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Photo: The Beryl Ford Collection/Rotary Club of Tulsa, Tulsa City-County Library and Tulsa Historical Society.

Cosden Building / Mid-Continent Building

BY http://tulsapreservationcommission.org

The Cosden Building (now called the Mid-Continent Building) was constructed in 1918 on the site of the first Tulsa schoolhouse, which was a mission school established in 1885 on Creek Indian Nation land. Built by Joshua Cosden, Tulsa's "Prince of Petroleum," the 15-story building was Tulsa’s first skyscraper. It was also one of the earliest reinforced concrete buildings in the United States.

The basic design was Sullivanesque, but a Venetian Gothic terra cotta skin was applied to the building. The building was a gesture toward progressive design in a young city, and an interpretation of the “commercial cathedrals” of the age. The Cosden Building is the cornerstone of Boston Avenue’s older financial and corporate office buildings. This million-dollar building symbolized the flamboyance of Tulsa’s oil barons during a period of enormous growth and prosperity.

The Tulsa landmark was restored to its original grandeur in 1980 to meet the needs of a modern corporate environment.

Soon thereafter, work began on a dramatic addition that would more than triple the building's size. Because the original structure was not strong enough to support the weight of 20 additional floors, a "cantilever" design was used to suspend a new tower over the older building. The two structures do not touch. The tower rises 20 stories above and extends 40 feet horizontally over the original 15-story building, creating the appearance of an upward continuation of the first structure. Deeper and wider steel trusses in the construction of the 16th and 17th floors of the tower, and a 120’ deep foundation, carry the burden of the cantilevered floors.

In order to sustain continuity of the original Tudor-Gothic design, more than 85,000 pieces of terra cotta panels, spires, cornices and moldings were produced for the exterior façade. At the time of the tower's construction, the only manufacturer of terra cotta in the United States was located in California. Terra cotta is fired, glazed clay material similar to ceramic tile. Elaborately ornamental, each handcrafted and hand-cast piece is a work of art.

Three different types of marble were imported from Italy to match existing interior wall panels. Calcutta Vagli Rosatta marble graces the walls and columns. Roman Travertine covers the restroom walls. Accents and trim are Verde Antique. Two colors of marble from Tennessee - Craig Rose and Rose Gray - make up the lobby's floor.

The project’s artist used the design motif, true to a neo-gothic approach, in various stained glass pieces throughout the tower. In the lobby, an exquisite stained glass panorama recreates the Tulsa skyline from the Boston Avenue Methodist Church to the Bank of Oklahoma Tower. A stained glass dome, resembling a giant Tiffany lamp, forms a ceiling over the three-story spiral staircase, connecting the top three floors of the tower and a two-story high "colonnade" entrance is formed by four terra cotta arches.

Completed in 1984, 66 years after the original construction, the building was renamed “Mid-Continent Tower.”

The Cosden Building was listed in the National Register on February 1, 1979.