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Tulsa Garden Center History
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SPIRITS AMONG THE ROSES  AT THE TULSA GARDEN CENTER MANSION

By Rhonda Lunsford

 

The Italian style villa located at  2435 South Peoria,  was designed by Tulsa architect, Noble B. Flemming.  The house was built with twenty-one rooms and ten bathrooms.  Construction began in 1919 and was completed in 1921 at a cost of more than $100,000.00.  It was built by David R. Travis (originally known as David Rabinowitz) an immigrant originally from Czarist Russia.  Mr. Travis and his family moved to Tulsa in 1913 from Ohio where he became quite wealthy in the oil field equipment salvage business.  The ballroom in the lower level was the location of the first Jewish services during the Travis residence since there was no synagogue or temple in Tulsa. 

 

The cobblestone drive was built by Mr. Travis and his brother, Samuel.  Samuel Travis built the house immediately south, which is now owned by the Tulsa Historical Society.  The arboretum parking area was originally a swimming pool.  The ceiling in the library is hand applied gold leaf and the stained glass ceiling on the third floor was originally a skylight. 

 

In 1923 J. Harthur Hull purchased the home and built the Lord Burnham greenhouse and sunken garden.  It was during the Depression that the house and 10 acres was offered for sale for $25,000 with no buying coming forward for several years. 

 

The Snedden family purchased the mansion and property in 1934 and called the estate home until 1950, when Mr. W.G. Skelly purchased the home.  Though he never lived there, he sold it in 1954 for $85,000 including ten acres to the City of Tulsa.  Since then, the Tulsa Garden Center has operated the city-owned facility providing educational resources and meeting places for horticultural and environmental organizations and surrounding communities. 

 

That history all sounds benign and decidedly unparanormal, doesn't it?  Well, make no mistake . . . after hours, when the garden club ladies have driven away . . . when the master gardener has locked the library and headed for home, the spirits come out to reclaim the rooms where they used to live.

 

Who are those spirits?  Some say one is poor Mary Hull who died a young woman and who laid in state in the alcove of south solarium.  A former caretaker recounts hearing running footsteps on the second floor landing each morning when he opened the mansion.  A thorough search never turned up a living soul.  Thinking he was being put to a test by his employer, he finally asked many questions. He wanted to know why  every morning he habitually found the attic door unlocked after specifically locking it at night, why the library lights would go on as he stepped into his car in the parking lot, then find the lights off the next morning.   It was then, he was told the garden center had a reputation for being haunted.

 

Decorative bulbs in wall sconces explode for no reason, lights would suddenly not work after having been functional minutes earlier.  The wiring was inspected and passed all the testing.  The sound of footsteps on the clay roof tiles above the third floor servants quarters caused employees to refuse to go there without escort.  Also, footsteps dogging the employees caused many to wheel around in fear only find they were alone. The Garden Center plays hose to a score of garden clubs and on any given day, hundreds of people move about the rooms.  Yet no activity has been documented while the mansion is occupied with guests. 

 

Around midnight one Halloween, the caretaker was summoned to the Garden Center by the police because the security alarm had been tripped.  When he arrived, he found every set of French doors on the first floor standing open.  Upstairs, motion detectors had set off alarms in every room, including those in rooms which were still locked. 

The police believed pranksters had broken into the mansion, then left before doing any vandalism.  By this time, the caretaker who absolutely did not believe in ghosts at the time he was hired disagreed with the polices theory.

 

Visit the Tulsa Garden Center and stroll through three stories of  historic rooms.  Feel the residual energy of those people who loved, lived and died while living there.  While youre there, visit the library upstairs and talk to the Master Gardeners who reside there to take phone calls from March to September.

 

Just dont mention the paranormal activity to the sweet elderly librarian, because as the caretaker explained, She doesnt believe in ghosts.