Mid-Continent Tower

 

The Construction of an Historic Landmark

A truly monumental achievement of modernization, Mid-Continent Tower displays an uncompromising integrity of style, with more than a half century separating the two phases of the building's construction.

The original structure was built in 1918 by Joshua Cosden, one of Tulsa's most colorful oil barons, known in his day as the "Prince of Petroleum." Rising 16 stories above Fourth Street and Boston Avenue, the ornately decorated Tudor-Gothic "Cosden Building" was Tulsa's first skyscraper.

Later known as the "Mid-Continent Building," the Tulsa landmark was painstakingly restored to its original grandeur in 1980 and re-equipped to meet the needs of a modern corporate environment.

Soon thereafter, work began on a dramatic addition that would more than triple the building's size.  Because the original structure was not strong enough to support the weight of 20 additional floors, a "cantilever" design was used to suspend a new tower over the older building at the 16th floor level.  The two structures do not touch.  The tower rises 20 stories above and extends 40 feet horizontally over the original 16-story building, creating the appearance of an upward continuation of the first structure.  Deeper and wider steel trusses in the construction of the 16th and 17th floors of the tower, and a 120’ deep foundation, carry the burden of the cantilevered floors. 

In order to sustain continuity of the original Tudor-Gothic design, more than 85,000 pieces of terra cotta panels, spires, cornices and moldings were produced for the exterior façade.  At the time of the tower's construction, the only manufacturer of terra cotta in the United States was located in California.  Terra cotta is fired, glazed clay material similar to ceramic tile.  Elaborately ornamental, each hand-crafted and hand-cast piece is a work of art.

Three different types of marble were imported from Italy to match existing interior wall panels.  Calcutta Vagli Rosatta marble graces the walls and columns.  Roman Travertine covers the restroom walls.  Accents and trim are Verde Antique.  Two colors of marble from Tennessee - Craig Rose and Rose Gray - make up the lobby's floor.

The project’s artist used the design motif, true to a neo-gothic approach, in various stained glass pieces throughout the tower.  In the lobby, an exquisite stained glass panorama recreates the Tulsa skyline from the Boston Avenue Methodist Church to the Bank of Oklahoma Tower.  A stained glass dome, resembling a giant Tiffany lamp, forms a ceiling over the three-story spiral staircase, connecting the top three floors of the tower and a two-story high "colonnade" entrance is formed by four terra cotta arches.

Completed in 1984, 66 years after the original construction, the building was renamed “Mid-Continent Tower.”  In 1985, Mid-Continent Tower received an Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and has since won numerous other national awards. The building is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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