In Tulsa’s Arts District, a boutique hotel takes over a dilapidated apartment building.
BY MARTIN CIZMAR
There’s a sign in the window of the dive bar below Tulsa’s newish 21 1/2 Boutique Hotel that says “YOU DON’T KNOW S*** ABOUT TULSA.”
It comes off a little aggro as you’re walking past a pub with Christmas lights on the ceiling and into the type of hipster hotel with pictures of shaggy-headed Scottish Highland cows on the wall. But if you pop into that bar, called Caz’s, a friendly bartender will explain that it’s just sort of true—and she’d be happy to answer most questions you have about Oklahoma’s second city, which surprises a lot of people who don’t think of it as an oasis of arts and culture.
That hotel you’re staying at? She used to party there—pretty much every bartender in town lived or partied there during the years it was called the Boston Apartments, the name still stamped in cement above the stairs you take up to your room, where you’ll check in using a code emailed to you at this lobby-less operation. In its apartment era, the building was full of “service industry kids” who all agreed it was “haunted as f***.”
These days, the dozen rooms are mini-suites that still resemble pre-war apartments, with wide galley kitchens and large windows overlooking the streets below. You may not be able to get the TV remote to work, but there are wooden candelabras, a full fridge and ornamental ceramic bowls you could theoretically use for cereal.
The building’s owner, Davis Sharp, owns a large swath of Tulsa’s Arts District and is a “building hugger” who tries to keep as many original details as possible, says manager Kimberly Honea. These downtown apartments were originally marketed to railway workers. Sharp kept what he could intact, which is why they have the original massive cast iron sinks big enough to bathe a baby.
You may be relieved to know that the gentrification of this particular building has left no real resentments, according to the Caz’s bartender. These days, people are worried about noise complaints from the newer, fancier apartments overlooking the landmark rock club Cain’s Ballroom a few blocks away.
The stories start flowing when you ask about the address, on a street called Reconciliation Way. It was, until recently, named for a merchant named Tate Brady, a disgraced city father and Klansman who played a role in Tulsa’s infamous 1921 race massacre and the depopulation of Greenwood, the prosperous Black neighborhood that followed—but that’s a longer story, best told down at the Greenwood Cultural Center (greenwoodculturalcenter.org). As the sign suggests, you have a lot to learn about Tulsa.
GO: 21.5 Reconciliation Way, Tulsa. Typical rates are $100-$150. 21andahalftulsa.com.