Carbondale remains a fine neighborhood
4/25/02 Anna F Brown Carbondale more current
Carbondale features the Perryman-Wakefield house, which has housed three generations of Wakefields. It is a beautiful Victorian showplace, which has been featured in articles and books featuring some of Tulsa’s most outstanding homes. The house is located at 4702 S. 27 West Ave. (Story about the house?) Bundy’s Burgers opened in 1932 as a grocery store and gas station as 3213 W. 48th Street. In 1950, Ruth Bundy turned it into a carryout restaurant. Willard Bundy said in an undated Tulsa World article that he had peeled 360 tons of potatoes. He and Jewell served 1.5 million burgers, that’s about 400 a day. In 2003 Charlie’s Chicken opened on the spot and prepared a photo/article display in their entry recognizing the Bundy’s family and business at the same site.
The majestic First Apostolic Church is in the building that used to house the Carbondale Assembly of God. Fern and John McQuary recall watching movies projected on the Blackburn building’s sidewall on summer nights in the 1920’s. He and other boys helped Blackburn plant elm trees on Carbondale streets. Fans watched Blackburn’s baseball team play.
McQuary got free cornet lessons from P.F. Peterson, the leader of Carbondale’s 32-member band. In return for giving free lessons to community members, Blackburn built Peterson a house free. Peterson also conducted the Oklahoma Natural Gas Co. band.
Joe Admire Jr.’s Superior Lawn and Landscape was in the yellow brick building which his grandfather build. The grandfather had a dry cleaning business there from the 1940s-1980s.
Eddie Creekpaum, a Carbondale resident, became Robertson Elementary Principal later. He watched his father get ready for work at the Texaco Salt Plant in Garden City, which opened in 1932 and 1933.
Lewis Long, former State Senator, attended Robertson. Darla Hall, Tulsa first westside councilor, lives in Carbondale now. John Autry attended there and became the principal at Robertson. Alice Hallford Spears is a Robertson graduate and became a Tulsa Public Schools principal.
Carbondale emerged in 1921, a vision of beauty and progress. Many 1995 residents of the westside remember some things about early Carbondale, but to explore a little clearer vision, we need to turn the time back a few years, to 1938.
Mrs. Freda Aston, wrote a historical piece on Carbondale, November 6, 1938, entitled “Visions of Oklahoma’s Future Brought Founding of Carbondale; Early Civic Pride Still Lives in Suburb.” The article for the Tulsa World was sub-titled
“Area Once Incorporated as City; Swallowed in Tulsa Growth.”
“Quite a few years ago I used to see a little trolley car teetering up and down the streets of Tulsa. It reminded me of the “Toonerville Trolley.” On the front was the word: Carbondale.” I was intrigued by the toy-like car and also by the name. I even went so far as to ask someone if they knew anything about it. “Some little town across the river,” was the answer.
The years went by. No more did the little trolleys tilt along the streets. Even their tracks were taken up to make the pavement smooth for the softly running motor busses, which had taken their place. I had forgotten about my curiosity concerning Carbondale when suddenly I found myself living there. It was my home for five years and I came to know its story -- the hopes and the heartaches that went into the making of the delightful and charming neighborhood that it is today.
Two men stood on the highest point of a large gently rolling meadow. To the north and west swept the misty folds of the Red Fork Mountains. To the northeast, across the Arkansas River, the gleaming towers of Tulsa peered over the shoulder of “Pistol Hill.” It was the last week in February and grass had not yet started to grow but the feel of spring was in the air. A wandering little breeze from the south brought the ghost-like memory of the scene of wild plum blossoms.
“There is no more likely site for a town in northeastern Oklahoma that this spot,” declared M. A. Blackburn. “It is seven miles to Tulsa and across the river -- too far for the city to swallow it up, but close enough for easy transportation.” But you forget that people have to have fuel and water to live,” objected the more practical F. S. Brooks, friend and business associate of Blackburn.
“Well, you know, Brooks, that the city water of Tulsa is the worst in the world. Wells and cisterns over there are prized possessions. Why I know people who carry all their drinking water from a neighbor’s well; others who have to buy distilled water the year round. With this high location, deep wells and well-made cisterns will only add to the already healthful aspect of the place. And fuel. We could easily connect with those wells to the west there on the next section for all the gas we need. The owners are anxious to sell it.” Brook skeptically shook his head over the visionary plans of his friend but said no more.
This meadow, which in reality was a little prairie, bordered on the north and east by the wooded section lying along Red Fork creek and enclosed on the south by a heavy strip of timber, belonged to Winnie McIntosh, a Creek Indian,. Her people had drawn it as part of their allotment from the government.
On the first day of March 1921, M. A. Blackburn completed the transaction that gave him this tract of land that seemed, to him, ideal for his experiment.
The Sunlight Carbon company factory -- that inspired the name of Carbondale -- just west of Red Fork upon the Frisco tracks was the first of the many manufacturing concerns he hoped to interest in this new enterprise. He saw a humming business section and tall buildings rising out of this grassy meadowland always swept by a southerly breeze. He also saw residence streets bordered by luxurious mansions and comfortable cottages, the homes of prosperous and happy citizens employed in the factories and the oil industry. He saw picture shows and playgrounds, schools and churches.
With this vision to guide and lead him on, the tract was surveyed and marked out into lots and streets. F. S. Brooks, the doubting friend, Lola Brooks and Blackburn, himself, were the first buyers. The formal opening was on March 31, 1921. One week later, T.S. Rice bought several lots and began building the home in which he still lives. J. H. Billingsley and Mark Cassidy soon followed. Building was brisk throughout that first summer.
Gas for fuel and lighting was brought from the wells to the west of the townsite. But due to the lack of pumping service the pressure grew so low in cold weather that many times men went to work and children to school without breakfast or with only cold food in their stomachs.
The next year electricity was secured and streetlights installed.
In June 1925, Carbondale was incorporated into a city under a trustee form of government. J. B. Haynie was the first president of the first board of trustees. J. S. Howell, B. A. Blackburn (the son of M. A. Blackburn), A. J. McCombs, H. R. Brox and E. L. Rice were members. T. S. Rice was the first justice of the peace, J. H. Billingsley, treasurer, and George Smith, town clerk.
Now launched as a first class city, the new town grew rapidly for two years. Stores, garages, picture show, town hall and post office formed a compact little hamlet. The founders, as well as the citizens, were very proud of their community. The civic pride they expressed by organizing a community church, a ball team, and a 32-piece band under the able leadership of P. F. Peterson. Band Photo
Meanwhile Tulsa had completed the huge engineering project for bringing spring water from Spavinaw creek into the homes of the city. In 1927 this limpid mountain water was flowing from the faucets of Carbondale also.
Thus on Thursday of July 28, 1927, the first edition of “The Carbondale News” recorded with pride,
“A population of 1,400.
“An established post office.
“Spavinaw mountain water.
“Electricity furnished by the Public Service Company.
“Good schools and a Community church.
“Gas furnished by the Oklahoma
Natural Gas Company.
“A real 32-piece band.
“A town hall.
“A picture show.
“A fine interurban and bus service.
“And best of all, a future.”
But 1928 held two events that Carbondale had not counted on; the burning to the ground of the Sunlight Carbon Company’s factory -- and the death of M. A. Blackburn.
A careless workman cleaning off the “right of way” on the Frisco tracks allowed the fire to spread too near the factory buildings and before the fire equipment could arrive from town the $350,000 plant was a pile of ashes. The company sued the railroad but the judgement handed down was too small to rebuild and start all over again. M. A. Blackburn’s death followed not many months afterward. When his friends speak of him they all agree that disappointment as much as disease was the cause of his passing away. No factories had been built on the sites that he had given to the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce for that purpose and although Julius Kahn had bought 20 lots and an investment company had built several houses upon them, no building boom had ever really developed.
So when the carbon factory was a thing of the past and the guiding spirit of the little town was no more, the trustees met to discuss what course to take. They decided to ask the city to accept the community as a suburb. A petition was circulated. The required number of signers was secured and Carbondale became one with Tulsa. At once sewers were built and the streets put into better conditions, but that was in the latter part of 1928 and the depression struck before any of the real estate firms could start a building program out there.
Carbondale remains much the same in spirit as it did before its annexation to the city. About the only changes are those of physical growth. Trees, set out as withes and weedy saplings around the first homes, are now tall, or spreading, shade trees according to their kind. Children who began in the primary at the little frame two-room school are enjoying the commodious, ultra-modern Daniel Webster high school this year.
The smooth well-oiled streets lie tranquilly between rows of comfortable white cottages occupied by contented workmen who are employed in the various industries of Tulsa. It is possible to keep a cow and a few chickens. If one doesn’t have space enough of one’s own, there is always a vacant lot handy to plow up for a vegetable garden.
One of the city’s best grade schools, four churches, several groceries, and filling stations, a drug store and sub-post office, with city mail delivery are some of the conveniences enjoyed by these suburbanites. Nor is it a drudgery to be a commuter in Carbondale for the big luxurious buses whisk you back and forth from work or shopping in comfort and economy. All of these things the citizens of that community will boast of and although it is hard to believe, they will also insist that no matter how hot the summer sun grows in the middle of the day a cover is always comfortable at night thanks to that constant southerly breeze. After all his visions of empire and the death of those bright hopes, had the founder of the pleasant suburb survived, I think he would have found satisfaction in his handiwork.”
Freda Aston, Tulsa World