In Depth As Oklahoma's second largest city, Tulsa is the product of an unlikely mixture of oil and water; the development of these two liquid resources spurred the city's rapid economic growth and made Tulsa into the vibrant, bustling community it is today.
Tulsa's beginnings date to 1836 when a band of displaced Creek Indians from Alabama built a council fire under a sturdy oak tree (near S. Cheyenne Avenue and W. 18th Street), ending a long, harsh journey over the “Trail of Tears.” The name Tulsa is derived from the Creek word “Tullahassee” or “Tallahassee,” meaning “old town.”
While early settlers were attracted to the lush banks of the Arkansas River, the area remained largely undeveloped until a trading post opened in 1846, signaling the beginning of organized commerce in the area. Tulsa became the official name of the town with the creation of the first post office in 1879.
The arrival of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway provided further impetus for growth. Farmers, ranchers and traders were attracted to the area's increasingly stable system of transportation. One of the first organized groups, a union Sunday school, held class in a tent belonging to a railroad carpenter. By the time Tulsa was incorporated on Jan. 8, 1898, cattle shipping had become the principal industry.
On June 25, 1901, the pace of the town's development quickened. Drillers operating a rig known as Sue Bland #1 struck black gold, creating the state's first commercially important oil well. Eager prospectors swarmed the area, repeating the frenzy of land rushes a few years prior. A second major strike tapped into large reserves at the Ida Glenn farm in 1905. Oil prices began to climb after pipelines were established to the Gulf of Mexico.
As oil fortunes were literally being made overnight, enterprising Tulsans began an aggressive campaign to attract oilmen to establish themselves in the community. The result was a building boom that also created hotels, office buildings, paved roads, bridges and more railroad links.
Train trips organized by civic leaders to promote Tulsa were common at the turn of the 20th century, and humorist Will Rogers was known to accompany these early business boosters. Their vision helped to elevate Tulsa from a dusty cow town in Native American territory to a dynamic urban center with a vigorous economy.
While at one time everyone in Tulsa seemed to be involved in some way with the oil business, the city now has a more diversified economy. Although hundreds of area firms are still associated with the petroleum business, current industries include aviation, computer technology, financial services, health care, manufacturing and mining.
Tulsans place a heavy importance on culture—from museums to performing arts organizations to public art around the city. One of the most beautiful aspects of the destination is its architecture. You may be surprised to learn that Tulsa has one of the largest collections of Art Deco buildings in the country; there are several dozen examples of the style. The design was all the rage in the 1920s and ‘30s, which is when much of Tulsa's construction occurred. A walking tour through Tulsa's historical business district will take you past more than 30 Art Deco sites. The Tulsa Arts District is where you'll find museums, studios and monthly art walks.
Development of water resources has enabled Tulsa to boast the largest number of man-made lakes in the nation. Barge traffic between the Tulsa Port of Catoosa and New Orleans qualifies Tulsa as a major inland harbor. This 445-mile navigation system links Oklahoma with domestic ports in the surrounding five-state area through a complex system of dams, lakes, reservoirs and locks.
The area earns its nickname “Green Country” from an abundance of parks and gardens that enhance the city's urban appearance. Many acres of parkland have been preserved despite Tulsa's numerous industries. River Parks, the scene of several festivals, includes a lake with a floating stage as well as a lengthy trail system on the east and west banks of the Arkansas River. Woodward Park offers a peaceful escape from the city with a rose garden, rock gardens, a Shakespeare monument, a conservatory and more than 15,000 azaleas.
Tulsa is an ideal destination for fans of equestrian events. Tulsa's Expo Square, which includes several venues, hosts many horse shows and competitions throughout the year, showcasing a variety of breeds and events.
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.
The Tulsa area has a sales tax of 8.52 percent, a lodging tax of 13.52 percent and a rental car tax of 14.51 percent.
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Hillcrest Hospital South, (918) 294-4000; Hillcrest Medical Center, (918) 579-1000; OSU Medical Center, (918) 599-1000; Saint Francis Hospital, (918) 494-2200; St. John Medical Center, (918) 744-2345.
1 W. 3rd St., Suite 100 Tulsa, OK 74103. Phone:(918)585-1201 or (800)558-3311
With service to most major cities in the United States,
Hertz, 7727 E. Young Pl., offers discounts to AAA members; phone (918) 838-1015 or (800) 654-3080.
Greyhound Lines Inc. and Jefferson Lines are the major bus lines serving the city. Both operate out of the terminal at 317 S. Detroit Ave.; phone (918) 584-4428 for schedule information.
The major cab company is Yellow Checker Cab, (918) 582-6161. Taxis are metered and charge $1.50-$2 plus $1.90 for each mile. There is a $1 charge for each additional passenger.
Tulsa Transit operates buses throughout the metropolitan area and includes stops at attractions and shopping centers. The main terminal is at 319 S. Denver Ave. at W. 3rd St.; phone (918) 582-2100 for schedules and information.