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Take A Virtual Tour Guide To Turley/McLain Area History, Current Issues, Seeding Future Renewal

Turley and McLain Area Far North Tulsa Tour GuideBook 2014
Sponsored by A Third Place Community Foundation
This tour covers much of our two mile service area and is part of old Turley area, now both city of Tulsa and unincorporated areas. We call it McLain/Turley area or as the planners do, Far North.
1.   Turley/Cherokee School Begin Tour

Note: Some of the oldest places connected to Turley won’t be on this tour due to their relative remoteness: some of the early business and residences by Bird Creek and Bird Creek Falls, which was a kind of park and resort and camping area, on 86th St. west before you come to Highway 75. Tornadoes on that road also known as Cyclone Road shifted the focus of the town to the new area near the train tracks. On 76th St. west of Peoria in areas of trees now at the flat land at bottom of Turley Hill was an early trading post site after the Cherokee Removal in the 1830s. Also along Delaware Creek east of Victor Ave. in late 1800s was another trading post. And on the south side of Turley Hill is the Turley Runestone markings.

Much has been left out we know; we trust that the “Turley elders” will fill in gaps, bring their own stories of what used to be where.

Turley School district from around the time of statehood; boundaries went south up to Apache toward downtown; Turley Schools closed and the area merged with Tulsa Schools in mid-1930s; at that time the high school closed and students went to Central; junior high and below stayed at Cherokee which was the name picked by students in a vote between Cherokee and Wiley Post (Post later became the name of the nearest other elementary school, on 54th St. west of Peoria). The junior high remained until 1966 and it closed and students went to Monroe or Gilcrease Junior Highs. At that time Morse Elementary School in Turley north of Cherokee on Victor Ave. also was closed and students came to Cherokee. At some point after that the sixth grade was shifted to Gilcrease and Cherokee became PK-5 until it was closed in 2011.
Since it closed we have been working to attract other nonprofits to come in and help us provide a center for healthy living as the school system has indicated a willingness to sell it to us way below market value, but we have been unable to attract others. Right now The Lighthouse Academy, a Tulsa Public School charter school in the former Greeley Elementary School at 63rd St. N. and MLK Jr. Blvd is considering expanding as it grows and might use Cherokee for its mid-high and high school grades and has begun talks with TPS on that. When we held community forums after the closing of Cherokee, residents said bringing in a charter school would be their top preference other than reopening Cherokee. We have talked with Lighthouse about re-installing the local historical display in the school building if they get to use it; this might also make it much easier to resume the Cherokee School Reunions.
In meantime, we still have some landscape beautifying the grounds, a remnant of our landscape project for Cherokee; we decorate the Memorial Arch and the Evergreen Tree by it for Christmas or Other Holiday Seasons.

2.    Old Downtown Area
Immediately adjacent on all sides of the School property were located a mixture of homes and businesses. Appliance and general stores, gas station and domino parlor, pharmacies, doctors offices, and the Grotto Movie Theater, and more. Along 60th St. (old Commerical Street) from Peoria/Highway 11 to the Midland Valley train tracks (where depot was located) was the old downtown; stores, hotel, lumber yard, the post office, churches, grocery stores, and residences and more. The train was passenger then freight and then was changed to the current Osage Prairie Trail connecting downtown Tulsa north out to Avant. We are currently working with Tulsa cyclist organizations and area transportation planners to have a Trail Appreciation and Awareness Day to provide hospitality to those who use it and to raise up the issues of security and safety along it. We also hope to get a grant or county funds to allow us to create community kiosks at Trail intersections to provide “Where You Are” type information on the surrounding areas, sites, and businesses. The vacant land where the old downtown buildings were would make a good “pop-up” street event site to show potential investors. Beautification efforts along the Trail could be reinstituted by our “guerilla gardeners.”

3.   Drive North Peoria from Cherokee to the Daylight Donuts Store at 74th by the north Welcome to Turley Sign then turn and drive south to 46th St. to Generation of Destiny Parking Lot.

The Stretch between 46th and 66th St. along North Peoria (where the city bus service ends) has been envisioned by us as a Far North Main Street Project since it is almost entirely commercial and educational now. Imagine a Sign at Both Ends signaling Far North Main Street, with redbuds and planters and sidewalks and street lights providing beauty and safe transportation and incentives for private and public investment, and with it monies for current businesses to be a part of the beautification and promotion.  Notice the current lack of sidewalks in many places that especially in wet weather forces some people especially in motorized scooters into Peoria Ave. You just have to come back at night to see the effects of few street lights.

To the north from Cherokee: Highlights on the east side include the old Britton Feed Store and where Dutch’s Pawn Shop is now the former Turley Volunteer Fire Dept. building erected in 1949. The old Cullison’s grocery store now used for storage; the current Cullison’s Hardware Store, our oldest continually operating business, family owned independent hardware store where John Miller’s Truck Equipment used to be; the Assembly of God church site; a vacant building just north of it was the Wynn’s Grocery Store and was our first site for The Welcome Table church which began the A Third Place Community Foundation and projects; the 24 hour Maverick gas station which used to be Gibble Gas; the former Smokey’s Hondas buildings, current Shorty’s Restaurant; where the Freedom Bank (formerly the First National Bank of Turley) is located was the site of a sawmill and had been the flower sanctuary planted by local gardener Claud Cox. The intersection of 66th and Peoria on the east where the meridians are used to have a large billboard advertising Coors Beer. On north on the east side were residences, and a few businesses such as where Butler’s BBQ is now located where the original Lions Club building was (lions still on the roof; and the flag pole is dedicated to Lions leader Ray Perkins who was a Turley business owner) and the Star Café where you can still see the Star sign saying Eat (we would love to get it and the old funeral home sign for a Turley Historical Section at our GardenPark and Orchard) and where the donut store is was also a bar, and then convenience store. Just off Peoria on 71st is the First Baptist of Turley (formerly Golden Hills Baptist).

Going back south on Peoria on the west side: where the auto salvages now are located was the former Rainbow Skating Rink, and a large Tomato farm and residence. Nearer to 66th St. is where the old drive in joint was located, Blackburn’s, Red’s, Sonic, Shorty’s, then King Taco Palace. On the northwest corner was the Smith’s Grocery Store and original bank site, then a bookbinder, and then the building burned and later was demolished. Going on south across from current bank area was a laundramat (an older one in a building now torn down), in the strip mall now abandoned was a western wear store, and video store, and then church, and after several years empty was the site of our first Third Place Community Center and OU Health Clinic; it was a funeral home and flower shop after us before they left; also it is where the Post Office was located before it was closed. Near it was a Chiropractic Center and Church. We are still interested in applying to bring in a Village Post Office, a partnership between a local business and organization and the USPS; drop boxes remain at the postal site but no services otherwise…The abandoned Turley Restaurant is site of long time restaurants and gathering place; there were mobile homes located behind it that had been abandoned but they have been removed…The current fire department building is next. We are working with the Fire Dept. to create a public Fire District Board to allow property taxes to fund the department instead of the unpredictability of membership dues, especially as the community becomes more mobile; the election for that would be the first official Turley only election of any kind since perhaps the election of the old school board. To the south of it is an old body shop that has deteriorated and until recently was open for several years with dangerous glass shards; it is one of the main sites we have been pushing to get cleaned up as part of the Health Dept. Environmental Quality division’s Turley Project on property nuisances….Warehouse Market and area was a pasture for many years; across the creek where the used appliance outside store is now used to be Sawyer’s Pharmacy; we have been pushing for its cleanup; when the appliances are removed each night and on Sunday the area in front is full of junk. To the south before you reach the Turley Water Dept. is the hair salon and also used by Nation of Islam study group on Sundays and some evenings. The Turley Water Dept. is one of our oldest organizations; a private nonprofit that buys water from City of Tulsa and administers the lines in this area; all sewer line service is with the City of Tulsa even in the county areas; other areas use septic systems.
South of the old downtown going up the hill on Peoria: Ruby D’s wonderful consignment shop, the turley tag agency, other shops, automotive repair places you will see dominating now all up and down Peoria along this two mile stretch (reflects poverty areas, and the effect of poor public transportation). Near the top of the hill on the west was the site of the old Ninde Funeral Home; the clock sign from it is still located next to old firework stands; we would love to get the sign for a Turley Historical Section at the park, along with the Eat Sign at the old Star Café. On the east side of the hill was Bussman’s Corner, and residences. It is where the renovation is going on for the Welcome To Turley Sign and our planting bed for it thanks to grant from Keep Oklahoma Beautiful.

Off of Peoria not on the tour: two blocks east on Quincy is the Turley Odd Fellows Lodge, our remaining civic lodge.

Crossing over  to city side of Peoria: on the east where old pawn shop was the site of an early department store, Suttle’s Variety. The Kingdom church building was originally Northside Christian (disciples of Christ). The Plaza Center is the former McLain Village Shopping Center that was full of many department stores and specialty shops; finally under new ownership after years of abandonment it is being fixed up and put into more use and has much potential; it is the site also of one of the weekly Mobile Grocery stops; Sweet Lisa’s has a carryout restaurant; it is the site of our only liquor store. To the north and west of it is the former Wiley Post School which was then the YWCA and Tulsa Health Dept. building and now is the site of a youth activities and educational outreach center EduRec sponsored by World Won Church on 36th St. near N. Peoria….In the residential area to the east, on 53rd St. before you get to Utica is the site of one of our partners, Sarah’s Residential Living Center, a small intimate group home for seniors; they are hoping to repurpose some of the many abandoned houses on that street (I believe 13 just from Peoria to Utica on the one street alone) for group home support. To the north of McLain is the Northridge Shopping Center that once was full and had a twin cinema. Across from McLain are several businesses; there used to be a series of cafes often frequented by students, and the McLain Music Shop, and a recently torn down abandoned Wilshire Bar that was open for years. There was also for a while a place where trampolines were stretched over holes dug in the ground and kids paid to jump….To the south of McLain on the east side was the longtime Meeks Furniture Store and at the corner on 46th St. there was a grocery store where the abandoned Generation of Destiny building is now located. Just around on 46th St. to the east was the site of St. Jude’s Catholic Church where the radical priest Father Dan Allen began Neighbor For Neighbor northside renewal organization, one of our role models, currently located on 36th Street in the old Northland Shopping Center.

McLain High School was opened in 1959 serving far north Tulsa. For a while in the late 90s early 2000s it was called Tulsa School of Science and Technology. The mascot was changed from Scots to Titans. About 10 years ago or so it was renamed McLain but the mascot remained Titans. At homecoming you will see many wearing both Scots and Titans. We are on and helped start the McLain Alumni and Community Foundation a few years ago. We help with a variety of connections and support areas, helped get uniforms, helped get the McLain Greenhouse, work on homecoming which will be Friday Oct. 10 this year, and the Annual Taste of North Tulsa major free dinner from local restaurants and community fair this year Thurs. Oct. 16, and have helped send students on flights with American Airlines partners to learn about aviation careers, and help out in many briefer ways and are a conduit for people seeking to support the school financially; McLain was the last high school in the district to begin a community and alumni foundation. It began as a 9th grade to 12th grade,then went to 7th grade to 12th grade for one year and then the 7th grade got its own building (see next tour section) and it is now 8th to 12th grade. East of McLain is Northridge Addition and Berry Park and Pool; Berry used to have ball diamond; across from it was a YMCA; on 48th east of Berry Park is Monroe School. It was originally 7th to 9th grade then closed; then used as both site for Margaret Hudson School for pregnant unwed girls and women and the Tulsa Schools Adult Education Program with classes for the GED test (all now moved away or shut down); now it is the site of two programs: a PK up adding a grade each year Spanish and English dual immersion school where all classes are taught in both languages, and a 6th to 8th grade Demonstration school using different teaching methods and space arrangements. East of Monroe is Penn Elementary School, one of the two remaining traditional public elementary schools serving our area (where there used to be eight Cherokee, Morse, Greeley, Houston, Alcott, Penn, Post, Lindsey).At the corner of 46th and Lewis is a major spot in our area, the 24 hour Quick Trip store.

4.   west on 46th St. to MLK Blvd.
On the south side before the Trail was where the Bud’s A&W Stand was; also on the south side is the Zion Plaza that used to be Suburban Acres Shopping Center full of department and variety stores. On the north is the Suburban Acres Library. West of it is the former Alcott Elementary School closed in 2011 and reopened later as McLain 7th Grade Center. To the north is the Valley View subdivision, and Chamberlain Recreation Center (recently threatened with loss of staff; site of many old Teen Dances and basketball leagues) and pool and Dickinson Park; Valley View also had its own private neighborhood swimming pool that for many years was fenced and overgrown. At the corner of 46th or Dan Allen Blvd. and MLK Jr. Blvd is one of the remaining old burger stands The Freeze, used to be Tastee Freeze.

5.   north to 56th St. Stop at new Health Dept.  
To the west between MLK Blvd. (old Cincinnati Ave.; still Cincinnati Ave. south of Archer) and the Osage County Drive/Line is Carriage Hills addition. The former Houston Elementary School is now Bunche Early Childhood Development Center, early and PK and Kindegarden. Gilcrease School is now First Grade to Sixth Grade and is the traditional school that receives all the students from the former Cherokee, Morse, Greeley, Post school areas….The  new Health Dept North Regional Wellness Center diagonal from Gilcrease and across from the abandoned for several years now half built church building is a multi million dollar public investment on the unincorporated side in the county serving all of northside. It is one of our major partners. For the community it has a community play area, and community garden, and walking trail that was built back as it existed on its own on the site before the building. Inside it has many programs for health needs and a Community Multi Purpose Rooms for meetings and events. It also houses the OSU Physicians Clinic. On Sat. Oct. 11 from 12 to 3 pm there will be the major annual community event, FoodGloriousFood with booths and fun events and this year art cars and more stressing healthy food and living resources. We are a part of the Community Advisory Board for the Health Dept. and Rev. Ron was privileged to be asked to give the benediction at the opening of the building in 2012, a year after our OU Health Clinic closed…If we were to go back east on 56th Street you would see the City of Tulsa Fire Dept. and the entrance to Suburban Hills addition, inside the city limits north to 61st St.; and the convenience store called Turley Food Mart on the south side of the street. By the intersection of 56th and the Osage Prairie Trail there is a fishing lake created by flood management of the creek that runs from Delaware Creek past Cherokee School and our community center and to the lake.
6.   Drive to 66th St.
Note on your right at 61st St. the Turley Residential Center which used to be called the Turley Correctional Center; it is a private correctional facility contracted to the state dept. of corrections as a women’s only pre-release center. It has facilities the community can book to use such as meeting space. Its creation back in the 1980s sparked the creation of the Turley Community Association opposing its opening and the drive that never materialized for Turley incorporation. Across from it is a run down abandoned off and on small commercial area where convenience store was. On the west is the entrance to the Northgate Addition and city of Tulsa property, and on the corner is the former Greeley School now The Lighthouse Academy Charter School, a public charter school sponsored by TPS; when it opened when Greeley was closed, 75 percent of the students at Greeley remained in it. It currently has 377 students from PK to sixth grade, and is adding a grade each year; it has 344 students on a waiting list; it has an arts-focused curriculum, and receives private corporation support as well as it is part of a national organization. North of Lighthouse is the City’s Vining Park.

In Northgate Addition, in the Suburban Hills addition east of MLK Jr. Blvd and north of 56th St, also in the city, and in a few other housing additions in our service area there are 34 scattered housing sites owned by the Community Action Program in Tulsa (14 being rented; 20 sitting vacant); we are hoping this year to buy those from them to be able to manage and put back into use in a variety of ways, and are awaiting IRS rulings on the possibilities. It would become one of our next major community renewal projects for the Foundation.

7.   east to Lewis Ave. with a detour on North Victor to roundup club and old community center
We go up into Turley Hill on the south side (this is both a scenic area and popular illegal dumping site at times). On top of the hill has become a concrete and construction dump site; to the west are acreages and several nice homes on OakCliff Drive. Up on the hill near where the runestone is located (in an area you have to walk through woods to get to) was once a bar that is now in ruins. There is no water utility service to the hill. East of Peoria on the south side are businesses churches and residences and where the former Steve’s Burgers and gas station were located in the rundown burned out building there for years now.
On Victor north of 66th St. we come to the Turley Round Up Club Rodeo Grounds where rodeos are held several times during the year. Next to it is a dilapidated building that used to be the Turley Community Center. Up to about ten years ago it was still used off and on for dances then was condemned and closed. The Roundup Club has announced it is hoping to raise funds to tear down and build a new community center on the site. Just north of it on vacant land where an oil pumper now operates were little league ball fields…back on 66th St. on the north side east of Victor is the Chapel Hill Funeral Home where the former private church school and church Cornerstone was located; another prerelease center was trying to come into that space but after resident protests was denied; the funeral home also owns the Chapel Hill cemetery, predominantly African American historical cemetery on 66th St. just east of Highway 75 and across from the site of the former Tulsa Speedway….On Highway 75 itself at both the 66th and 56th St. exits we had a matching grant (cost us $500) to put in Roadside Wildflowers to beautify the entrances to our community from the highway, but the state highway department messed up the planting and then stopped the program called Color Oklahoma right after that, and though the signs remain and though we have tried to continue to “seed bomb” the area, the mowing practices work against the roadside beauty.
We turn, however, at the corner of 66th and N. Lewis is an intersection with a lot of traffic coming in and out of the community, and two large medians that for years were neglected, overgrown, trash strewn and then mowed and poisoned; we have taken them over unofficially and have maintained and begun planting and have the vision working toward of a beautiful low maintenance native plant wildflower plots and a nice low welcome to turley sign. There used to also be a bus stop at the location but it has been eliminated.
8.    South to O’Brien Park.
Formerly Northside Park, a county governmental agency, it is now split between activities used by local area residents such as few remaining shelters, the recreation center and community pool and outside walking tour and fitness facility. Most of the Turley Community Association meetings are held in the Center. We partner with the park to promote activities such as the recent well attended Puppy Palooza to help promote animal welfare, and the Easter Egg events and fall festivities and summer day camp. The Center is home to a local wheelchair basketball team. Many of its ball field facilities are used by groups from outside the area but there has been a local youth baseball and softball and current basketball league formed as there used to be. Also a golf course used by McLain golfers as well as others. A current political effort is underway to look at options of combining city and county park departments. A Third Place received both state and regional awards from the Parks and Recreation Societies for our Welcome Table GardenPark creation.
9.   West on 61st St. to stop at Welcome Table GardenPark.
Across from O’Brien on the west is the mobile home park in our area; we have been working with residents on safety concerns during tornadic weather since there is no storm shelter in our area and often those ill or disabled or without transportation don’t have same options living in a mobile home and not often being able to go elsewhere…South side is the Vann Industrial Park area, now called GreenPark to encourage businesses to promote ecological construction and resources; it purchases land and then gives free to companies to build on if they will commit to hiring a certain number of employees (though often those employees don’t live in this immediate area). The presence of the companies there was very beneficial during the August 2011 wildfires when they used their equipment to create a fire break to stop the spread of the fire from destroying even more homes and businesses…Just west of the Industrial Park on land the park now owns at Utica Ave. used to be the site of the Turley Veterans of Foreign Wars building and grounds where turkey shoots were held even after the building was torn down after the VFW closed and merged about five years ago. We would also like to get that sign to include in our Turley historical sign section at the gardenpark…If we were to go up the hill, Boyer Hill, on Utica toward 56th St. we would see another scenic drive and spot and also a frequent spot for illegal dumping.
We go back to 60th and up from Cherokee west to the curve at the top of the hill and arrive at our own Welcome Table GardenPark and Orchard where we will get out for a tour and more information on its history and current projects, site of the former Leo Beeler property. To the east you will see still more of the overgrown and burned out property; to the west there is the unofficial trail made by residents pushing shopping carts back and forth from the Suburban Hills addition to Warehouse Market and other stores on Peoria. We are pushing for county funds to clear out the fire hazard growth of red cedar trees along the trail and across from our park, and we are working toward getting a better trail with better security on this county right of way property, and the land that the Methodist church owns next to it we want to use as a restful native plant preserve for those walking by with or without their shopping carts loaded down. This is the land across from the current park where we started our demonstration gardens that helped lead to the vision for the gardenpark and orchard. At the park you will hear about our current partnership with an Eagle Scout project to work on a new Welcome Sign and Welcome Area where we will honor donors and create a hospitable and accessible space for those with physical disabilities as well; about our new Kitchen Greenhouse we raised funds for and will be building; still hoping for funds for an additional hoop house so we can grow year round and teach cooking and preserving; about our beds, our children’s playhouses of gardening, the park as site for community parties and food giveaways; our need for another deck and also a stage and larger chicken coop.
Across you will see the Turley United Methodist Church, one of our major partners, and the oldest church in the Turley Area having been founded in 1909 and built the oldest current building, our own Welcome Table Center site, in 1925.
10.                     Finish at Welcome Table Community Center, 5920 N. Owasso Ave.   

Our building was begun as a community church in a brush arbor on the site in 1909; then in 1910 as a Methodist Episcopal church there was a wooden frame steepled building; it was moved later to Sperry to be used as a church and then part of the funeral home; in 1925 the church finished construction of the brick building. In 1940 it added the office wing to the north; in 1952 it added the fellowship hall building. In the early 1960s the church moved to the top of the hill, worshipped in Cherokee School during construction, and Witt Memorial Indian Methodist Church owned the building until the mid 1980s, being noticeable for their community wild onion dinners. Then they moved and merged to become part of Tulsa Indian Methodist Church and Zion Baptist Fellowship bought the building, using it as church and as child care center until its pastor was murdered in the early 2000s; they then put efforts into the Zion Plaza on 46th St. where Suburban Acres had been; on again off again ministry was in the building then was vacant and used by people trespassing until we purchased it at the beginning of 2011 after much had been vandalized. The downstairs Indian art painted on the walls themselves by the Indian Methodists remained untouched, however. We have expanded our free food store program in it now partnering with the Food Bank and others, our clothing and items store, our art room, our free books library and meeting space, and we rent to the national religious organization housed here, the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship and to The Welcome Table Church which is the church which formed A Third Place Community Foundation in the first place but as a non faith-based nonprofit now with leaders of many faiths.