. I also seem to remember that it
was always full of broken glass from the discarded bottles (think
"juvenile catharsis"). If this memory is true, then it would not be
unreasonable to suspect that the platform was a
somehow related to the former mine that was in the area. I have no
memory of ever seeing any kind of remaining evidence of manufacturing,
abandoned equipment, buildings, loading docks, etc. If you compare
the Coal Mine Map to a similarly scaled Google Map, you see that the
Lucinda Mine (13) has two entrances near the area in question.
As the Coal Mine Map looks to be a "general location" map, it would be
risky to conclude that one of the entrances is under the parking lot
with any level of certainty, but not unlikely.
I started driving in '73. The MKT spur was still active for a decade or
so after that as I remember having to wait on the BA westbound
once when they were moving railcars to/from the fairgrounds.
Looking at the maps, I observed something else of interest regarding
the creek that flows north/south. On the north end, the creek appears
to be in the same approximate location as the retention ponds located
between Pine/11th St/Yale/Sheridan. The southern most end of the
map shows the creek running through the same area as what is now
Mockingbird Lake. It appears as if the city essentially buried the
creek and replaced it with storm sewers that eventually end up flowing
into Joe Creek. There is a 6ft+ line that parallels the spur and I expect
that it runs to Mockingbird Lake.
In conclusion, the area that was once a mid-city secluded "wildspace"
has been paved over and turned into a parking lot that no one uses.
Seems like there could have been a better plan....