The city of Tulsa is pretty spread-out. We have neighborhoods like Kendall-Whittier and the Cherry Street area that were once suburbs, and then we have former suburbs, such as Bixby, Broken Arrow, Sand Springs and Owasso, that have become their own cities.
Sand Springs is one of the older suburban towns surrounding Tulsa, which lies to the west of Tulsa’s downtown area. Sand Springs was once a thriving suburban district which, much like Tulsa to its east, suffered from white flight and rapid expansion.
Sand Springs was founded in 1911, with a railroad connecting the town to Tulsa. According to the city’s website, “Sand Springs is Oklahoma’s only planned industrial town,” founded as a “children’s home and widow’s colony” by Oklahoma oil man and philanthropist Charles Page. I had the opportunity over Thanksgiving break to visit this old suburb of my hometown, which reminded me of so many towns I’ve seen scattered throughout Oklahoma.
The main drag runs along Main Street and is about half a mile long. Many of the buildings are up for rent, but what few shops inhabit the old buildings are unique. I visited a bookstore along Main Street that was in the midst of refurbishment. The storefront’s paint was dull and faded, but unique and inviting, and the inside was a combination of both a bookstore and an antique shop.
Possibly the most interesting part of Sand Springs is not its Main Street, but its museum and statue of the city’s founder, Charles Page.
The museum is housed in the Page Memorial Library, built in 1929 to honor the death of the city’s founder three years prior. The building is really unique, a combination of Bauhaus and Art Deco aesthetics, but since I went over a holiday I didn’t have the chance to go inside. According to the museum’s website, it has a permanent exhibit about “Charles Page, the Sand Springs Home and Widow’s colony, and life in an early 20th century industrial town.”
Proud and tall on the corner of the Page Memorial Library and Sand Springs public school stands a statue of Charles Page—a monument to the philanthropy of the Oklahoma oil man. Below Page’s feet reads a Biblical quote, and children and mothers are standing to either side of him. This statue makes sense when you realize that Sand Springs was founded as a town for widows and orphans, but out of context it has a bit of a North Korea vibe.
Much of the rest of the town is taken up by more conventional suburbia. Chain restaurants, residential neighborhoods and winding streets can be found to the north and south of Main Street.
The town itself seems to house a large number of run-down storefronts and industrial areas. Driving back to Tulsa via Charles Page Boulevard (3rd Street, when it gets to Tulsa), took us past a number of these areas.
The Sand Springs area has a lot going for it—history, old buildings, small-town charm, out-of-the-wayness. Just make sure to do some research if you go visit, or else you might miss the town’s highlights and get stuck in an IHOP along the highway.