It was once the neighborhood of oil barons, business owners and city founders. At its apex, Brady Heights – which sits just north of downtown along Cheyenne and Denver avenues – was the neighborhood where the wealthiest put down roots and put up walls. But as Tulsa expanded south and east, so went the stylish neighborhoods; Brady Heights, Tulsa’s first and once-regal neighborhood, fell into disrepair.
“Blight isn’t even the word for it. I would say that 20 percent of the homes were abandoned; another 10 percent were boarded up. There were prostitutes, slum lords,” says Tim Williams, who purchased his first home in the neighborhood in 1980. Since that purchase, Williams has bought and restored at least 13 properties in Brady Heights.
Also in 1980, the National Register of Historic Places put Brady Heights on its list due to the neighborhood’s unique and historically significant architecture; it was the first Tulsa neighborhood to receive this designation. Streets are lined with Victorian, American Foursquare, Bungalow and Craftsman homes. Newer homes have been built on lots where older properties were razed, and they, too, are built to mimic the historic construction of the older homes in the eclectic neighborhood. The designation seemed to stop the neighborhood’s decline. Williams and a few other property owners formed a neighborhood association and partnered with city officials and the Tulsa Police Department to clean up the crime-ridden neighborhood.
Brady Heights began its steady climb out of disrepair that was propelled by the redevelopment of downtown Tulsa. “Once downtown started its rebirth, it really affected Brady Heights in a positive way,” says Williams. “(City officials) started talking about the plans, and people are going, ‘Hey, (Brady Heights) is a place where you can afford to have a spectacular house close to downtown.’ That was kind of the impetus of the younger crowd moving into the neighborhood.”
And now Brady Heights is ready to show off. The biennial Brady Heights Historic Home Tour will take place Sept. 22 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Ten of the neighborhood’s homes and its three churches will be open for touring. “What’s cool about the home tour is that we try to get houses that are historic that are original and restored; houses that are in transition, in the process of restoration; and the infill houses that are historically appropriate to the neighborhood. It’s fun to see how different houses that appeal to different people,” says Williams. The tour will also include the famed mansion of the infamous Tate Brady.
Tickets for the home tour are $9 each or $24 for families and can be purchased at the start of the tour at Centenary United Methodist Church, 636 N. Denver Ave. Proceeds benefit the Brady Heights Neighborhood Association’s cultural and social projects. For more information, visit the association’s website at www.bradyheights.org.