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Established in 1963, the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum holds an extensive collection of resources on our city’s rich past. The collection contains nearly 400,000 still photographs, books, maps, documents, textiles, architectural elements, building furnishings, and personal artifacts. From 1985 until 1998, THSM had its headquarters in the Thomas Gilcrease house on the grounds of Gilcrease Museum. In December of 1997, with funds made available through the Tulsa Tribune Foundation, THSM purchased the historic Sam Travis Mansion off Peoria Avenue, just south of the Tulsa Garden Center. The mansion has been expanded and renovated to serve as the museum’s new home.
Tulsa was entering its “Golden Age” as the Oil Capital of the World when brothers David and Sam Travis constructed complementary mansions on South Peoria in 1919. The Travis brothers, who had made their fortunes in the oil business, hired Noble Flemming to design their residences in what was then considered far south Tulsa. Flemming executed two designs in Italianate Revival style, set at the crest of a broad lawn rising to the east from Peoria. The two homes instantly became Tulsa landmarks.
The Travis brothers left Tulsa for California in the mid-1920s. Dave Travis’ home, the current Tulsa Garden Center, was purchased by the Hull family. Sam Travis’ residence became the home of the Charles Tibbens family. Mr. and Mrs. Tibbens executed a major remodeling of their home in 1928 and lived there until the 1950s. A succession of owners occupied the home, which remained a residential property until its sale by the Fichtenberg family in late 1997.
Despite its history of continual use as a residence, the Sam Travis home faced the potential threat of demolition when it was purchased by a developer who planned to construct thirteen homes on the estate’s 3.2 acres. Community sentiment favored the preservation of the structure and its important open lawns adjacent to the Tulsa Garden Center and the Arboretum.
With generous support in the form of gifts and matching grants from the Tulsa Tribune Foundation, the structure was purchased by the Tulsa Historical Society in December 1997. The mansion’s 11,000 square feet was extensively renovated in 2007 and matched with new construction to create a public space that will welcome Tulsans and visitors to the city for decades to come.
The Travis Mansion, built during Tulsa’s most prosperous period, endured through the turbulence of the Great Depression and near demolition in the 1990s, has been filled with new life and will turn 100 years old in 2019. The Tulsa Historical Society & Museum is proud to call the Travis Mansion its home and hopes to offer the stories of Tulsa history to the public, researchers and to children into its next century of existence.