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Mayo 420 and the Mayo Brothers

A brief history

Cass Mayo and his wife, Allene, came to Tulsa in 1903, and not long after, his brother, John, followed from their parents' home in Missouri. Together, in 1904, the brothers opened a small furniture store in rented space on S outh Main Street using their meager savings and a loan from their grandmother. Their inventory was obtained on credit, but Tulsa was beginning to experience growth from the discovery of oil, and the brothers' business soon began to prosper. In 1906, the brothers rented the larger two-story Shelton Building across Main Street , which gave them room to increase their inventory. The continued growth in furniture sales allowed them finally to construct a building of their own — the Mayo Building — which they began in 1909. The brothers took a risk in the building's location at 5th Street and South Main because it was considered out-of-town in a residential area. The brothers lived in this residential area, at 5th and South Boulder, just a block west of their new building.

Completed in 1910, the Mayo Building was two blocks south of their original store locations, and was five stories tall, only the fourth building in Tulsa of this height. This was the brothers' first venture outside of the furniture business, as they divided the building's use between their furniture business and office space. The brothers were warned that moving so far south, where corn was still growing, would be bad for their business (Tulsa Tribune, November 6, 1953), but the Mayos were in the right place at the right time. Tulsa was changing from a cow town to a boom town, with the discovery of oil in 1901 at Red Fork, a community southwest of Tulsa . Wildcatters and investors began flooding the city and Tulsa grew dramatically. In 1905, the Glenn Pool field was discovered and Tulsa became the physical center of the growing petroleum industry. Eventually the Glenn Pool helped establish Oklahoma as one of the leading petroleum producing regions in the nation and Tulsa became known as the oil capital of the world. Many early oil companies chose Tulsa for their business operations and the Mayo brothers were able to capitalize on their need for offices. As Nina Lane Dunn in Tulsa's Magic Roots (pg. 269) observed, "It [the Mayo Building] was a big help in luring oil men to come to Tulsa."

The Mayos responded to the continually increasing demand for office space by doubling their original five story building in 1914, with a new wing on the northwest ( Tulsa's grid is skewed), a near mirror of the original in width and height. In 1917 they added five more stories to the 1910 and 1914 buildings, creating a new, taller Mayo Building . Now ten stories, the Mayo Building became part of the Tulsa "skyline." (Angie Debo, From Creek Town to Oil Capital, pg. 100). The increase in leasable space created ever-growing wealth for the brothers, and it allowed them to move from their city home at 5th and S. Boulder, into one of the newest subdivisions in Tulsa, Carleton Place. Established by architect John Blair in 1909, Carleton Place was one of Tulsa's most fashionable new residential areas. Cass and his wife moved to 1413 S. Cheyenne in 1913, just two years after the first part of the Mayo Building was completed. John continued to board with Cass and Allene until 1915 when he married and moved next door, to 1401 S. Cheyenne . By the mid-20's, 90% of the residents of Carleton Place were listed in the city directory as "oil producers." ("Intensive Level History Survey of the Riverview Neighborhood," September 1, 2005, pg. 85).

The Mayo brothers' wealth financed a second office building in 1921, the Petroleum B uilding (NRIS 82003706) at 5th and S. Boulder on the site of their old Tulsa home. This building was known for the number of oil companies located there and was called such to help attract those in the oil business, although part of their furniture business occupied the ground floor. Part also remained in the Mayo Building until 1923 (from city directories). In 1925 the brothers built the Mayo Hotel (NRIS 80003303), the most modern and luxurious hotel in Tulsa and according to some the best west of the Mississippi . The brothers, who were now large land owners in downtown Tulsa , sold their furniture company in 1935, to manage their extensive real estate interests through their management firm, Mayos, Incorporated. John managed the Mayo Hotel after it was built, and Cass continued to manage the rental space in the Mayo and Petroleum Buildings as well as their other properties. John also retained an office in the Mayo Building (Tulsa Tribune, November 15, 1971). In 1950, the last building with the Mayo name was constructed, the Mayo Motor Inn, a parking garage. The brothers' other holdings included both undeveloped and improved land and the Sears and Harris Buildings (Tulsa World, August 17, 1952). Outside the downtown area, for example, they platted the Reservoir Subdivision in North Tulsa (1924) where the Mayos constructed many houses on speculation.

The Mayo brothers are recognized as early Tulsa entrepreneurs, whose small beginning in furniture sales took them to a major office leasing business in the Mayo Building just as Tulsa was becoming the "oil capital of the world." There are no other businessmen of the period who enjoyed a comparably esteemed reputation based on their real estate interests in downtown Tulsa . With four major buildings still extant in the city associated with or bearing their name, the Mayos are unique among the city's early elite. From the seed capital generated by the Mayo building, the Mayos invested heavily in Tulsa real estate. In 1953 the Chamber of Commerce honored them for the 50th year of the family's business operations in Tulsa (Tulsa Tribune, November 6, 1953). In 1997, Cass and John Mayo were inducted into the Tulsa Historical Society's Hall of Fame for their contributions to the development of Tulsa .

The historical period of oil dominance in Tulsa that the Mayos experienced was wild and chaotic, but it created the city's most important industry. As Angie Debo's history of Tulsa, From Creek Town to Oil Capital (pg.99) has observed, by 1916, streams of wealth were pouring into Tulsa from the Cushing Oil Field. It was the beginning of a frenzy of activity as oil companies, large and small, established their headquarters in Tulsa . According to the WPA Guide to the 1930s Oklahoma , (pg. 209), an estimated 540 oil companies called Tulsa home.

The Mayos' Petroleum Building was well-known as a location for oil company offices, but the Mayo Building was just as important. Shortly after construction, for example, the Texas Company (later, Texaco) took over two complete floors of the Mayo Building to oversee its oil interests ( Tulsa ! Biography of the American City , pg. 89). In 1916, the only lessees in the Mayo Building were oil companies. While other types of businesses rented office space in the Mayo over many years, oil companies, or oil related businesses always were a high percentage of the renters.

The Mayo Building has the earliest place in the history of oil company office buildings. There are nine buildings besides the Mayo Building which are known for their attachment to Tulsa 's oil boom days between 1910 and 1930. Five of the nine are considered skyscrapers: the MidContinent (1918/1984 — 36 stories [but much shorter prior to '84]), the Philcade (1930 — 13 stories) and the Philtower (1931 — 24 stories) are in the National Register of Historic Places. The Thompson Building at 20 E. 5th is also considered a skyscraper (1921 — 15 stories), as is 320 S. Boston Building (1918 — 22 stories). These buildings do not compare well with the Mayo Building 's more moderate height of ten stories. The McFarlin Building (NR) (1918 — 5 stories) (77) was built at nearly the same time as the completed Mayo Building , but it does not compare well in scale, verticality and architecture. Other smaller skyscrapers, between 7-10 floors provide some comparisons in basic height, scale and verticality with the 1917 Mayo Building . These include the Sinclair Building (1919 — 8 stories) (74), at 6 East 5th Street; and the Mayo brothers' Petroleum Building (1921 — 10 stories) at 420 S. Boulder (76), the Wright Building (1917 — 7 stories) at 115 W. 3rd Street (78), and the Kennedy Building (1916, 1919 — 10 stories) at 321 S. Boston (75). These office buildings compare better in some ways. The Sinclair Building was the headquarters of Sinclair Oil, however, and not originally a multi-tenant office building. The Petroleum and Wright Buildings are already listed or eligible for their significance as oil company office buildings. The Kennedy Building is closely comparable to the Mayo Building but it is later, built just as the Mayo was completing its second alteration. Like so many of Tulsa 's older buildings, the Kennedy Building has had its original windows replaced with single windows and most of its inside public space has been radically altered with contemporary construction.

Begun in 1909, the Mayo B uilding is the oldest of the existing oil business buildings. There are no other office buildings as old in T ulsa . Initial tenants were oil companies, and it remained an attractive location to many including Shell Oil, into the 1970's. In 1919, forty-one buildings, large and small, had oil company tenants, but only a few remain today. Constructed just as oil fever hit Tulsa, the Mayo Building's significance is related to Tulsa's history as an oil town and is a good representation of the many moderate office buildings that were essential as homes to large and small companies needing office space in the Oil Capital of the World.


 
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