Districts in the National Register of Historic Places
North Cheyenne Historic District
Primary Commercial Construction: 1908-1956Boundries: North: Alley btwn Archer & Brady St East: Alley btwn Cheyenne & Boulder Ave South: Frisco Railroad Track West: North Denver Avenue
The North Cheyenne Avenue Historic District is north of modern downtown Tulsa. This early commercial and industrial district grew up around the tracks of the St. Louis and San Francisco (Frisco) Railroad, which arrived to Tulsa in 1882. For twenty years, the Frisco line was the only railroad serving Tulsa, and made only one daily trip between Tulsa and Vinita, Oklahoma.
The Frisco and KATY (1902) tracks ran on parallel northeast/southwest alignments, with the Sand Springs Railroad (1908) sandwiched in between along Archer Street. Further east, the Midland Valley (1903) and Santa Fe (1905) railroads cut a north-south swath. As these railroads established their presence, businesses seeking access to transportation lined their tracks.
The train’s daily appearance brought news from the outside world, supplied goods to the small community, provided convenient travel, and accessed a broader market for the area’s agricultural products. The Frisco also shipped trail herds from Texas east to Tulsa, where live animals were processed and shipped out again in refrigerated cars cooled by Tulsa ice.
The oil strikes at Red Fork in 1901 and at Glenn Pool in 1905 caused the local population to explode with the promise of riches from the oil fields. As oil men built testaments to their wealth in new skyscrapers along South Boston Avenue, the demands of the oil economy primed the North Cheyenne Avenue Historic District for new construction that met Tulsa’s industrial and warehousing needs. It was during the 1920s that the physical appearance of the historic district took shape. With Tulsans buying at a record pace, the railroad required proof from buyers that storage space was available for the huge amount of incoming merchandise before it would be shipped. As the Brady area became increasingly built-up with industrial concerns, commercial storage facilities spread into the area around North Cheyenne Avenue. The warehouses in the district provided critical storage space to support this segment of the local economy.
The North Cheyenne Historic District was a practical place, and the majority of the buildings reflect this practicality. It was not a district where shoppers would wander the street; rather, it was a grimy working area, where things were made, stored, and processed. One long-time tenant of the Tulsa Warehouse Building was Oklahoma Tire and Supply Company. The Miller commercial block at 201-207 West Archer Street housed blacksmiths, tinners, a grocer, and an auto repair shop. The same block continued to support a variety of small businesses over the next decade, to include barbers, restaurants, wholesalers, burlap bag manufacturing, and bottle works.
As was common in many American cities, African Americans were relegated to living in difficult circumstances separate from their white neighbors. The 1915 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map identifies a “Negro District” on North Boston Avenue and “Negro Shanties” on North Cheyenne Avenue. The Tulsa Cotton Gin on West Archer probably provided employment to those living nearby. However, with easy access to both the Frisco and the Sand Spring railroad tracks, the demand for commercial uses adjacent to the tracks displaced most housing in the historic district before 1921.
After World War II, construction of interstate highways made trucking a more convenient system by which to haul goods, mail, and freight. While the North Cheyenne Historic District remained a wholesale and distribution center for the city, the shift to truck transportation made centralized industrial areas obsolete. Companies that once selected a site based on its proximity to rail lines now built in suburbia where they could get prime access to highways. Compounding the decline, the Sand Springs railroad tracks removed its tracks from Archer Street in 1955, and the KATY Railroad ended its service and began removing its tracks in 1963, symbolically signaling the end of railroad dependence for Tulsa businesses.
However, the Frisco continued to operate. In 1956, it erected two bridges over North Denver Avenue, depressing the roadway below the grade of the tracks. One of these overpasses remains in use. The Frisco provided passenger service to Tulsa until 1967. Today’s freight trains continue to use the historic Frisco alignment through Tulsa and the North Cheyenne Historic District as part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad.
The North Cheyenne Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on December 13, 2010 under Criterion A for significance in Commerce. Its NRIS number is 10001011.Representation in Existing SurveysNational Register of Historic Places — December 13, 2010 Downtown Tulsa Intensive-Level Survey of Historic Resources — November 2009