A Short History of the Underground Tulsa Tunnel System written by Urbane Chaos

A Short History of the Underground Tulsa Tunnel System written by Urbane Chaos
Buried beneath downtown Tulsa, a system of secret underground tunnels was built to connect many of Tulsa’s early skyscrapers.  Construction of the Tulsa tunnels began in 1929 with an 80-foot underground tunnel running between the Philtower and the Philcade.  The tunnel was originally designed as a way to transport materials between the two buildings, however due to the rash of kidnappings of wealthy businessmen in Chicago at the time, Waite Phillips felt secure in being able to move freely between the two buildings.
The Philtower, one of Tulsa’s most prominent skyscrapers, was completed in 1927.  The “queen of the Tulsa skyline” is a great example of neo-gothic and art deco architecture.  It was designed by Edward Buehler Delk and financed by renowned oilman, and dedicated philanthropist Waite Phillips.  The Philtower is easily recognizable by its green and red polychrome tile roof.

The Philcade, also financed by Waite Phillips to compliment the Philtower, was completed in 1929, two years after the Philtower was completed.  The building housed plenty of commercial space on the ground floor, mezzanine, and the second floors, serving as headquarters for many developing oil companies and individuals connected with the oil industry.  When the Philcade opened, it offered 259 office suits and 28 shops, making the fifth and Boston Avenue area the most popular business location in town.

In all, the Tulsa tunnels connect eight buildings, three parking garages, a world-class hotel, and numerous café’s and small businesses.  It’s possible to go from Fifth and Boston to First and Main while staying indoors the entire time.


The 2014 eMerge tunnel path will run mainly under the MidContinent & Kennedy buildings in downtown Tulsa. For more history on these two buildings, see the following links:


This project was made possible with assistance from the Oklahoma Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, Living Arts New Dance Committee and the George Kaiser Family Foundation.


The mission of eMerge Dance Festival is to support and promote community, interactive dance art and civic participation through the creation and performance of site-specific dance works. For our purposes, interactive dance art means art that generates social participation. The process whereby this art is created, the means by which it is displayed, and the character of the work itself should inspire immediate interactions that connect people to one another in a larger communal context and within the given site context.