Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sanborn Maps

Blog reader Beverly wondered in a comment just exactly where South Carolina Avenue used to be (see previous blog entry).  After reading her comment I had a "doh!" moment and realized I could simply look on the Sanborn Maps and find the answer.

The Tulsa County Library website describes the Sanborn Maps as:
Sanborn Maps are large-scale plans of a city or town, drawn at a scale of 50 feet to an inch.  They were created to assist fire insurance companies as they assessed the risk associated with insuring a particular property. The maps list street blocks and building numbers in use at the time the map was made and previous numbers.

Oklahoma's maps are available for viewing (if you have a library card) here.   They are a wonderful resource for locating (among other things) streets that no longer exist.  So here is the map showing the street layout back in 1926.  I marked my grandparents' first home with a red star.  Click on the image to enlarge and have fun seeing how the streets in that area used to look.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Follow Up

While going through some of my Grandfather's papers for the prior blog post about him, two questions popped up that had me curious.  First of all, where was South Carolina Avenue- the first house my grandparents lived in?  The other question pertained to a found document that indicated something significant had occurred here in October of 1923.  A trip to Central Library's  was in order.

Knowing my grandmother arrived here in 1924 I pulled that years city directory and searched for the street definitions.  I learned that South Carolina Avenue had originally been named Dorothy Street and that it was located: "one block east of Cincinnati between 17th and 18th Streets".  First question answered.

Next up:
The document I found was this (click to enlarge):

So, I had to find out what in the heck was going on here October 1, 2 and 3 of 1923.  Grandpa had been on the job barely a year and was being deputized….?

The Answer
During the tumultuous short term of Oklahoma's 5th governor, Jack Walton tried to appease both parties which alienated both from him.  His problems went from bad to worse and KKK activity was increasing during this time- so much so that he placed both Okmulgee and Tulsa Counties under martial law with the additional penalty of suspension of habeas corpus- something strictly forbade by state constitution.   When an Oklahoma City grand jury prepared to investigate the governor’s office, Walton put the entire state under martial law on September 15, 1923 with “absolute martial law” applicable to the capital. Impeachment demands were rampant and legislative leaders responded with a call for special session. A petition was circulated, adopted and a public vote was planned for October 2, which would allow the legislature to assemble on its own motion.  Walton tried his best to stop the vote, claiming the day before, "There may be bloodshed, but there will be no election."   He ordered the entire National Guard, numbering about 5,000 men to mobilize and claimed to have 22,000 men to assist in keeping the polls closed. 

This in turn caused city officials to appoint Special Deputies to help the police keep peace.  At 7:00 pm the ballots and boxes were collected by officials along with the Special Deputy Sheriffs and delivered to the courthouse where they were tallied.  The Tulsa World reported that during this time Boulder was roped off between Fifth and Sixth Streets in front of the courthouse with police positioned on the sidewalks and the Special Deputy Sheriffs in front of all entrances to the courthouse.  Entrance was denied to those without official authority.  

In The End
On October 17 the legislature met in reply to the call of Speaker of the House, W. D. McBee. The house developed twenty-two charges against Walton and voted for impeachment. On October 23, Walton was suspended and Lieutenant Governor Martin E. Trapp became active governor. 

Source: The Tulsa World

Monday, April 4, 2011

My Tulsa Roots

I remember my grandfather, Bill Wooten, as being a quiet soft-spoken man with a wrinkled smile.  Born in Dardendale, AR in 1895,  he attended the University of Arkansas graduating with an engineering degree, then joined the Army in 1918, serving as a Lieutenant alongside (future Senator) Robert S. Kerr.  When he got out of the Army he taught high school mathematics for two years in Russellville and it was there that he met his future wife, Margaret Elizabeth.

Bill got word that the city of Tulsa was looking for someone to lead a field of surveyors and came to Tulsa to apply for the job, only to learn that there was no survey job available.  However he was qualified as an engineer and the city hired him as a statistician in 1922. Two years later he married Margaret and brought her here to Tulsa.  Their first home was at 1715 S. Carolina Ave.  

For the next  years my grandfather advanced to assistant sewer engineer, sewer engineer and assistant city engineer by 1927.  He was named to the city's top engineering post the first time in 1939.  But in between that time he and my grandmother had saved to start a family which included building their own home.  Their first child, my mother, was born in June of 1928 at St. John's Hospital.  Thankfully, my grandmother kept a well documented baby book that included lots of photos.  She has the hospital room they were in circled on this postcard:

She notes that work on their new house began just a month after my mother's birth in July of 1928.
Their new house was to be way out on 14th Place between Delaware and Columbia. 

In this photo an arrow is drawn showing approximately where their lot is.  

They visited in August while construction was going fast and furious:

And the house was finished in three short months by October of 1928.

By next spring (1929) flowers in the window box, a sidewalk and new construction going on:

This was the living room at Christmas, probably around 1937 or 38 (my mom and her 2 brothers):

Some time in the late 1980's there was a fire in this house; it was rebuilt as a two-story.  This is what it looks like today:

My Grandpa "survived" 18 different city commissioners/elections back before the Civil Service charter amendment banned the political patronage system in 1957.  However, it was because of the Civil Service regulations that he was forced to retire at age 70, which was still 5 years longer than usual- and that was because he was asked by the City Commission to stay on, which tells me a lot.
During his 44 years as a city employe, it was estimated that he had participated in construction of more than 75 percent of the city's public improvements including streets, sewage, bridges, airports, drainage and expressway programs.  He was honored by the City Commission in 1962 with a silver engraved platter and Mayor Maxwell read a resolution that was adopted, praising him for his work.  At that time only one employee had served longer than he had- by 3 months.  
I believe that working on the planning and designing of Tulsa's expressways was probably one of the most exciting times of his career.  
A couple of years ago I was giving a presentation at a luncheon to a group of retired city of Tulsa employees.  I was anxious to see if anyone there knew of or remembered my Grandpa.  I was thrilled when several of the men and women did know him and spoke very highly of him.  One of these people sat next to me during lunch and I described this book that I had come across on eBay:

I asked this former co-worker of grandpa's if he knew about this book; he smiled and said, "Why yes.  Your grandfather hired me to work on that book."  Compiled in 1959,  this  book details  each planned expressway for Tulsa, most of which have now been built.  I often wondered what he would have thought about the Gilcrease Expressway taking so long to finish. But then, he didn't live to see the Broken Arrow Expressway completed either.  He died 4 years after retirement in 1969.