The Woods Building

One of the things that comes up fairly frequently in my research has been the Woods Building (103 N. Greenwood). If you’ve seen riot pictures of the ruins of Greenwood, you have likely seen the Woods building. I suspect that, because of it’s location as the 1st building on the Northeast Corner of Greenwood and Archer, it was the most commonly photographed set of ruins after the riot. It was built around 1916, and took a few years for the tenants to populate it.

The Woods Building is described in the 1921 Tulsa City Directory and Parrish’s Events of the Tulsa Disaster as having been a 2 story brick building, 70×80 feet, and worth $15,000. It housed:
101 Earl Real Estate Co.
101 1/2 Oklahoma Sun office, Theo. Baughman.
103 Bayers and Anderson, Tailors
103 1/2 R. T. Bridgewater, Physician
103 1/2 T. R. Gentry, Real Estate
103 1/2 Wesley Jones, Physician
103 1/2 James M. Key, Physician
103 1/2 Mrs. Mary E. J. Parrish, School.
103 1/2 2 Apartments

Looking at the photos of the riot:

“Greenwood burning” 1989.008.5.40. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa. Photographer unknown. Photographic original unknown. A photographic reproduction of a photo taken looking up Greenwood Ave. from Archer St. The Woods Building on the right has not yet burned. It appears that the next building north along the street is currently burning. Shadows indicate that this may be as early as 9 am.

According to Redfearn’s brief in the insurance case, by 8.00 he had returned to Greenwood. Although he says they are the ‘west’ side of the street, he identifies the Woods Building, and the Phillips building as being on fire, and Cherry’s ‘place’ and maybe one other on the west side were on fire. Neither the Dixie Theater nor the Redwing Hotel were on fire at that time. (Testimony of William Redfearn, Redfearn v. American Central Insurance Co.) As you can see in the picture, while the smoke from the west side of the building is too thick to see far up the street, the Woods building has pretty clearnly not been burned yet.

“Tulsa Race Riot” 1989.008.5.52. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa. Photographer unknown. Photographic original unknown. A photographic reproduction of a photo taken looking at the Woods building at Greenwood Ave. from Archer St. A crowd mills around the building while it is being looted. Based on the shadows, this picture was taken after the preceding, but not much. The next building to the north has collapsed. A point of interest, one of the windows on the south side of the building, second floor, was the location of Mary Parrish’s apartment as well as her place of business, based on her description of the events of the riot.

Redfearn’s testimony stated that between 8 & 9 a.m. he returned to Greenwood, and saw the fire almost entirely of the west side of Greenwood and about half of the east side between Archer and Cameron were on fire. He left before the Redwing was totally destroyed by fire. He originally claimed to have seen people break open the front doors of buildings on Greenwood (testimony given to the Fire Marshal on 3 June — later repudiated (Testimony of William Redfearn, Redfearn v. American Central Insurance Co.))

“Tulsa Race Riot” 1989.008.5.W21. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa. Photographer unknown. A photograph looking up Greenwood Ave. from Archer St. past the ruins of the Woods building. The Greenwood wall has collapsed, exposing the stairwell wall between 101 and 103 N. Greenwood, but the I-beam runninf from the corner over the door areas is still in place. This can be seen in several of these images. From the shadows, this looks like mid-day, but of what day? The Woods building is still smoking, so it may be the 1st, but not later than the 2nd.

Corner of Greenwood and Archer after the race riot.“Tulsa Race Riot. June 1, 1921” A2416, The Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society. Photographer unknown. Photographic original unknown. A photographic reproduction of a photo taken looking up Greenwood Ave. from Archer St. This photo was probably taken in the same time frame as the preceeding.

“Tulsa Race Riot” 1989.008.5.41. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa. Photographer unknown. Photographic original unknown. A photographic reproduction of a photo taken looking up Greenwood Ave. from Archer St. The south wall of the Woods Building still stands, and the electrical lines to the pole next to the Woods Building are still standing.

“Tulsa Race Riot” 1989.008.5.W14. McFarlin Library. Department of Special Collections and University Archives. The University of Tulsa. Photographer unknown. A photograph looking up Greenwood Ave. from Archer St. past the ruins of the Woods building. The south wall of the Woods Building still stands, but the electrical lines lines are starting to collapse. The looted safe is sitting on the curb shows up in a number of the images. It may have belonged to Dr. Bridgewater.

“Tulsa Race Riot. June 1, 1921” A2415, The Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society. Photographer unknown. Photographic original unknown. A photographic reproduction of a photo taken looking at the ruins of the Woods Building. The entire south wall has collapsed and been removed. Based on the lack of debris, this photo was taken weeks or months after the riot.

“Tulsa Race Riot. June 1, 1921” A2425, The Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society. Photographer unknown. Photographic original unknown. A photographic reproduction of a photo taken looking at Greenwood and Archer. This image is frequently flagged as being of pre-riot Greenwood, however the Botkin Building, built on the site of the Woods Building in 1922 is a three story structure.

“Botkin Building, 2012” Photographer: Marc Carlson.
The Botkin Building as it appears today.

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Measuring shadows

Several weeks ago I ran across a new website called Suncalc. Using this site I was able to configure it for downtown Tulsa, 1 June 1921, and start looking at the shadows in the photos. Part of the problem we’ve had with measuring the shadows previously has been that 24.5 degree shift from north to northwest that downtown has. The reasons for this rotation has to do with the establishment of the city along the railroad where it curves around to line up with the river crossing. Add to that, the latitude, the season, and the other factors that have moved these measurements beyond my mathematical skills. This web site makes this process much easier.

Take a look at the photo in the banner. The building shadows on the streets seem to run down the street from east to west, with a slight shift to the north of about 5%. That makes this picture being taken about 7.45 am. According to the Timeline of the riot, about 7.30 “Everything on Archer from Boston east to Elgin is on fire. The fire department says “the mob” shoots at them when they try to put out the fire (Tulsa Tribune, 1 June 1921).” The Bessemer Gas Engine company is at 201 E. 1st (or the NE corner of 1st and Cincinnati). Considering that Boston had started burning early in the morning the lack of burning here does seem within limits of verifying the news report. Also we can see in this photo some serious fire along the east side of Detroit, and some serious smoke billowing up from the area of Elgin.