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Paranormal Investigation Team of Tulsa
Brady Theater History
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Around the time cars cars got started!

Some of this information was taken directly from the Brady Theater's Web site and some was obtained on our own.  Be sure to visit the web site - the address can be found below.

The historic Brady Theater in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, is a restored 2,800 seat entertainment center. The hall is physically adaptable for symphonic and popular music events, dance, theater, musicals, ringside events, meetings and ceremonies.

While the restoration retains the intimate atmosphere and superb acoustics of the 1914 structure, alterations were designed to allow for a more flexible and modern facility. Renovation includes: expanded concession and support facilities, a new decor, downstage hang points, air-conditioning and in-house sound reinforcement system.

The inside Seating is distributed on two levels. Three optional seating styles are available: 2,800 seat concert style, 2,500 seat cabaret style (200 seats at 40 tables and 2,300 seat concert style), and a 700 seat facility. The cabaret style offers an informal alternative to the formal concert seating format. The orchestra pit is adjustable allowing the area to be used as an orchestra pit, raised to floor level for seating or raised to stage level for a thrust.


The classicsSome historic performances at the Brady Theater:
The Marx Brothers, Isadora Duncan, Al Jolson, dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, John and Ethel Barrymore, Ramon Navarro, Eddie Cantor and George Jessel, Helen Hayes, Katherine Hepburn, Duke Ellington, Mae West, Will Rogers, Walter Huston, Eva La Gallienne, The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and almost three years after its opening, a performance by the great Italian tenor, Enrico Caruso.

 

More History on the Brady as done by PITT historian Debbie:

The Brady Theater symbolizes the past wealth, vitality, energy and problems of a tiny corner of downtown Tulsa.  In 1910, Tulsa's 18,000 people has an unshakeable confidence as the oil capital - home to oil investors, rig owners and wildcatters.  Those barons of petroleum imagined a great city, including a 3,500 seat Convention Hall.  101 Brady Street was completed in 1914, a 5 story high red brick structure surrounded by red brick streets.  Today, the old Lady on Brady retains its original awesome acoustics and classical architecture along with a mix of recovered seating.  Brady and Boulder streets' bricks have beenpaved over but chipped away to reveal the original road pattern.  On the east side of the building, the orignial brick road separates the building from a parking lot.  The Brady Theatre, now with the address of 105 Brady, is a conbination of the founding dreams and the decades of performer's energy and appreciative audiences.

Human energy and vitality already existed in the area prior to 1910.  Just north and east of Brady Street, where Owen Park is now located, the lands of the Osage, Creek, and Cherokees intersect.  The settlement of Tulsa started out as a trading post for the natives.  When the convention hall was built, the Creeks still argued that their land extended south of the railroad.

The Native American treaties of 1866 paved the way for the railroads to cross Indian Territory.  In the 1880's a railroad crossed the Arkansas River at a northeasterly direction.  Just a little over a mile square of downtown tulsa, including tiny Brady Street, was paved in bricks parallel to the tracks.  Like most southern towns, the tracks divided the white and black centers of the town.  The Convention Hall was built just north and east of white Tulsey town.

Blacks lived as freedmen in the Tulsa area before the rail companies and white traders.  As the settlement grew into a city, by the mid 1900's bkacjs were twelve percent of the city's population.  When Oklahoma wrote its constitution in 1907, it included Jim Crow laws.  About half of Tulsa's lived in the Greenwood district, the Black Wall Street, and the other half lived with or on the property of white employers.  Racial tension often ran high on the white side of the tracks.  After WWI, racial tensions mixed with the Red Scare. 

Veterans returned to the Greenwood District only to have less freedom and respect than they had received in France during the war.  Black workers belonged to the International Workers of the World, an orginization that had promoted communist equality since the 1870's.  The local lodge was located at Brady and Boulder on the corner opposite to the Convention Hall.  In 1918, a white Tulsa policeman entered the lodge and arrested 8 men for loitering although all were organization members and were playing cards and dominoes.  The one white arrested was fined and let go, the the seven blacks were held over for trial.  Later that night, a mob of white men lynced the seven. 

Blacks attended the performances and events at the Convention Hall but entered through "Black Only" entrances on the sides of the building.  Just inside were their bathroom and washing facilities.  They even had their own seating sections, probably in the balcony sections closest to their entrance.  Black performers and musicians could only use the small dressing rooms on the east side of the stage.  In January, 1920 the US Negro Heavyweight Championships were held at the Convention Hall.

Wrestling matches, traveling mistrels, famous singers, orchestras and orators performed at the ahll.  In the first week of June 1921, William Jennings Bryan was scheduled to speak but his engagement was cancelled because the worst race riot in US History had ripped Tulsa apart on June 1, 1921.  The convention hall played a vital role in the riot. 

White men, some who had been deputized and probably some police, rounded up residents of Greenwood and marched them to the hall.  White urban legend says blacks were taken there for protection  while black urban legen says they were incarcerated.  Surviving photographs support the black perspective as people were marched by gunpoint to the hall's front entrances with their hands up in the air.  Dr. Jackson was killed on the way to the Convention Hall and another man died just outside the front doors.

Up to 6,000 people were escorted, or herded, into the building and the doors were locked.  What happened inside is unknown; however, urban legend says that some of the 300 people unaccounted for later were thrown in the coal burning heating system.  Late afternoon on June 1st, the hall's population was gradually moved to the fair grounds.  The Red Cross entered the building to nurse the injured, a few stayed there up to a week.

As blacks began to rebuild homes and businesses, white worked on forgetting about the death and destruction.  By the end of June, the Convention Hall again played host to the nation's stars.  Caruso did his last performance and Will Rogers made his first Oklahoma appearance in the center of the performance area.  The hall hosted numerous acts whose actors, musicians, and singers were just a note in the program but each of them left a piece of themselves in the old hall.

Urban Renewal came to Tulsa in 1961 as the downtown had seen a decade of businesses moving out to the suburb.  The Convention Hall sponsored fewer and fewer performances and finally was closed with the opening of the Tulsa Civic Center late in 1970.

Peter Mayo purchased the building in 1974.  He renovated the building so it could once again bring entertainment to Tulsa.  Mayo enclosed the original exterior front entrance to accomodate a concession stand and ticket office.  He also tore out the old black bathrooms and replaced the spaces with a kitchen and storyage space because the facilities seemed "so creepy".  Wide doorways allow the air to circulate freely.

Thousands of performers have temporarily called the Convention Hall and the Brady Theatre home.  Like most theaters, it is the stage hand who spend countless hours preparing for the next set of performers and consider the theatre their true home.  Their creativity and energy are no less important than the big names of bygone days.  Stagehands who are not busy during performance commonly sat up in the cat walk, the best seats in the house.  Years ago, a stage hand hung himself in the cat walk.  Theatre legend says he still watches every performance.

When the overhead lights go out, the Brady comes alive.  In the dark, one can hear the excitement of the audience and feel the energy of the performers.  The Brady Theatre had been at the center of Tulsa's changes, both good and bad, for over eight decades.  It is a part of the new vitality of modern Tulsa but it may still be home to performers and stagehands from the past and it may house the spirits of traumatized victims.

Visit their web site at:  http://www.bradytheater.com/
 
The Brady Theatre played an instrumental role in the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921.  For more history on the Tulsa Race Riots visit this link:  http://www.forgottenhistory.org/exhibits/tulsa.html