Woodward Park, located three miles from downtown Tulsa, encompasses nearly 44 acres surrounded by neighborhoods established during the 1920s and 1930s, including the Terwilleger Height Historic District, the Swan Lake Historic District, and the Maple Ridge Historic District. The Woodward Park and Gardens Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as an example of one of the finest public gardens established in Tulsa during the first half of the twentieth century, as well as for The Mansion at Woodward Park, a 1919 Italian Renaissance-inspired villa designed by architect Noble B. Fleming, and home to the Tulsa Garden Center since 1954.
Woodward Park is best known for two garden areas, the Upper and Lower Rock Gardens, and the formal terraces of the Tulsa Rose Garden, both established during the 1930s using public monies and constructed by laborers enrolled in work‐relief programs. The rockeries, designed by Arthur S. Phillips and opened to the public in 1932, utilize honeycombed limestone slabs to establish lily pools and lagoons, walking paths and fairy circles, a grotto, and erosion controlling terraces. Later additions to the rock gardens included more terracing with sandstone blocks, and, in 1968, beds of colorful azaleas.
The formal terraced Tulsa Rose Garden, designed by landscape architect C. Burton Fox and constructed by the Civil Works Administration (CWA) in 1934, was originally intended to feature a wide variety of blooming flowers among its geometric parterres but quickly was transformed into a municipal rose garden by the Tulsa Garden Club. The popular journal Better Homes & Gardens recognized the Tulsa Garden Club and the Tulsa Rose Garden with its highest community honor, the More Beautiful America Achievement Award, in 1937; additional national recognition came in 1938 from the American Rose Society and the New York Times, the latter of which called Tulsa’s municipal rose garden “remarkable.”
In addition to its significant work on the terraces of the Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden, the Tulsa Garden Club was instrumental in the acquisition of the David R. Travis Mansion, addressed at 2435 South Peoria Avenue, as the headquarters of the Tulsa Garden Center. In November 1949, the Tulsa Garden Club had written to the Mabee Foundation and the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, notifying both organizations that the Travis Mansion—referred to as “the George Snedden house,” after one of its more recent owners—was available for purchase, and explaining that the house could be used as a Women’s City Club to host lectures, garden demonstrations, and flower shows, while the greenhouses on the property and its landscaped grounds could be converted into a Garden Center.
Seven months later, in June 1950, the Tulsa Garden Club formed a garden center committee to create an educational institution to promote horticulture, conservation, and community beautification. In August 1950, the Tulsa Garden Club and the Tulsa Council of Federated Garden Clubs filed articles of incorporation to establish the Tulsa Garden Center, Inc., in the State of Oklahoma. The Garden Center held its first meeting in December 1950, at the Public Service Companies Building; it held later meetings at the Brookside Library and at the Philbrook Art Center. The Tulsa Garden Center was a placeless entity, and for years its organizers held out hope that it would find a permanent home. It was not until 1954, however, that the City of Tulsa purchased the Travis estate to be the permanent home of the Garden Center.
Other designed landscape features and structures contained in the Woodward Park grounds include a cobblestone driveway, a brick carriage house, a sunken garden, a glass conservatory from the Lord & Burnham Company, and a large, framed barn which now serves as the Linnaeus Teaching Garden, a program of the Tulsa Garden Center.
Located on the southeast side of Woodward Park, between the Tulsa Arboretum and the Municipal Rose Garden, the Linnaeus Teaching Garden, dedicated on June 8, 2006, was designed to include teaching and demonstration gardens aimed at homeowners, and includes outdoor classrooms and seating areas, a boulder garden and a greenhouse, an extensive timber‐framed pergola and a stone arch, vegetable gardens and fountains, and a bronze statue of botanist Carl Linnaeus, for whom the garden is named, created by sculptor Rosalind Cook.
The Linnaeus barn, purported to be the oldest structure in Woodward Park, was built of yellow pine and used to house horses and other animals on the David R. Travis estate. The two‐story structure is covered in clapboard and is capped by a clipped gable roof with a deep overhang, supported by large, carved brackets; dormers, too, feature clipped or jerkinhead gables, and all roofs are covered with asphalt shingles. The barn has been used by Tulsa Garden Center staff since it began its occupancy of the Travis estate, finally being rehabilitated to serve as the office of the Tulsa Garden Center’s Director of Horticulture and as the Linnaeus Teaching Garden.