The Whittier Square Historic District is Tulsa’s newest addition to the National Register of Historic Places, an honor administered through the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior. State historic preservation offices like the Oklahoma Historical Society, and certified local government entities like the Tulsa Preservation Commission, assist with nominations to the National Register.
Whittier Square joins seven other commercial districts, 14 residential districts and 55 buildings in Tulsa already listed on the National Register. Details about Tulsa places on the National Register are available at: http://www.tulsapreservationcommission.org/nationalregister/
“Whittier Square is an important piece of Tulsa’s history, with Route 66 passing right through the middle of the district,” said Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett. “It also was Tulsa’s first suburban shopping center dating back to the 1920s.”
Mayor Bartlett added: “The inclusion of Whittier Square on the National Register of Historic Places brings recognition and opportunities for economic development. The designation provides incentives for building owners who choose to restore their properties. It also makes this area an attraction for heritage tourism, especially for fans of Route 66.”
Whittier Square received this honorary designation in June through the efforts of Kendall-Whittier Main Street, the Whittier Square Improvement District, and the City of Tulsa Planning Department. Boundaries of the district are Lewis Avenue, Zunis Avenue, First Street and Interstate 244.
The historic district received more good news as the National Park Service also has announced the award of a Route 66 Corridor Preservation Grant to the Circle Cinema Theatre Façade Restoration project. The Circle Cinema Theatre Foundation will receive $23,261 and match the grant with an equal amount.
Kendall-Whittier Main Street is wasting no time to celebrate these developments, with its Red Hot Night in Kendall Whittier event scheduled July 14, at 7 p.m. This music and food festival will be at the old Fire Station No. 7, now the home of Howell & Vancuren Landscape Architecture, 601 S. Lewis Ave.
The Circle Cinema, located at 10 S. Lewis Ave. in Whittier Square, was built in 1928 on land east of Tulsa that would soon become Tulsa’s first suburban development. The original construction cost was $77,000, including a Robert Morton organ that would accompany vaudeville acts and silent movies. The Circle Cinema remained popular into the 1960s, when interstate construction brought decline to the area.
By the 1980s, the theater was in poor condition and condemned for demolition until it was purchased by the Circle Cinema Foundation in 2003 as part of a community development grant. As the only pre-1960s theater remaining in Tulsa, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The foundation has since undertaken extensive restoration work and reopened the theater. The grant project will complete façade restoration, including entry doors and ticket window.
The National Register of Historic Places is our country’s official list of buildings, districts, sites and structures that are significant to our past and worthy of preservation. The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program provides funding assistance in the form of cost-share grants, to support the preservation of the most significant and representative historic Route 66 buildings, structures, road segments, and cultural landscapes in the eight states through which the route passes. Assistance is also provided to support research, planning, oral history, and education outreach projects related to the preservation of Route 66.