TU group studies forgotten Tulsa neighborhoods

Friday, August 23, 2013

Anthropology course partners with Oklahoma Historic Preservation Office

A group of University of Tulsa graduate students recently concluded a series of detailed investigations into some of Tulsa’s most forgotten neighborhoods. The results are helping to advance a major preservation program at the Oklahoma Historic Preservation Office.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Thomas Foster assigned his Cultural Resources Management class to research a Tulsa neighborhood for the spring semester.

“Understanding the past is crucial to understanding the present and future; it’s important for economic development and can contribute to heritage tourism,” Foster says. “Well-preserved historic districts increase property values and quality of life.”

Alumna and current doctoral student Alicia Odewale (MA ’12) was assigned the Louisville Heights neighborhood, also referred to as the Jackson neighborhood, a four-square-block area in north Tulsa.

“We were looking to track changes over time and gather anything and everything we could learn from the neighborhoods,” Odewale says. “Some of the original areas we were assigned to didn’t even exist anymore.”

Alicia OdewaleShe and her classmates turned to the Internet, the Tulsa Central Library, archives in the special collections department of TU’s McFarlin Library, Google Maps and the Oklahoma Tax Assessor’s Office for data. Odewale even drove around the area and contacted the Louisville Heights/Jackson Neighborhood Association.

“My first map is dated 1940 and shows only a railroad,” she says. “By 1959, there were more houses and streets, and an elementary school was built in 1966.”

The neighborhood includes 10 properties on the Oklahoma Landmarks Inventory. Officials with the Oklahoma Historic Preservation Office say that’s why it’s so important to take note of these overlooked areas.

“We’re in the process of documenting housing developments, post World War II through the 1970s,” says Lynda Ozan, an architectural historian at the state preservation office. “Once we determine the types that existed, what architectural styles were used and what features were common, we can define what constitutes eligibility for these neighborhoods.”

The students’ research will help decide if the areas still have integrity and can be used for historical context.

“Both the community and the state benefit from this project,” Foster says. “This type of research usually would have to be conducted by state employees and paid for by Oklahoma taxpayers. Through community engagement, this project is another way TU contributes to the city of Tulsa.”

Odewale says the project provided useful experience in learning how to work in a cultural resources management (CRM) environment.

“This real-world research project is what a majority of CRM projects are like,” Odewale says. “With any type of development, an anthropologist is called in to survey the area and determine whether there’s anything that should be preserved.”

Research also was conducted on the Patrick Henry, Lee-Mack, Daniel, Lakeview Heights, and Maplewood neighborhoods.

Gail Ellis