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A Virtual Tour of Our Area: Far North and Turley

Here are the notes on the places we tour during our introductions of our service area to others, and ourselves. It is important for people who seek to partner with us, to get a glimpse of our sense of place, to see the big picture even as we do small acts of justice with great love. This is part of our vision, not a complete picture, because each of us here adds to our Vision, each person carries gifts for new partnerships and projects of renewal. It is good for all of us who live here to be able to see beyond our own part of the area too, to see the connectedness of our community, Turley and Far North together, as it is for us to see how we are connected with North Tulsa and it with other areas; we have much to learn, and to teach, one another. This Virtual Tour is a call to come be with us and we will tour with you, or come be with us as you can.

Far Northside Community Renewal Leadership Conference

The “Getting Worse and Better At The Same Time” Tour

Guide Notes

Ron Robinson, Executive Director, A Third Place Community Foundation

1.      The Welcome Table Community Center: Has been a community facility since a brush arbor built here in 1909 for what became known as Turley United Methodist Church. A wooden church building in 1910 was later moved to Sperry for a church there and is now a part of the funeral home there. This red brick complex was begun in 1925; in 1940 the north bldg. was added and in 1952 the south bldg was added. There is also an abandoned residence that was the parsonage. In the mid-60s TUMC moved west to Johnstown Ave. and the Witt Memorial Indian Methodist Church used the building. In the mid 1980s they merged with another Indian Methodist Church in Tulsa and the building was sold to Zion Baptist as church and child care center; in the early 2000s the pastor was shot and killed in a school parking lot; the building went into foreclosure and abandoned; they later set up the Zion Plaza on 46th St. A part time clothing ministry was in the building for a while but it was mostly empty and used by squatters; it was vandalized just before we purchased it at the end of December, 2010. The vision for use of the building will develop depending on the future of our other community projects and possibilities; currently used for food pantry (mobile food van days four to six times a year too) and legal aid counseling and pastoral listening, clothing room, crafts room, sewing circle, Turley Community Studio artspace, library, computer center, community meetings, office space, and storage; we plan to use the south building for a community room and a kitchen and may move many current projects into it and develop remaining space for arts and meditation and classes and offices.

2.      Nearby the Center: Dr. Martin’s clinic, he is a D.O. who used to have his clinic full time here, is mostly unused except for one morning a month to see existing patients who live in the area. To the south of the Center is a house that is currently unoccupied and for sale; we are trying to negotiate to buy it to complete our ownership of the block and use it as a house of hospitality for people who are coming to work with us, or for some new project of ours.

3.      Old Turley MainStreet Business District and Old Grocery Stores. The rock bldg. at Owasso Ave. and E. 60th Pl. N. is the old Hamiltons Grocery Store that was operational until the early 1960s. Around the corner from it was a limestone building that was one of the first and oldest buildings in Turley until it was gradually falling down and then cleared out last year after being used as a place for dumping trash; it had housed the original Cullison’s Grocery. Also in this area on E. 60th St. was Bussman’s Store, old hotel, hardware, post office, beauty shop, lumberyard, church. All vacant now. Note constant trash in street alongside Trail.

4.      Osage Prairie Trail, used to be Midland Valley Train that ran into the early 90s, now a bike and pedestrian trail from downtown Tulsa to Skiatook area; some beautiful land but also plagued with stray animal packs and lack of lighting; also not supposed to be used by motorized vehicles but little enforcement; we planted wildflowers at one point on the trail; our plan is to put up signs directing people to turley venues, to also have lemonade stands for cyclists, to hold a Trail Day where the communities and neighborhoods along the Trail host cyclists and others to promote the use of the Trail and advocate for its improvement. On again off again Walking Club to promote the trail and health. Note the burned out buildings along the trail here in Old Turley district, all within the past year and a half; only the church that was burned has been cleared so far.

5.      Welcome Table Community KitchenGardenPark and 40plus Fruit Tree Orchard Area: Miracle Among the Ruins project. A block of abandoned houses and trashed properties on top of scenic overlook hill, in midst of other abandoned and rundown or soon to be rundown houses and overgrown weedy properties (the kind that has been lately attracting arsonists). An example of effective three-legs of stool foundation for anti-poverty project: local grassroots effort, and supported by nonprofits (a third place community foundation, indian health care resources food for life grant, Tulsa community gardening association also, Tallgrass Resource and Conservation District grant support, National Fruit Tree planting association, Up With Trees, local churches and Texas church on mission trip) and by government (federal stimulous funds through county and INCOG for removal of abandoned properties, part of some 25 removed recently in the unincorporated Turley area; also support from OU Tulsa graduate social work, graduate design studio, OSU Extension) and by private companies (local Freedom Bank sponsored grant from Federal Home Loan Bank Program, and orchard grant and work support by Edy’s Fruit Bars). Waiting to find out if we won a Tom’s of Maine Grant for next phase of construction of KitchenShelterPavillion and rainwater collection system; also currently applying for federal ArtsSpace grant to turn it into a community art location. Hope to get new chickens to replace ones stolen; to build Stage and Deck, and complete veggie playhouse huts and garden art for kids, signage art, chainsaw art, new welcoming Table at entrance. Besides families in area having garden beds, we also have share beds, and produce healthy food for use in our Food Pantry. A bridge location serving both city of Tulsa and old Turley residents who share low income status and issue of abandoned houses; increasing multi-ethnic neighborhoods on both sides but still weighted African American on city side and White and American Indian on county side; growing Hispanic presence in both.

6.      Home-Made Trail, Native Prairie Land. Residents have made own trail to connect Suburban Hills edition to the west with the business district to the east, and used to use it for children to go to Cherokee School and back home; push shopping carts. No lighting. No sidewalks anywhere as you walk to grocery store and businesses and community center, etc. The land to the north of the trail by the cedar trees is a currently wonderful native plants area when not mowed; we would like to gain ownership of it to use as an educational area and rest area for those who use the home-made trail, and for an addition to the park usage; we began our demonstration community gardening in this site thanks to partnership with the Methodist church. Their building is a wonderful 1960s era structure; they partner with us on special Garden Days; they have space to be used for new outreach programs.

7.      61st St. and Frankfort; one side is city and one side of 61st is county; this is a constant illegal dump site; note recently burned abandoned house, one of several lately. Usually since the owners are not local and don’t carry insurance, the houses sit burned and as hazards for years. To the north loop: beautiful view of Turley Hill, the rural edge of proposed city of turley boundaries.

8.      Suburban Hills: City of Tulsa, 60s development was predominantly white during school segregation days. Blend of well kept properties alongside and running into abandoned houses. 58th St. sample.

9.      In The Lighthouse School Area: Correctional Facility, Turley Residential Center, pre-release private owned facility for women. Meeting space can be used by community. Interested in a garden on site. In past women have worked on litter clean up days. Small commercial strip uninviting appeal. Lighthouse Charter School, TPS sponsored, private arts-infused currently in first year here, K-4 adding one grade each year is the plan, in building that was Horace Greeley Elementary School that was closed this past summer. In our immediate Turley area now where there was Cherokee and Greeley, and before that Cherokee and Morse elementary, the public default elementary school is now Gilcrease Elementary which was originally a junior high. We had done the landscaping at Greeley and supported with monthly pizza lunches for student of the month celebrations; partnering now with The Lighthouse and looking for ways to deepen it. Somee 65 former Greeley students remained at The Lighthouse; interested in finding out the current zipcodes of current students.

10.  Northgate addition: Another late 60s developed addition, predominantly white during school segregation days. Notice where green space has been opened up with abandoned houses torn down; the prominence of abandoned houses still in some sections. Boulder Ave. and Elwood as examples.

11.  Vining Park, city park historically neglected and under-equipped and has recently begun improvements, and awarded recent community development block grants.

12.  Turley Hill 66th St., Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd becomes Cincinnati Ave. again at this point northward; encourage people to drive past on it around the hill, beautiful area but also illegal dump areas and animals dumped; a small rural housing along OakCliff Drive west of Cincinnati Ave. You can take 76th St. and wind back to Peoria Ave. or go to 86th St. and take direct street back to Peoria Ave. We will stay on 66th St. views of downtown, also of dumping. Back to Peoria Ave. Most houses in this area are on bigger lots or small acreages until you get back closer to Peoria. The hill is undeveloped, no utilities, have heard hard to get water wells, some have lived off the grid at very top; a quarry now uses the top of the hill for a dump. Local legend: The Turley Viking Runestone. At 66th and Peoria on north side is where the former Smith’s grocery store was located, and also the original site of National Bank of Turley which is now Freedom Bank with branch in Skiatook too, around the corner.

13.  Peoria 66th to 76th St. Corridor: local restaurant King Taco, great tamales, was site of historic drive-in burger joints in our area; where the bldg. is with Sheriff sale banner was a series of restaurants and was original Lions Club bldg. when that civic group was active. Currently Odd Fellows only civic group or lodge left and many of its members now live outside Turley; it is located on Quincy behind the Cullisons store area but we won’t go by it today; although they are partners and do monthly breakfasts and dinners.  Most businesses are automobile related and biggest is Salvage; some environmental complaints both for smell in past and also for pushing salvaged materials over into the trail area; at first when trail was put in they were also victims of thefts by people using the trails. Salvages often patrolled by sheriff’s working on catching copper thieves and others with stolen vehicles. Salvage also provides source of income for residents who get main income from scrapping, Will go past old Star CafĂ© abandoned building where Star Sign pole is out front; mix of residential homes along here too. The Daylight Donuts is popular remaining gathering spot for morning visits. We did a beautification on the corner of the donut store with beautiful flowers but a water project disrupted it; need to re-do it. We also had done a beautification project in a planter out front where King Taco is now; also need to re-do it with the new owners. And we had done a beautification project on the Turley sign across from Donut Store area but it was mowed over though sign improvement we did here and at other turley sign near 56th st. with small grant from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful. More can still be done on these.

14.  Golden Hills addition. 75th St. sample from Peoria to Victor. Note again the blend of well kept homes struggling alongside abandoned burned overgrown and trashed out properties some also occupied. As throughout our area, we also have mobile population, also high percentage of registered sex offenders who locate here because restrictions elsewhere prevent them especially now with the closing of Cherokee School. Along Victor back to 66th St. in Golden Hills you will pass the vacant land to the east of Victor where the Samuel Morse Elementary School was once, all pre-fab buildings, closed in 1965; was used as a dump site by TPS until this past year when original owners purchased it back for grazing. Also pass the Rodeo Grounds and the old Community Center building (round top roof falling in) and where oil pumpers are now used to be little league diamonds just north of the rodeo grounds, some evidence remains)

15.  66th to Lewis Ave. New business Crown Hill Funeral Home has gone in where Cornerstone Church was; a halfway house was proposed for that site but resident opposition defeated it; funeral home has been welcomed by community; they also own the Crown Hill cemetery, a historic African American cemetery located just east of Highway 75 on 66th St. To the south is city owned property for water and sewer (much of turley, east of Peoria, uses Tulsa Sewer; it buys water from Tulsa but has private nonprofit company that manages the water distribution); Creek subsidiary from Delaware and Bird Creek that cuts through Turley and ends up in new fishing lake by the trail off 56th st. At the intersection of 66th and Lewis, a busy one where people coming from Highway 75 come into our area, we have taken over its management because it was neglected overgrown and trash-strewn with periodic poisoning to kill grass; we are working to develop it with planting, paths for those crossing, and welcome sign).

16.  O’Brien Park and Recreation Center, Park Meadows Mobile Home Community. County park partner, the recreation center constructed in mid 1960s, hosts community meetings, classes, gym, walking trail, golf course, sports facility, recently rebirth of a north Tulsa youth baseball and softball program after years of not having one local so that the facilities were mostly used by people outside the community; this was facilitated by the removal of several shelters that served local residents in order to put in golf course, but now a few more shelters in the works. We support the citizens advisory board there and are also members of Oklahoma Recreation and Parks Society. A great resource but limited by access to many residents without convenient transportation. Has a pool but budget cutbacks threaten it; need to have one year-round for health of residents who take water aerobics etc but this year problems cut it back to just a few weeks use; often pattern of cutting back service then saying not enough usage to keep it open (same as in post office recently closed); we support the park with pool parties for local residents and this summer helped it to have biggest turnout for one event of any pools in county parks. Mobile Home Park needs tornado shelter; there is not one anywhere in our area; Obrien Center is an evacuation site now but it is not a shelter.

17.  GreenPark Tulsa, Vann Industrial, 61st St. An industrial park where tax incentives and property incentives are used to try to attract businesses to locating in our area; free land for certain number of employees, though most employees don’t come from our area but drive in and out to work from other locations, just as our residents to get jobs with companies have to get back and forth to them outside of our area. They are expanding by soon acquiring the old VFW building that recently closed and has been abandoned. Even after VFW closed property was used for Turkey Shoot events. Boyer Hill on Utica and about 59th, high point, scenic but also constant illegal dump site, especially bad on road going back to Vann and when trying to entice businesses to the GreenPark.

18.  56th St. to Highway 75 area. We will go along on the southside, or city of Tulsa side of the Street the Newsome Community Farms and North Tulsa Farmers Market and other sustainable projects, a partner of ours, two story green-colored house with hoop house and gardens and orchard and a compostable toilet demonstration built by Architects without borders. Near Highway 75 is the new city SkatePark. East of 75 is the new city Soccer Complex. Vision 2025 funding. At both 56th and 66th Street entrances and exits to Highway 75 we did roadside wildflower planting with the state transportation dept; they have since closed that program they did with the state native plant society and matching funds from us, but by not mowing they allow it to be naturally seeded and look nice. To the north on the county side is the Turley Trash Mountain, a landfill that has grown from nothing in the past 15 or so years to becoming one of the highest landmarks of the area; it is currently shut down for environmental reasons as it was polluting into Bird Creek. Has burned for months at stretches in the past. With its closing, for good reasons, also came increase in illegal dump activity. We have held Turley CleanUp Litter Pick Up days where we have worked on cleaning up illegal dump sites; need to again; also need way to constantly bring to attention of county highway dept because they are getting good at response for dumping of all kinds of materials one will find, including dead animal dumping. Notice there is no Turley sign on Highway 75 directing traffic to it from 56th and 66th St. as there is for Owasso and Sperry; on old Highway 75 there was one but it was removed and the state has refused to put one up for Turley now; took three years to get the small Turley designated green sign at 56th St. and Peoria.

19.  46th and Lewis corner of our service area. Quick Trip busy place. Go west to Victor turn north and go into Berry Park neighborhood where Monroe School and Penn School area also. Monroe was jr high then closed then used by both TPS for adult education and GED classes and testing and by Margaret Hudson program for educating unwed moms, and now is used by Pre-K to 1 dual immersion Hispanic and English classes plan to add a year each year and by middle school demonstration school, both current small enrollments; also community and parent outreach programs for the area housed there. Penn is elementary. Sarah’s Residential Living and 53rd St. stretch of abandoned houses. Sarah’s is innovative nonprofit taking abandoned houses and fixing them up to be used for small homes for seniors who do not need intensive care but watching and helping companions.

20.  Back to 46th St. and past the original St. Jude’s Catholic Church site and where Neighbor for Neighbor started, the Dan Allan Boulevard. West past old Suburban Acres Shopping Center that is now Zion Plaza with some child care and other uses also still much empty, pass Suburban Acres Library community asset and partner, past Louisa May Alcott school which was abandoned in 2011, past good burger joints, past the Dream Center operated by Victory Christian Church located on southside; many programs within it; we have some overlap with its service area. Carriage Trails addition: many abandoned houses, also will go by one resident’s house where nicely gardened and with an open space behind her where house was removed she has expanded beautification for community enjoyment.

21.  Chamberlain Recreation Center, addition. Notice difference in house and lot size and improvements from just across MLK Blvd where we came in Carriage Trails. Also as you get away from this area into Valley View more abandoned houses again. Take 53rd back to MLK Blvd. Across is Bunche Early Education Center which used to house Houston Elementary which was closed in 2011.

22.  56th St. Corridor to Peoria beginning with Gilcrease, now elementary school, a community school model year round school,especially noteworthy the new Tulsa Health Dept North Regional Wellness Center with a Primary Care Medical Clinic also from OSU-Tulsa, partnering with us. It has community kitchen, plans for community garden, classes, has clinics, offices. Empty church building caught up in dispute over community development block grants. Abandoned Post elementary School closed many years ago but was used until recently by YWCA and by Health Dept, now vacant again. New Greater Grace church, with its own school and community programs sponsored.

23.  The Far North Main Street Corridor and Vision. 46th to 66th North Peoria Ave. Go up to 46th and Peoria into space of Generation for Destiny (mostly unused, see same dispute over federal funds). By Walgreens, which recently purchased MedX which is closing as we will see in McLain Village. Between here and 66th St. on North Peoria is a corridor of businesses that once connected McLain High School and Cherokee School (elementary and junior high). Imagine it now with continuous redbud trees and planters as beautification to tie it together as one again, attractive to business serving the neighborhoods again, and walkable and bikeable small communities given the transportation problems with cars that residents face and with public transportation bus line to the full area, and with the proximity of the Prairie Trail bike path nearby). Signs marking this as a special neighbhood area ala Brady Heights etc, sculpture and entrance, better and consistent bus stops. And the development of a Far North Peoria Economic Development Association acting as a kind of chamber of commerce. Highlighted by McLain (now a 7-12 grade school and both struggling but with great success stories, and a new foundation and renewed alumni association support, with greenhouse and other programs underway and new statewide focus). Note abandonment of Northridge Shopping Center, where movie theater once was just north of McLain, and just a few shops and child care in it now, and also the demise of the McLain Village Shopping Center, with MedX soon to close; only shops are on southside, but include great carryout restaurant Heart and Soul. This project could help spur development and community pride as outlined also in PlanIt Tulsa project. Note stand alone abandoned commercial structures along this stretch; for years rundown abandoned Wilshire Bar and adjacent building were right across from McLain but finally got them torn down. Vacant church building where Northside Christian Church originally was and with sign out front we have been thinking of partnering to take over and beautify; At 56th and Peoria note old Bussman Corner house that is abandoned and overgrown and an entrance visible for the turley community; auto places across the street have improved some in not being too junky; Note recent burned building across from Cherokee School; we wonder how long it will be open to kids and others like that?; Ruby D’s great consignment shop; busy Turley Tag Agency, smaller businesses, formerly vacant businesses on east side (feed store and old fire dept building) have recently been auctioned and should see some use again soon. Water Dept. building. The used appliance business is community sorepoint as its junky appearance used to be on both sides of the Peoria but now just on one side; and when not open the junky front is more visible than when refrigerators block it, but often appliances spill over near Creek. Current Feed Store and Cullison’s as family owned independent hardware store one of community’s treasured assets and community supporters. Simple Simons pizza is only carryout but community supporter. Warehouse Market is biggest sales tax revenue potential, and spot where most people intersect. Gas station also 24 hour busy; across from it is another blight and hazard building that has been unsecured abandoned with glass and more for years; closed restaurant that was the local eating place; Shorty’s great burger joint with new spaces now in its new place for more sit-down eating. Laundramat and Funeral Business and a new business going in, a flower shop, where post office was located for about 30 plus years before it was shut down last year (mailboxes left but service is reduced to two sites either northside station on Apache fourplus miles away or Sperry same distance north). The corridor would end with the Bank on one side and the commercial center and Bobby Cooper’s sign shop residence on the other.

24.  The Turley Center Vision (where Cherokee School currently is) One of the anchors for this economic development and community renewal corridor would be to put into the community again the Cherokee School which was originally Turley Schools site from 1908, with high school built in 1920. In mid-30s the high school and independent district was closed and merged with Tulsa Schools; high school students went to Central and then later in 1959 to McLain; the junior high was closed in 1965; the elementary was closed in 2011. We have a chance to purchase it for very low price compared to its estimated appraised value, as a local community nonprofit venture only, and we would like to see it become a Far North one-stop shop for wide variety of non profit services, a Healthy Food Hub, a place for community meals daily for both over 60 and under 18 (none anymore in our area), for an inter-tribal Indian Event Center for pow-wows and programs indoors and outdoors, for a business incubator for food oriented small businesses like Mobile Healthy Food Trucks and caterers, and possible City of Turley City Hall if incorporation were to happen, a renewed Turley area historical society display as used to be in when it was a school, commemorating its history as a school. Many possibilities for sharing the building and properties include art studio space, office space for county depts like Sheriff's substation, and for adult education center with G.E.D. classes, job skills, life skills, and more, including such ventures as aquaponics or other "green ventures."


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