History of the Land

The land purchased by the City of Tulsa in 1909, for the purpose of establishing a public park, is associated with nineteenth century federal policies of Indian removal and allotment, and may be traced in ownership to the Perryman family of the Lochapokas Band of the Creek (Muscogee) Nation. 

Many Creeks left their homelands in Alabama and Georgia for the Oklahoma Territory in 1828, after the assassination of their political leader, Chief William McIntosh, during the period of federal “Indian Removal” policies. Benjamin Perryman, who had been a Creek town chief in Alabama, arrived in Oklahoma and settled in what is now Wagoner County; his son, Lewis, established a plantation in the Three Forks area near Muskogee, then moved to a location northeast of what is now the town of Broken Arrow, and then, in 1848, built a log house just north of what is now the intersection of 33rd Street and Rockford Avenue in Tulsa, mere blocks from Woodward Park. 

George B. Perryman

Lewis Perryman had several sons, including Legus, elected Principal Chief of the Creek Nation in 1887 and again in 1891; Josiah, the first postmaster of Tulsa; and George, who operated an immense ranch of 60,000 acres with more than 3,000 head of cattle. George Perryman’s ranch stretched from what is now 21st Street—the northern border of today’s Woodward Park—to 71st Street, and from the Arkansas River to what is now Lynn Lane in the town of Broken Arrow. The vast ranch was known in the Tulsa area as “Perryman’s Pasture,” and the Woodward Park parcel once was a part of this agricultural property.

The seller of the parcel, Herbert E. (“Bert”) Woodward, was born in 1871 in Massachusetts; his family purportedly was related to both the Wadsworths and the Longfellows, and he studied at Groton before relocating to Kansas City in 1886. Woodward lived in Kansas City until the infamous Cherokee Strip Land Run of 1893, when the federal government opened up Cherokee lands in the northwest portion of the Indian Territory for settlement by whites. Drawn by this opportunity, Woodward headed west to explore the territory for several years, and he arrived in the Muscogee Nation, near Tulsa, in 1898, finding work on the mail route between Tulsa and Cleveland. It was on this mail route that he met Nellie E. Riley, a Muscogee woman who taught at the Indian school near Sand Springs. They married, and Bert Woodward began to establish a stock farm to the southeast of Tulsa, on heavily timbered land that he cleared for grazing. By 1909—the year of the city’s purchase of the park acreage— Woodward’s business, the Cedar Creek Stock Farm, located approximately 1½ miles southeast of the city, was more than 480 acres and known among the farmers of eastern Oklahoma for the excellent quality of its Poland China hogs. Also by 1909, Bert and Nellie Woodward had five children: Hellen, Hazel, Grace, Edith, and James.

Hellen Woodward

But the park acreage purchased by the city that year, technically, was not Herbert Woodward’s to sell; rather, it was a portion of the allotment belonging to his oldest daughter, Hellen, who would have been nine or ten years old at the time. Nellie Woodward, Hellen’s mother, was counted in the 1902 Creek tribal rolls as being of one‐half Creek blood, and Hellen and her two sisters, Hazel and Grace, each were counted as one‐quarter Creek; they each were given an allotment of Creek land by the Commission to the Five Civilized Tribes (Dawes Commission), which could be maintained or sold as they wished. The allotments assigned to Nellie Woodward and her children were located in what once had been “Perryman’s Pasture,” and Herbert, acting on Hellen’s behalf due to her status as a minor, sold 33.64 acres to the City of Tulsa for $3,532.20 on December 22, 1909. The city immediately condemned the property for the purposes of establishing a city park. Named after Hellen and her family, Woodward Park was far removed from the center of Tulsa, and many residents considered the purchase of this remote, rural acreage, accessible by wagon trails, to be folly; at the time, the city had only one other park—Owen Park, on North Maybelle Avenue—which had been purchased from Chauncey and Mary Owen a few months earlier, on August 18, 1909, for $13,500. 

Although the City of Tulsa had quickly condemned the Woodward property for a park, no efforts seem to have been made to transform the bucolic, wooded land into a more manicured, designed recreational space during the next fifteen years. Then, in 1925, Hellen Woodward (Mrs. A.H.) Slemp contested the sale of her allotment and filed a lawsuit against the city, which further delayed any designed improvements to the park. In her lawsuit, Hellen Woodward Slemp claimed that she was a minor at the time and had not consented to the sale of her property, and, further, that the land was far beyond the city limits then, and, therefore, beyond the city’s jurisdiction. Representatives for the city replied to the suit, stating that Mrs. Slemp had “ratified” the sale by not raising any objections within two years of her eighteenth birthday, when she attained legal majority. As reported in the Tulsa World, the lawsuit filtered from court to court for three years, during which no improvements could be made to Woodward Park. The first decision was made in a Tulsa district court, with Judge W.J. McNeil ruling in favor of the City of Tulsa in 1927. Hellen Slemp then took her case to the Oklahoma Supreme Court, where it rested for nearly two years before the court ruled in October 1929, upholding the city’s title to the land. The U.S. Supreme Court then was asked to hear the case, but it refused, effectively upholding the Oklahoma Supreme Court’s decision. As a final step, Mrs. Slemp’s attorney requested a new trial from the state Supreme Court; this, too, was a failure, and the litigation over Woodward Park was officially ended in September 1930.

Hellen Woodward (far left)

The Woodward women—Hellen Woodward Slemp and her mother, Nellie Riley Woodward—went on to sell much of their remaining 160‐acre allotments. Hellen Slemp sold her 40‐acre homestead for $2,000 per acre for the development of the Terwilleger Addition. Nellie Woodward profited even more when she sold her 40‐acre homestead, located between Utica and Lewis avenues and between 21st and 31st streets, to the developers of the Utica Square Shopping Center; also built on that allotment were Cascia Hall and the Monte Cassino School, with the remainder taken for the Brentwood Heights Addition. Mrs. Woodward and Mrs. Slemp each were able to maintain lovely homes in the area, the latter living for more than twenty years at 1640 E. 21st Street, before moving to 2248 S. Utica Avenue; Nellie Woodward died in her home at 1618 E. 21st Street on September 23, 1952, at age 77, just a few months after the grand opening of the Utica Square Shopping Center that May. By 1962, Hellen Woodward Slemp had put the past behind her and admitted that her father’s sale of the park acreage had been for the best: “It is a beautiful place, and you know taxes on it would probably have been hard to pay back during the Depression years.”
 


Construction of Woodward Park, 1930

Woodward Park (c. 1930s)

Tangled in litigation over ownership, the city did not begin to transform Woodward Park until the courts found in its favor in September 1930. As it sat unimproved for decades, the land surrounding the park had been developed into some of Tulsa’s most desirable residential neighborhoods, including Swan Lake to the north, Terwilleger Heights to the east, and Maple Ridge, with its “Black Gold Row” of oil‐money mansions, to the west. Immediately adjacent to the park on its south side, David R. Travis, who made his fortune in the oil drilling supply business, built a lavish estate in the Italian Renaissance Revival style in 1919, designed by architect Noble B. Fleming. 

No longer remote or accessible only by rough wagon trails, Woodward Park was now surrounded by paved streets lined with lovely houses, of which the residents must have breathed a collective sigh of relief when park construction began. Decorative rock gardens, interspersed with water features, statues, and flowerbeds among the designed woodlands, were the first major park features to be designed and completed in 1932. The second major garden to be completed in Woodward Park may be its best known—the Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden, originally envisioned in 1934 by landscape architect C. Burton Fox as a formal terraced garden featuring a wide variety of perennial flowers.

Tulsa Parks Superintendent Doolittle, in selecting talented staff such as Arthur Phillips and landscape architect C. Burton Fox, devoted a considerable portion of his budget toward the beautification of Woodward Park, leaving other city parks to serve for more active recreation and sports; Woodward Park, from its first design efforts in 1930, was established for quiet contemplation and a carefully planned sequences to heighten visitors’ aesthetic and educational experiences. Doolittle allowed local clubs and groups—the garden clubs and rose societies, as well as the Shakespeare and the Anne Hathaway clubs—to design and construct artworks and gardens on their own terms, contributing to the park’s greater civic pride. Later additions to the district, including the Tulsa Arboretum and the azalea gardens, encouraged community participation as much as the earlier rose gardens and other experimental gardens; citizens have donated plant materials, money, and time to support Woodward Park since its inception, demonstrating its importance to Tulsans as a recreational and aesthetic amenity. 


Upper and Lower Rock Gardens, 1930–1932

Lower Rock Garden

Under the leadership of Tulsa Park Superintendent William O. Doolittle, the rockeries were planned in late 1930 and executed by city parks staff member Arthur S. Phillips, who managed their construction beginning in the early spring of 1931. At that time, the north side of Woodward Park, which once had been a natural ravine, was “marred for almost its entire length of over 1,200 feet by the construction of a huge storm sewer,” parallel to 21st Street and facing the southern edge of the Swan Lake neighborhood, “that for years lay exposed except where obscured by a tangle of weeds and debris.” The park plans called for rock gardens, beginning at the upper (northeast) end of the park, which included a series of small pools and waterfalls, meandering streams, and an upper lily pool. 

As described by Phillips in 1932: The water was then to be carried along the ravine and terminate in a lower lily pond at the west side of the park. Rustic bridges, observation spaces, landscape effects, and a Shakespearian garden are included in the ravine plans but the work in 1931 concentrated in the naturalistic fills over the sewer pipe and the rock gardens construction at the east end. This latter work was undertaken early in the spring… Although not yet in a completed stage these gardens have created an unusual interest from people all over the state of Oklahoma and have drawn many visitors to the park.

According to Phillips, who stated that “Woodward Park is the ideal place for a rockery,” the main concerns for any rock garden in a public park were that it be of strong, stable construction that can withstand heavy use, including climbing; it must have a “naturalistic” appearance that is aesthetically pleasing even when its plants and shrubs are not in bloom; and its contours and overall form must be thoughtfully designed so that it can hold visitors’ interest even when covered in snow and ice. He was sensitive to the fact that in its first years of use, the critical eyes of visitors would have few, sparse plants to enjoy, and noted that “a good contour of rock work and composition will be more pleasing than a few scattered rocks waiting for the plant life to grow in the open spaces.”

  Stream-side view of the Pump House Overlook

Stream-side view of the Pump House Overlook

No detailed plans or drawings were made for the Woodward Park rock work; instead, large slabs of weathered, honeycombed gray limestone—varying in size from one hundred pounds to two and three tons—were trucked in from quarries northeast of the city, along with more than five hundred loads of dirt for the Upper Rock Garden alone, and the design was developed organically, as the materials best fit together to match a rudimentary sketch plan. Phillips claimed that it was much easier to create a naturalistic effect in the ravines of the Lower Rock Garden than in the relatively flat area of the Upper Rock Garden, but his July 1932 article in the journal Parks & Recreation reveals the complexity of the work needed to create the appearance of “nature.” 

The two acres of rockeries required 1,200 tons of rock, which obscured the rivulets and watercourses made of reinforced concrete; many of the large boulders that bordered the streams were held in place with poured concrete footings. Spillways and small waterfalls were created by careful placement of rock, which helped to regulate the flow of water. Construction crews built the waterways out of reinforced concrete, carefully troweled to create choreographed ripple effects between the falls and colored to “take away the man‐made effect.” The six springs of the entire rock garden system were designed to be fed by a return pump system to the lower pool, or what was called the “upper lily pool” when the work was completed. Three springs in the upper garden flow into a central fountain pool—decorated with small bronze statues of water nymphs or sprites, Cupid, and Pan—from which the water is piped under Woodward Park Drive to the Lower Rock Garden, where it is divided into three more springs that feed the ravines leading to the main lower pool. 

Pump House Overlook at Woodward Park

The pump house is a concrete room, six by six feet, completely camouflaged by soil and rock; the roof of the pump house serves as an observation point or overlook, which has concrete railings on three sides, designed to look like picturesque tree stumps and rustic branches. Of his clever faux‐bois concrete work, Phillips wrote that the railing “will not rot out and defies the trapeze artists who perform on it to break it down.” The same technique was used to create concrete benches that look like tree stumps, which remain scattered throughout the Lower Rock Garden today. 

Tall native oak and hickory trees provided shade from the Tulsa sun throughout the park, as they do today, but they presented a challenge to Phillips and parks department horticulturist Herman Hanson in selecting the other plants, shrubs, and additional trees to be added to Woodward Park. In the first two or three years following the completion of the rock gardens, Woodward Park entered something of an experimental phase in which parks staff installed a wide variety of plants, and then watched to learn which species or varieties managed to thrive in shade, and which ones needed more sun. Further complicating matters, the soil quality of the park site was less than ideal, owing to decades of neglect—particularly in the lower, natural ravine area, which had been partially filled with clay and trash—and the sewer construction project that the rock gardens were designed to hide. Soils were treated with compost, bone meal, and chat screenings (limestone fragments), allowing the plants grown in the parks department’s greenhouses to survive.

The plant list that Phillips published in Parks & Recreation included more than one hundred different perennials (including alyssum, anemone, aster, clematis, delphinium, dianthus, helianthemum, iris, phlox, salvia, sedums, veronica, and vinca), sixteen different annuals (including oxalis, sanvitalia, and brachyscome), and ten varieties of bulbs (including tulips, daffodils, crocus, and muscari). In addition to the native oak and hickory trees densely scattered throughout the site, over thirty different trees and shrubs were planted in the ravine area, including silver birch, cotoneaster, euonymus, Japanese quince, Kentucky coffeetree, Oregon grape, creeping juniper, Eastern red cedar, pyracantha, salvia, spirea, and viburnum. Forget‐menots, day lilies, ferns, and caladiums were planted along the streams and in moist locations; the bogs were planted with Japanese iris, wild calla, parrot feather, pickerel weed, water clover, and water poppy. The lily pool featured both hardy and tropical lilies, including Victoria cruziana—the largest of the tropical varieties—and twenty others, including the August Koch, Blue Triumph, Splendida, and Conqueror; the water lilies were potted in large boxes that sat upon the clay bottom of the pool.

The rock gardens proved to be immensely popular shortly after their completion, with visitors coming from all over the city to enjoy the displays of forget‐me‐nots, Iceland poppies, and jack‐in‐the‐pulpits among the tall trees. Explorers wandered stone paths searching for Japanese strawberries, gazed out across the lagoon from the observation deck, and marveled at the changes along 21st Street. A cave‐like grotto of stone beckoned visitors standing upon the turf lawn, drawing them toward the lagoon. A bridge with rustic, faux‐bois concrete railings, just west of the grotto, carried park goers across the lagoons and into the ravine; from there, people could wander paths, climb or sit on honeycomb limestone or sandstone boulders, and make their way upward into the wooded area, and enjoy the flowers peeking out among the shade. Yet this was only the beginning of years of work that would turn Woodward Park into the city’s greatest horticultural display. Under Superintendent Doolittle’s direction, more elaborate gardens and public sculpture would be added, leaving other city parks to emphasize recreational activities and sports. Woodward Park would become the crown jewel of the Tulsa park system, beginning with the addition of a small Art Deco memorial to Shakespeare, followed by formal, terraced flower gardens spanning three city blocks and rising fifty feet above street level.


Tulsa Rose Garden, 1934

Tulsa Rose Garden construction (1933)

In October 1933, Superintendent Doolittle and N.G. Henthorn, editor of the Tulsa World daily newspaper and president of the City Park Board, engaged local landscape architect C. Burton Fox to design a terraced, Italian Renaissance‐inspired garden spanning three city blocks on the southern end of Woodward Park. Fox had earned a Master of Arts degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of California (Berkeley); he then moved to Tulsa in the early 1920s and found employment with the William and Harvey Nursery. Within a few years, Fox opened his own firm, the Tulsa Landscape and Nursery Company, and in 1924 he received his first major contract—the layout of the 2,225‐acre Mohawk Park, five miles northeast of downtown Tulsa. It is likely due to the success of the Mohawk Park project that Doolittle chose to work with Fox on the garden terraces at Woodward Park. 

The site selected for the terraced gardens was steeply sloped, “an ugly gully” between the designed rock gardens and rolling lawns of Woodward Park and the lavish private estate built by David R. Travis in 1919, to its south. Doolittle approved of Fox’s idea to design a true botanical garden with a wide variety of plants, rather than a rose garden, even though municipal rose gardens were immensely popular during these years. Fox designed a series of five terraces to accommodate the sloping terrain, with each of them considered as its own, symmetrically‐planned garden, but which together created an immense, colorful tapestry. The entire terraced garden was 900 feet long and enclosed by stone retaining walls, encompassing 4.5 acres; from its entrance at Peoria Avenue on the west, the terraces gradually rose fifty feet above street level as they extended east into the park. Blueprints dated January 18 and 19, 1934 name this project as “Formal Terraced Garden, Woodward Park, Tulsa, Okla.,” and list it as Civil Works Administration (CWA) Project No. 72‐75C‐5, and General Parks Project No. 14 of the Tulsa Parks Department.  

Tulsa Rose Garden postcard

The CWA, created by executive order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in November 1933, was intended to be a short‐term program, providing work for four million unemployed people over the winter. Individuals struggling during the Great Depression found temporary employment on a wide variety of CWA projects and were paid for their work, rather than receiving a “relief” check. On November 23, the first CWA pay day, over 814,000 workers nationwide received paychecks, and two weeks later, close to two million people were at work; at the peak of the CWA program, on January 18, 1934—the date of Fox’s drawings for the terraced gardens in Woodward Park—4,263,644 people were employed by the federal government on civil works projects. In the southern states, the minimum rate for unskilled labor was forty cents an hour, while skilled laborers were paid a minimum of one dollar per hour; in the central states, like Oklahoma, unskilled laborers earned forty‐five cents and skilled laborers $1.10 per hour. When the CWA program was ended in the spring of 1934, it had completed over 200,000 projects throughout the United States.

The budget for Woodward Park’s formal terraced gardens was $750,000—an enormous sum in 1934—which accounted for the building materials, including locally‐quarried stone for the retaining walls, stairs, and the entrance walkways at Peoria Avenue; concrete and reinforcing wire; wood for pergolas and trellises to accommodate climbing vines; and all plant materials, including trees and shrubs, and many dozens of varieties of flowers and turf grass for the parterres—the symmetrically designed planting beds—on each terrace. The greatest expense, however, was labor, as the goal of the project was to employ as many local men as possible while creating a public amenity. Most of the work, whether excavation and grading, stone masonry, and planting, was done by hand or with teams of horses, which pulled wagons conveying tons of rock from one end of the site to the other, three city blocks away. Photographs taken during construction show the enormous undertaking of grading the site, ramming earth to establish the edges of terraces, and constructing the stone retaining walls. In the end, three‐quarters of a million dollars was not enough to complete the project as Fox had designed it, and some features, such as the large, U‐shaped pergola planned for the highest (fifth) terrace and fountains for some of the pools, were not executed.

Tulsa Rose Garden original architectural plans (1934)
Courtesy of Tulsa Foundation for Architecture

Composed of triangles, rectangles, squares with chamfered corners, or half‐rounded beds, all separated by curbed walkways of gravel, the parterres of the terraced garden took their inspiration from the formal gardens of Italy and France during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods. Another inspiration may have been local—the nearby Villa Philbrook, the home of Tulsa oil magnate Waite Phillips, with its Italian Renaissance Revival gardens designed by the Kansas City‐based landscape architecture firm of Hare & Hare, in conjunction with the villa’s architect, Edward Buehler Delk. The Phillips estate and its twenty‐three acres of gardens and landscaped grounds, less than one mile south of Woodward Park, was completed in 1927, and it had been modeled after the Villa Lante at Bagnaia, a Mannerist garden begun in 1566 near Viterbo, in central Italy. The Villa Lante is renowned for its dramatic water chain—a stepped cascade of water—as well as a playful grotto, ramps and stairs that conquered the site’s challenging topography, and Vignola’s masterful use of geometry. Fox’s drawings for the Woodward Park terraced garden, while not in any way as elaborate as the Villa Lante or the Villa Philbrook, show five symmetrical terraces of geometric parterres, each terrace featuring a central pool or fountain, or pairs of pools, and the approach from Peoria Avenue to the walled garden, with its symmetrical pair of curving paths of locally quarried stone.

To create vistas, Fox specified a variety of junipers (virginiana, Pfitzeriana, hibernica, excelsa, and sabina), both pyramidal and columnar in form, and pines (nigra, sylvestris, and montana mugo) to punctuate the curbed edges of the planting beds and gravel walkways, or to mark the ends of a pool or short stairway. Fox’s planting list included verbenas, phlox, zinnias, petunias, lobelias, and chrysanthemums, and he specified an assortment of colors from pinks to reds, yellows, and blues. Only Terrace 4—the largest of the five terraces, with its perpendicular, curved retaining walls projecting at its center—was planned for roses. Without naming the varieties, Fox’s plans called for 3,424 roses to be spaced 2½ feet apart in the beds of Terrace 4, and specified that the northern and southern rectangular beds should be planted with red and shell pink roses, while the central beds bordering the pool and fountain should be planted with a mix of red, shell pink, and, at the very center, yellow suffused roses, broken up with sections of turf.

Tulsa Rose Garden (c. 1970s)

On May 17, 1936, the Tulsa Daily World published a detailed description of the terraces, written by Faith Hieronymus, that suggests what Woodward Park would have been like on a fine spring day:
The terraced gardens at the south end of the park…are striking contrast to the skillfully naturalized embellishment of the rest of the park. Originally this plot of land was a steep, empty field, boasting nothing more decorative than sand burrs… It is exceedingly good looking right now. On the south and east, the gardens are flanked by rows of evergreens that will, in time, make a solid green wall; on the north, the gardens are open to the park, and on the west the approach leads into the terrace from Peoria.

The first terrace is known as the American Legion Auxiliary terrace; the plants here will flower in the auxiliary colors of blue and yellow—blue salvia, poppies, yellow lantana, etc. This terrace is bordered in hollyhocks and its formal flower beds are bounded by limestone chat walks, geometrically laid out.
Except for the flagged walks through the approach, the walks on all the terraces are of limestone and chat. On the second terrace, the flower beds will yield sturdy, gay blooms in hard and clear colors, such as zinnias, pinks, and the like. The third terrace is known as the dahlia terrace, although there will be flowers there other than dahlias. But the 24 varieties of rare and lovely dahlias, donated, together with their care, by N.T. Gilbert, give this terrace its name. The fourth and largest terrace is the rose terrace.

There are 36 rose beds in this terrace, 3,700 plants and 51 varieties of roses. The Tulsa Garden Club is sponsor for this terrace and its members, schooled as they are in such matters, take particular pride in the choice of plants they buy for this garden that will, in time, become one of the outstanding showplaces of the Tulsa park system. Some of the roses are blooming now, but it’s a bit early yet, H.M. Whitten, horticulturist, said. The terrace will be in its full glory in early June. Four favorites with people who come to see the roses, Whitten has observed, are the Red Radiance, the Etoile de Holland, a deep, velvety red rose, the Ami Quinard, also a red rose, and the President Hoover, which is pink and yellow. The hybrid peas in the center beds always attract comment, while among the yellow roses the Luxembourg, because it holds its color best and does not fade, is perhaps the loveliest.

Tulsa Rose Garden (c. 1960s)

According to the design of the terraces, there will be trellises at the south end of the rose terrace and at the east end of the garden, a three‐sided pergola enclosing the garden…with the taller and darker wall of evergreens finishing the background. This evergreen wall is about one‐fourth planted. The lawns on all terraces (and on the approach there are only lawns, no flower beds) are sown in clover and blue grass.
There are six pools in these gardens, purely decorative, two on the fifth and upper terrace, where beds of sweet Williams and clove pinks border the garden walls. Eventually the walls along all terraces will be softened by plants and vines.

As Hieronymus noted, the Tulsa Garden Club was the official sponsor of the fourth and largest terrace, which focused on roses. The club, established in 1929 by Maud Mason, Florence Bartlett, and Mary Reeser, soon included twenty‐three members, with Mrs. Mason serving as its first president; the only requirement for membership was to have a garden at home, no matter its size. The club’s mission “to increase personal knowledge of botany and to bring more gardens to Tulsa” was achieved through its lecture series on botanical subjects and its annual flower show, the first of which was held in April 1930. Beginning in 1931, the Tulsa Garden Club partnered with the Tulsa Parks Department to provide perennials for city parks, many of which were grown in club members’ own gardens. The club hosted a roundtable discussion on roses in 1934, led by the rosarian Arthur Truex, who would become the president of the American Rose Society; at that meeting, Superintendent Doolittle discussed the plans of the formal terraced garden at Woodward Park, then under construction, and he proposed that the Tulsa Garden Club become the sponsor of a single terrace to be planted with roses. The club planted its first roses on the fourth terrace in March 1935, and it continued to supply new and replacement roses for the garden thereafter. The fourth terrace became known as the “Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden” at that time.

The expansion of the Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden, finally encompassing all five terraces, was gradual. In March 1937, the Tulsa Garden Club members planted 70 rose bushes from growers throughout the United States in an “experimental” rose garden located in the fifth terrace. Club members, having formed a rose committee, had asked the park board if that upper terrace also could be planted with roses, and permission was granted. The club’s rose committee then wrote to nurseries in Texas, California, and New York, requesting consignments of roses, and the growers generously complied. One California nursery sent 200 varieties of roses, while another sent 100 more. A New York grower wrote that it was too late in the season to provide roses at that time, but promised to send plants later that fall. It was then, in the autumn of 1937, that Better Homes and Gardens bestowed upon the Tulsa Garden Club its highest community honor, the More Beautiful America Achievement Award, capping a two‐year contest in its magazine that publicized community improvement programs. A rectangular bronze plaque, featuring a sculpted rose, states that the prize was given to the Tulsa Garden Club for its “outstanding accomplishment in civic improvement and in recognition of vision, industry, and civic pride”; the plaque remains affixed to a stone pier on the steps leading from the fourth terrace—the location of the first phase of the Municipal Rose Garden—to the fifth with its experimental beds.

Tulsa Rose Garden

In 1938, Arthur Truex—who had been the invited speaker at the Tulsa Garden Club meeting when Doolittle first presented the concepts of Fox’s terraced garden, four years earlier—reported on “The New Municipal Rose‐Garden at Tulsa, Oklahoma,” for The American Rose Annual. He wrote that the soil was sandy with just the right amount of clay, and that all beds had been prepared with additional leaf litter to achieve a pH of 6.4, with no deficiency of nitrogen or phosphoric acid. Truex marveled at how the first 1,800 roses planted in 1935 survived a severe drought, thanks to the devotion of club members and the care of city parks staff: “If ever roses are happily situated, those in the Woodward Park garden must be practically overcome with joy.


Growth, productivity, and sturdiness are phenomenal. In the middle of this month of October in which I am writing, President Herbert Hoover bushes stand 6 to 7 feet high, with the Radiances above them . . . Tens of thousands of people have found enjoyment and solace among these rose‐beds. Every day and all day in favorable weather, the garden has its visitors, some with pencil and paper writing down variety names, others content just to look.”

The Tulsa Garden Club’s next contribution to the Municipal Rose Garden was a 20‐foot‐long sign that reads “TULSA ROSE GARDEN” in curving, curling bronze letters, each two feet tall. The club, well over 250 members at the time, purchased the sign in 1941 and installed it facing Peoria Avenue, in front of the curving flagstone walkways that approach the terraces; this bronze sign remains in place today. The club then planted roses on the remaining three terraces, one by one, until the final terrace was planted with roses in 1961. In recognition of their efforts over three decades, the National Council of State Garden Clubs awarded its highest honor, the bronze medal for civic beautification, to the Tulsa Garden Club in 1963.


The Shakespeare Memorial Fountain, 1932

Shakespeare Memorial Fountain at Woodward Park

The Tulsa Shakespeare Club was founded in 1914 at the residence of Mrs. Frank Greer “as a means of wholesome recreation for a small group of friends.” The club organized study groups for the reading of Shakespeare’s plays and sponsored local productions at the Grand Opera House, including performances by visiting British troupes; it also brought Harvard University scholar Edward Howard Griggs to Tulsa for a series of annual lectures on the Bard’s work, beginning in 1918 and continuing through 1922. Originally chartered with twelve members, the club held steady to a limited membership of twenty‐five women in the 1920s and 1930s.

The idea of the Shakespeare memorial was first suggested at a club meeting in the winter of 1931, with three proposals for a statue or monument discussed over the next few months. Eventually, the clubwomen unanimously decided to construct a statue with a drinking fountain in one of the city’s parks, as they found Tulsa to be “conspicuously deficient” of sculpture. Mrs. C.C. Cole and Mrs. Paul Reed approached Adah M. Robinson to create the Shakespeare Memorial Fountain. Robinson, born in Indiana, had studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving with her family in 1905 to Oklahoma City, where she taught art privately; she moved to Tulsa in 1916 and became the art teacher at Central High School. In 1928, Robinson founded the Department of Art at the University of Tulsa and became its chair, and she helped establish the Tulsa Art Association. In collaboration with her former pupil, architect Bruce Goff, Robinson designed the Boston Avenue Methodist Church in Tulsa, which was completed in 1929. The church, with its 225‐foot‐tall Art Deco tower, was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1999.

Taking the Shakespeare Club’s commission for “a very few thousand dollars,” Robinson designed the Art Deco‐styled limestone shaft of the memorial, with its cut stone panels, two benches, and a tiny pool for drinking. Robinson engaged her friend, Eugenie Shonnard, to design the sculptured bronze bas‐reliefs of Shakespeare, which she modeled after the Droeshout Shakespeare, the portrait of the poet that appeared on the First Folio of his plays, published in 1623. B.F. Whitlock of the Bellows Construction Company completed the construction of the monument and its mechanical systems—the fountain and the lantern—during the summer, at cost, due to the project’s civic nature. In her notes on the construction and themes of the monument, Robinson wrote poetically of the endeavor: “Needless to say there were as many kinds of labor involved as in a much more pretentious undertaking. Of all the men [Whitlock] engaged, the stone man had the most difficult task. To him we owe gratitude for translating into stone Miss Robinson’s conception of six episodes from ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ In like manner he achieved her flower panel, which fills in the space immediately above the bubbling drinking fountain and carries out the same rhythm at that made by the flow of water.”

Tulsa Parks Superintendent Doolittle selected the location of the Shakespeare Memorial in Woodward Park, placing it in the northwest corner of the park at 21st Street and Peoria Avenue; Robinson wrote that that the location “abound[ed]…in oak and willow, and in shape almost an amphitheater effect, this corner of the park seems a happy choice.” Doolittle and a staff horticulturist named Thurston, along with a garden committee comprised of five women from the Tulsa Shakespeare Club, selected the plantings for the monument utilizing a book describing Shakespearian gardens, and the shrubs, flowers, and trees mentioned in his works. The pierced stone panels and the bronze bas‐reliefs on the monument reflect many of these plants, including acorns, thyme, woodbine, violets, and cowslips.

At the time of its dedication in 1932, the Shakespeare Memorial Fountain in Woodward Park was one of only four civic monuments to Shakespeare in the United States. Nineteen years later, in January 1951, the fountain was moved to its current place among the rock gardens. Years of exposure to the elements, as well as vandalism, took its toll on the monument, and the Tulsa Shakespeare Club undertook a restoration of the deteriorating object in 1988, including a cleaning of the stone surface, replacement of the two limestone benches, a new bronze bas‐relief of Shakespeare’s head, and a new pierced metal grill depicting six scenes from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The metalwork was completed over three months by Tulsa artist Ernest Weimann, and the restored monument was unveiled on April 23—William Shakespeare’s 424th birthday. The Shakespeare Memorial Fountain is an important component of Woodward Park, a reminder of the role of women in shaping the park during its earliest years, and it is a noteworthy local example of a civic art project completed during the Great Depression.


Anne Hathaway Herb Garden, 1939

"Poems and Promises" statue at the Anne Hathaway Herb Garden

Tulsa resident Jewell Huffman established the Anne Hathaway Municipal Herb Garden in 1939 after a trip to England, where she had visited Stratford‐upon‐Avon to view the home of William Shakespeare and his wife, Anne Hathaway. Inspired by the herb garden there, Huffman founded the Anne Hathaway Garden Club, whose like‐minded members were interested in the domestic gardens of the Bard’s time, and they devoted themselves to the study of medicinal plants as described in herbals and other records of the Elizabethan era. With the approval of Superintendent Doolittle, the Hathaway Club women created the garden to educate the public about medicinal plants and gardens of the Bard’s time, and they encouraged park visitors to pinch and smell the foliage of the plants growing in it. The pattern of the municipal herb garden is modeled after an Elizabethan knot garden, which is a formal design in a square frame, with fine gravel paths; knot gardens typically consist of aromatic plants and culinary herbs such as lemon balm, thyme, marjoram, acanthus, mallow, chamomile, and rosemary. Tulsa’s Anne Hathaway Municipal Herb Garden is divided into beds or compartments that are defined by borders of sandstone. The club worked with Tulsa Parks’ horticulture staff to propagate, plant, and care for the garden each year until 1982, when parks staff officially took over its care, but the Anne Hathaway Garden Club still exists today, and its members continue to weed and work in the garden. 

The Anne Hathaway Municipal Herb Garden also includes a bronze sculpture by Tulsa artist Rosalind Cook. The sculpture, called Poems and Promises, features a girl sitting on a tree stump, reading a book; her dress has a green patina, while her body is of finished bronze. The book in the girl’s hands is opened to reveal a single line of text from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “A rose by any other name…” The sculpture sits upon a large limestone boulder at the center of the herb garden site; dedicated on May 7, 2010.


Tulsa Arboretum, 1964

Arboretum at Woodward Park

An ad hoc committee formed in the autumn of 1962 to establish an arboretum in Woodward Park. A three‐acre site in the southeast corner of the park, behind the sunken garden and conservatory, was selected as a likely location. The site once featured a pond with fish, but it was overgrown with weeds and neglected at the time. Chairing the arboretum committee was Edith (Mrs. Charles) Thomas, and the designer was Paul J. Mitchell, staff of the Oklahoma State University horticultural facilities in Stillwater. Laid out along curving paths, the arboretum was planned as a walled garden of trees, with all selected specimens carefully labeled with two plaques. The first marker would list the genus, species, variety, common name, and average expected mature height and spread; the second label would be for memorial recognition, as many of the trees were expected to be donated by members of the public, in honor of family and friends. The Tulsa Park Board initially approved the project if there would be no cost to the city, hence the donations of trees; however, as the months passed and more detailed plans were made, including the proposed installation of a sprinkler system, the Tulsa Garden Center’s director, George Racette, announced that the cost for the project would be $28,500.

The plans called for 240 specimens, including 40 large deciduous trees, 100 small ornamental and evergreen trees, and 100 ornamental shrubs, both deciduous and evergreen. The trees originally on the site, before its preparation, included black oaks, American elms, and Texas hickory trees. At the time of its dedication, on a rainy December 10, 1964, 38 trees had been donated to the Tulsa Arboretum; Howard G. Jensen planted the first tree, which he donated in memory of his father. Mrs. Dan Hunt, Jr., also of the arboretum committee, gave the principal address to the gathered crowd, and her co‐chair Mrs. Thomas and Gordon T. Hicks, chairman of the Tulsa Park and Recreation Board, also spoke. A bronze plaque reading “Tulsa Arboretum, Project of Tulsa Garden Center, 1964” was affixed to the rubble limestone wall outside of the tree garden that very day.

Arboretum at Woodward Park

Two benches from the Oklahoma display at the New York World’s Fair of 1964—gifts from the Tulsa Council of Garden Clubs and the Tulsa Garden Club—were placed in the arboretum nearly one year later, on November 15, 1965, followed by a speech by Gustav Brandborg on “The Citizen’s Pride in Oklahoma; Its People and Natural Resources.” Trees continued to be planted in the arboretum collection, helping the garden to grow toward its planned size. In January 1966, Oklahoma City Mayor Charles Shirk planted a Zelkova Serrata elm that he purchased for the arboretum, having lost a wager to Tulsa Mayor James Maxwell; the bet was over which city would devote the most man‐hours to a city beautification program, with Tulsa far exceeding Oklahoma City. A blow was delivered barely three years after the arboretum’s dedication, however, when vandals entered the arboretum after hours and twisted, mutilated, and broke approximately 50 of the trees and shrubs. Amounting to nearly 20 percent of the plantings, the loss was assessed at $8,000, and a $500 reward was offered for any information leading to the arrest of the vandals. Tulsa newspapers reported that “a rare blue juniper was broken beyond saving. A big‐tooth maple, which required four years to locate, has every branch but one broken. A jujube tree, one of two in the city, was snapped off at ground level.” Also damaged were many metal markers, both memorials and identification labels, which were twisted and broken. George Racette, the director of the Tulsa Garden Center, said that the vandals “stomped and kicked down every tree and shrub they could!” He added, “This again points out the need for some street lights out here.” Just a few weeks after the terrible event, the Tulsa Arboretum replaced 17 trees that were irreparably damaged, all donated by local nurseries, including ginkgo, dogwood, loblolly pine, and a deodar cedar.

In 1997, improvements valued at $200,000 were unveiled at the arboretum, including light fixtures, fencing on the north and south sides, an irrigation system, 91 new identification markers, and several new trees and shrubs to replace those that had not survived. Today, the Tulsa Arboretum includes additional benches for seating, and the walking path is a favorite for dog owners, who are welcomed in the park along with their pets; the arboretum is also used as an outdoor classroom for students at Tulsa Community College, Oklahoma State University, scouting troops and 4‐H groups, as well as children from the Tulsa Public Schools. There are nearly 100 unique specimens within the arboretum today, with some of the largest being an American elm near the northwest corner, a pin oak and a red oak in the western half, and a black oak in the southwest corner.

Other specimens include Japanese pagoda tree, Carolina silverbell, shagbark hickory, bald cypress, sweetgum, river birch, tulip tree, willow oak, Chinese pistache, wild indigo, and sugar maple. The Tulsa Arboretum is a contributing resource to the district; it is the first arboretum established in the city of Tulsa, and the premier place for visitors and residents to learn about trees and woody plants in the city.


Appeal to the Great Spirit, 1985

Appeal to the Great Spirit statue at Woodward Park

Appeal to the Great Spirit, a one‐third‐size bronze cast from plaster, was donated to Woodward Park by the Tulsa Central High School Alumni Association in 1985 and placed in the northwest corner of the park. The sculpture of a Native American man on horseback, his arms raised up to the sky, is the most famous of Cyrus Dallin’s works, and it is the fourth and final component of his equestrian series The Epic of the Indian. The series began in 1890 with A Signal of Peace, which was exhibited during the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and permanently located there in Lincoln Park. The Medicine Man (1899) won a gold medal at the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris and was later installed in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. The third piece, The Protest, was exhibited as a plaster cast at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, where it won a gold medal, but it never was cast in bronze. Dallin’s Appeal to the Great Spirit was cast in Paris in 1909 and exhibited at the Paris Salon, where it won a gold medal; the bronze sculpture was then brought to the United States and installed outside the main entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A one‐third‐size bronze, cast in 1929, was installed in Muncie, Indiana. The later one‐third‐size cast added to Woodward Park in 1985 does not contribute to the nominated historic district.