Districts in the National Register of Historic Places
Sixth Street Historic District
Primary Construction: 1919-1960 (commercial); 1922 (residential)Boundries: North: along East Sixth Street East: alley between Quaker & Quincy Avenues South: along East Sixth Street West: Peoria Avenue
The locally-significant Sixth Street Commercial/Residential Historic District came about in the late nineteen-teens as Tulsa was growing out the original town center. It communicates a period in Tulsa’s community development when manufacturing and heavy industries located nearby the railroads on the east side of town, which were followed by working-class residents and commercial space. Residential units distinguished this commercial area from others. During the years after the World War II housing shortage, this area provided a large number of apartments for families and individuals alike who were in transition during one of Tulsa’s most exponential periods of growth.
The district housed twenty-nine apartments, either above businesses or in apartment buildings. The district’s businesses provided the perfect shopping locale for the everyday needs of these neighborhood’s residents. The businesses ranged from a meat market, drugstore, groceries, bakery and restaurants to businesses that provided a service like, shoe repair, barber, tire repair and garage.
Although the apartments housed some long-term residents, most dwellers lived in the area short-term. Many of the residents were saving money or waiting for other accommodations in Tulsa. During this time housing was scarce due to Tulsa’s rapid growth.
The district’s businesses were evolving to not only serve the residents in the area but those outside the district as well. It provided services for the areas around the Factory Addition, nearby businesses and a slightly older residential area that was west across South Peoria. The number of children in this nearby neighborhood motivated the construction of the Longfellow School in 1913. The school was located at the northwest corner of East Sixth Street and South Peoria. Thus, a neighborhood candy store was thoughtfully placed for after school visits from children.
In 1928 over-production caused a drop in oil prices, resulting in financial depression that affected almost every business enterprise. The depression days created higher vacancy rates in many of the district’s stores as businesses vanished during hard times. From 1930 to 1950, the booming city’s population nearly stagnated.
However, the apartments in the district remained important. They played a vital role in creating living space after the post-war housing shortage. But in 1959 the district’s first apartment building was demolished to put in place a repair service car lot. The demolition of the apartments signaled not only a decline in demand for apartments, but a decline in the intrinsic value of the district as Tulsans flocked to the suburbs for single family homes. With the age of the automobile there was no longer a need to live close to downtown or the factory area.
The district continued on a slow decline as the remaining apartments became increasingly vacant in the 1960s. Vacant stores were now taking longer and longer to reopen with new businesses. Shoppers and clients, including those within the neighborhood, could now go elsewhere whenever they desired.
Other remains of small commercial districts still exist in Tulsa, but none possesses the unique relationship of rental and commercial space that the Sixth Street District retains.
The Sixth Street Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on September 3, 2009 under Criterion A for significance in Community Planning and Development. Its NRIS number is 09000687.Representation in Existing SurveysNational Register of Historic Places — September 3, 2009