Crumbling Landmark Hotel Escapes Wrecking Ball

Sunday, December 3rd 2006, 3:50 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) A landmark hotel along Interstate 44 that has been closed since the mid-90s and has become an eyesore to its neighbors won't be affected by the impending widening of the highway.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation said 272 properties along the highway will be uprooted, but the Camelot Hotel, built in the 1960s to resemble a medieval castle, won't be one of them.

That upsets people who live nearby, who had hoped that the hotel could be torn down through the process of eminent domain.

``It brings the whole neighborhood down,'' said Gary Buitrago, who can see the hotel from his backyard. ``It really is an eyesore.''

The hotel became a landmark in the 1960s and 1970s, hosting celebrities including music legend Elvis Presley and former President Richard Nixon during their visits to Tulsa. With its moat, drawbridge and turrets, the Camelot became a popular spot for banquets, galas, honeymoons and special occasions.

But in 1996, the Tulsa City-County Health Department condemned the 330-room hotel because of health and safety code violations.

Marharishi Ayur-Ved University, which teaches transcendental meditation, bought the building in 1993 for $1.15 million. The plan was to turn the hotel into a ``holistic, meditation-friendly'' hotel. Instead, the abandoned building now has broken windows and a crumbling facade and is a frequent target for burglars, trespassers and vandals.

The Tulsa World could not reach university representatives for comment.

The state transportation department said only a small portion of the hotel's land will be needed for the I-44 widening project.

``The right of way barely grazes it,'' ODOT spokesman Cole Perryman said. ``I know there has been a lot of talk about it, but right now it is being minimally impacted.''