Revitalizing Tulsa's Mayo Hotel

Thursday, July 16th 2009, 10:41 pm
By: News On 6

By Terry Hood, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- After decades of broken plans and broken dreams, a vital piece of Tulsa's history is about to be reborn.  The Mayo Hotel was Tulsa's most famous landmark and, in just a few months, it will come roaring back to life.

08/24/2007 Related Story: Bringing Back The Mayo

Born in 1925, the Mayo Hotel at 5th and Cheyenne was a symbol of all that Tulsa could be.  A city bold enough to model its showplace after New York's Plaza Hotel.  And, a city bright enough to attract five decades worth of oil barons, sports heroes, politicians and movie stars. 

Everyone from President Harry Truman to Joe DiMaggio, Michael Jackson to Ann Margaret were rubbing elbows with newlyweds, the oil rich and thousands of Tulsa's high school seniors dancing beneath sparkling chandeliers. 

Time passed and the magic faded.

The Mayo was expected to be closed for approximately one year.  That turned into almost three decades and the Mayo became a different kind of symbol.  A symbol of all that Tulsa could not be.

During the passing years, there have been several developers with big plans for Tulsa's Mayo Hotel.  None of them ever seemed to come to fruition.  But now, the years of waiting are almost over.

05/16/2008  Related Story: Mayo Restoration A Work In Progress

Macy Snyder's family bought the Mayo Hotel nine years ago for $250,000.  The price of a downtown parking lot.  But in 2003, Tulsans passed Vision 2025 and with it, came one final chance for the Mayo.

"Without the tax credits and definitely without the 2025 funds, there is no way the mayo could have been renovated," said Macy Snyder.

Today, workers are on every floor, from the penthouse where Elvis slept, all the way down to the lobby which once welcomed the likes of Babe Ruth and Charles Lindberg.

"We're doing the entire building.  All 250,000 square feet, 18 stories.  It's a huge undertaking," said Macy Snyder.

When they're finished, the Snyders will have spent $40 million and converted an elegant eyesore into 76 apartments, 102 hotel rooms and 10,000 square feet of event space.

The Mayo's crown jewel, the Crystal Ballroom, is being restored exactly as it was the 1920's, complete with its famous crystal chandeliers.  Architect Joel Slaughter has been working on the hotel's design for more than two years, meticulously blending the Mayo's past with the city's future. 

"You want to make it right for the building.  So, there's always this line of that's what we did historically, but we've got to make it modern, too.  So, there's a fine line," said architect Joel Slaughter.

Kate Atkinson is finalizing plans for her apartment.  Come September, she'll call the Mayo home.   

Unlike the public spaces, the apartments and hotel rooms will look nothing like the original.

"I think it's amazing.  It's got the nostalgic feel, but it's completely redone with kind of a modern twist," said Kate Atkinson.

And, there are other perks.  Residents will have access to the rooftop balcony, laundry, housekeeping and even room service.

The Mayo Hotel has always been more than just a building.  It's a time capsule, a monument to decades of Tulsa's history.  And amazingly enough, it's time for a new chapter. 

"It's going to be a lot of young professionals kind of shaking up the downtown old stuffy feeling.  So, it's going to be really cool," said Kate Atkinson.

"Tulsa deserved to have it renovated.  And, I think it will be really key to downtown Tulsa's revitalization.  It's kind of the heart of downtown," said Macy Snyder.

Residents will begin moving into the Mayo in mid-September and the hotel will open soon after.     

Rates start at about $150 a night and they'll start taking reservations in just a few weeks