The Mayo Hotel
With a breathtaking 1920s style Crystal Ballroom, The Mayo Hotel is much more than your average downtown lodging spot. Instead, it is a landmark building with grand importance to the landscape and history of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Mayo was the beginning to the famed Art Deco style in which the city’s downtown scape is known for. Two pioneers from Missouri, brothers Cass A. Mayo and John D. Mayo, found themselves in the middle of one of the biggest “booms” in American history. Along with architect, George Winkler, the brothers constructed the most elegant hotel that was the center of all activity in the city. What was once majestic, almost was no more. The building sat empty for thirty years. Many Tulsans feared that the wrecking ball would bring the building to the ground.
Cass A. Mayo and John D. Mayo, natives of Randolph County, Missouri, moved to Tulsa in 1903. Cass moved from Texas where he worked in the real estate business and John came from the family farm. The two brothers moved to Tulsa in hopes of starting a venture together in the furniture business. They opened their first store located at Second and Main and soon found themselves a success due in part to hard work around the clock and an oil boom that took place in 1905. The Glenn Pool oil field was discovered in that year and triggered one of the largest “booms” in American History, giving Tulsa the title of “The Oil Capital of the World.” The brothers went on to open a larger furniture store at its permanent home at Fifth and Main in 1908. The building began as five stories and was later expanded to ten floors. The brothers would continue to grow their real estate portfolio in downtown Tulsa and they became two of the city’s leading landlords. In 1925, the brothers would hire architect, George Winkler to design and build their next project.
Left: John D. Mayo Right: Cass A. Mayo
Photo Courtesy of The Tulsa Historical Society and Museum. Nina Dunn
George Winkler was an American architect who practiced in Pennsylvania, Florida, and Oklahoma from 1903 to 1953. Winkler is responsible for many notable projects in downtown Tulsa to include, Holy Family Cathedral (1914), Trinity Episcopal Church (1922) and of course the Mayo Hotel, completed in 1925. Winkler’s design of the Mayo was extravagant and the tallest building in Oklahoma at the time of construction. The design plan was a 19-story building in the Sullivanesque, Art Deco style of a Chicago Schoolhouse. Boasting a base of two-story Doric columns with a terra cotta façade accented by stone etchings. Winkler was able to fulfill the vision of the brothers by providing a hotel whose luxurious details would impress even the most discriminating of travelers, its 600 rooms boasted the most modern amenities of the day, including ceiling fans and Tulsa’s first running ice water.
After the opening in 1925, the Mayo was at the top of the list for upper class lodging and entertainment. The extravagant Crystal Ballroom was used for oil barons to entertain meetings and negotiate deals. The Ballroom was also host to many other events to include galas, weddings, fashion shows, and star-studded receptions. Notable guests to the Mayo included President John F. Kennedy, Bob Hope, Charles Lindberg, Babe Ruth, Lucille Ball, Charlie Chaplin, and Elvis Presley. The hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, however it closed its doors just one year later.
An attempt was made, and failed, to restore the building in the early 1980s. The doors were closed, and the inside was left to crumble for the next thirty years. The building continued to sit and was destined for demolition until June of 2001. The Mayo was then purchased by the Snyder family for $250,000 and renovation began. The initial focus and effort were put into restoring the lower floors, which became a popular venue for galas, proms, receptions and meetings. In 2008, an $11.2 million project to convert seven upper floors into loft apartments began. Another $4.9 million in public funds were allocated to the renovation from the Tulsa County development package, “Vision 2025.” The Snyder family provided an additional $6.3 million to the project for a total of $42 million dollars in renovations.
Today, The Mayo Hotel is once again open for business and thriving amongst a revitalization of downtown Tulsa. The hotel offers historic detail and modern luxury with 102 guest rooms and 76 private residential spaces. The hotel also offers event space for weddings, social events, parties, conventions, or business meetings.
The Mayo Hotel
Address: 115 W 5th St, Tulsa, OK 74103
Phone 24/7: (918) 582-6296