The Mayo Hotel
Posted 16 June 2004 - 02:55 AM
The hotel was built in 1925 by John and Cass Mayo and was for decades considered to be one of the finest hotels in the Southwest in terms of both service and beauty. For years, the hotel was home to J. Paul Getty. I actually had the privilege of staying at the Mayo when I was a kid. I fell in love with the place the moment I walked in the door. At the time it was one of the most beautiful buildings I had ever been in. Everything about the lobby was grand - and it was such a stark contrast to the 1970s ugliness which, at the time, was still very much lingering on in almost every aspect of modern life.
Even the guest floors were impressive. The hotel room doors were made of very nice stained wood and the center portion gracefully bowed outward. The bowed area was actually a door within the door that was used to access a laundry compartment. There was also another door to the compartment on the inside as well. The way it worked was guests who wished to have the hotel do their laundry could place it in the compartment from the privacy of their room. The hotel staff would then pick up and deliver the laundry using the compartment's outer door without having to disturb the guest. When the laundry was delivered, all the guest had to do was open the compartment from the inside and take it out without having to leave the room or needing to personally interact with anyone. The bathroom faucets had the old fashioned porcelain handles. Such faucet handles are no big deal today - one can find similar faucets for sale at Home Depot. But when I was a kid they could only be found in old buildings and were another wonderful contrast to the utilitarian ugliness of the time. There were actually three faucet handles on the sink - hot, cold and ice water. I have subsequently seen both the ice water faucets and the compartment doors elsewhere - for example, the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells has them. But I have never since seen hotel room doors as attractive as the ones at the Mayo. Even the brass door knobs were ornate - each had the distinctive stylized logo that spelled out the word "Mayo."
When I stayed there, I made friends with the hotel's cleaning staff. Looking back, I suspect that the staff was very much amused that a kid would take such an interest in the place. They told me stories about the hotel and let me see the grand ballroom on the top floor. At the time there had been talk of the hotel perhaps having to close or being torn down - and the thought that anyone could even think of doing that to such a neat place disturbed me very much.
The Mayo closed during the early 1980s allegedly in order to be reopened as a luxury hotel. During that time, its interior was completely gutted except for the ballroom which today is in ruins. Unfortunately, the plan fell through and the hotel remained empty for 20 years. One summer when I was in college I rode the bus home from the Northeast and had a very brief layover in Tulsa. I used the entire layover to run to the other side of downtown to see the Mayo. My heart sank when I looked though the windows. Everything inside, including the beautiful marble columns that I remembered, had been gutted down to the concrete beams. A couple of years later, I ran into someone from Tulsa and asked what had happened to the Mayo. The person erroneously told me that it had been imploded. It wasn't until the Internet came along that I discovered that the building was actually still standing - but nobody was able to figure out what to do with it. In 2001 the Snyder family bought the hotel for $250,000. Imagine paying such a sum for a 20 story skyscraper. They have been slowly restoring the hotel as a labor of love. The building's basement is leased out for parking and the semi-restored lobby is rented out for social functions. No formal plans have been made yet for the other floors - but if a bond package passes for a nearby sports arena, there is talk about some of the floors being turned into a boutique hotel.
Last week, I read online that the Mayo lobby would be open to the public that weekend as part of a festival sponsored by The National Historic Route 66 Federation. So, I made a last minute decision to go to Tulsa to see it.
In a way, going through the lobby of the building was kind of sad. Much of the marble that I remember, especially the huge marble columns, is gone. But some of the details remain - especially around the elevator areas. Plus the lobby's original open center which was filled in during the 1950s has been restored. Interestingly enough, unlike a lot of other 1950s hotel remodels, the one at the Mayo was sensitive to its architecture. For example, when the lobby was filled in, the upper portion of the marble columns and the plaster work on the ceiling was incorporated into the second floor. When I stayed at the hotel I was not even aware that the lobby had been altered or had been subjected to a major 1950s remodel.
View of the side of the hotel taken from some blocks away. The rooftop sign was still lit up at night when I stayed there as a kid.
View of the back of the hotel. This was taken from quite a distance away using my camera's zoom lens. Observe how cheap, shabby and drab the modern buildings in the distance look by comparison.
The hotel's parking garage.
Lobby looking up. The square columns used to be made out of marble and were rounded like the columns that can be seen on the front of the building's exterior. My guess is that restoring them would cost much more than the owners can afford. The open area was filled in during the 1950s. The filled in area was surrounded by the columns and became the Pompeian Court, a popular room for social functions. The stained glass panels on the ceiling had been covered over in one of the remodels and were rediscovered in the late 1970s before the hotel closed. My understanding is that, due to the fragile condition of the originals, the glass panels you see here are replicas.
Ceiling detail from the mezzanine. The ornate plaster work is original to the building and was incorporated into the Pompeian Court after the center was filled in during the '50s.
First floor elevators. Except for the square column which used to be round, most of the original marble work survives in this view. The lobby's original marble floor is also intact and can be seen here.
Here is the edge of previous view where the original marble suddenly runs out.
Two small marble columns survive - though they are nowhere near as grand as the giant two story ones which were destroyed. The square columns you see on the left used to be the bottom part of some of those two story marble columns. It is heartbreaking that they are gone. They were one of the things that made the lobby such a remarkable place when I stayed there.
Here is a closer view of the surviving small columns.
Details over doorway in mezzanine area.
Original light fixture in mezzanine.
The Mayo Hotel logo as seen on the elevator doors. Notice how the design spells out the word "Mayo." The logo was found in various places throughout the hotel as well as on key fobs and hotel stationary.
Closed off area on the mezzanine area. A lady I was standing by became nosy and opened a door to this room - which I suspect she was not supposed to. Since the door was already wide open, I took a couple of pictures. This is how the hotel looked when I looked in the front windows years ago on my bus trip layover when I was in college. Look at the bottom of the column. A small portion of marble remains.
The hotel's old mail chute and collection box. The chute ran all the way to the top floors and was covered with clear glass so one could see letters fall by on their way down. I remember being very impressed by the whole mail box set up when I stayed at the hotel as a kid.
The hotel's new owners have put up a website at: http://www.mayohotel.com Check out the galleries for great photos from the hotel's past.
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Posted 16 June 2004 - 04:54 PM
Posted 16 October 2006 - 08:01 PM
The Mayo Hotel (not to be mistaken with the Mayo Building) recently got the go ahead to add about 100 new lofts. So the abandoned upper portions will be filled with upscale urban living at its finest in Tulsa...
Posted 20 February 2010 - 10:31 AM
Mixed feeling about the lofts--on the one hand, I'd like to move to Tulsa just to live in a loft in the Mayo Hotel! I love that so much of the original has been saved and maintained---which is hugely expensive! Thanks for the link to the new Mayo site - great vintage photos. Would like to see your photos on other architecture gems you have discovered...
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