The blonde-brick Mayo Building is the oldest of Tulsa’s existing oil business buildings. Constructed just as oil fever hit Tulsa, the Mayo Building is a good representation of the many moderately-sized office buildings that were essential to large and small companies needing office space in the Oil Capital of the World.
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 in the 200 block of South Main Street, using their meager savings and a loan from their grandmother. In 1906, the brothers rented the larger Shelton Building across Main Street at 213-215 South Main Street. The continued growth in furniture sales allowed them finally to construct a building of their own – the Mayo Building – which they began in 1909.
Completed in 1910, the Mayo Building was two blocks south of their original store locations, and was five stories tall, only one of a few at this height, then called “skyscrapers” in Tulsa. 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 for oil companies.
The brothers were warned that moving so far south where corn was still growing would be bad for their business, but the Mayos were in the right place at the right time. The Glenn Pool helped establish Oklahoma as one of the leading petroleum producing regions in the nation. As early oil companies located their business headquarters in Tulsa, the Mayo brothers were ready to capitalize on their need for rental offices.
The Mayos responded to the increasing demand for office space by doubling their original five-story building in 1914, and by adding, in 1917, five more stories to the 1910 and 1914 buildings. At 10 stories, the Mayo Building became one of the taller buildings in the Tulsa skyline.
While the Mayo Hotel is probably the most famous of the Mayo properties in Tulsa, it was the Mayo Building that produced the seed capital the brothers needed to build their real estate and investment empire. Beginning with borrowed money, the Mayo brothers worked together to build their first building, which in turn financed other real estate endeavors including the 1921 Petroleum Building, the 1925 Mayo Hotel, and the 1950 Mayo Motor Inn, none of which could have existed without the Mayo Building.
The Mayo has retained its three-story-high vertical advertising sign and typifies major office construction of the time.