The Tunnels Of Tulsa

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Updated: 5/06/2011 10:54 am Published: 5/05/2011 8:36 pm

How do you get from the Philcade Building across Fifth Street to the Philtower?  You walk across the street right? Well there's one more way you might not know about. In downtown Tulsa there are a series of tunnels that can take you all over town without ever stepping outside.
If you didn't know they existed, you're not alone.
“I don't think a lot of people know they're there,” said one downtown worker.
“I didn't know there were too, too many,” another told FOX23.
For downtown workers like Andrea Myers, the tunnels can sometimes trump the streets.
The Bank of Oklahoma employee took us on a tour of downtown's underground connectors.
Our journey began inside the parking garage attached to the Hyatt Hotel.
“This would be under Third Street. We're coming into the 320 South Boston Building,” she said.
One of the most common questions about the tunnels, who owns them?
“It's my understanding that the tunnel is owned and operated by the building above it, but I am not really sure about the parts that are under the street,” Myers told FOX23.
Most of the tunnels were built in the 1920s when Tulsa was the hub of the oil and gas industry.
“There are a lot of great pictures of downtown Tulsa throughout the tunnel,” Myers said.
The tunnels are really hard to spot; some of the signage is just a small piece of Plexiglas at the top of the ceiling.
The 320 Building is home to one of the cities oldest bank branches, and may be the catalyst to one of the oldest rumors about the tunnels origin.
Some believe they were built as a way for businesses to avoid bank robbers waiting on the street, and get their money to the bank securely.
“We're crossing from the 320 Building to the Kennedy Building,” Myers said as we continued our underground trek through downtown Tulsa.
The Kennedy Building is like the center spoke of the underground connector system.
“People think it's all a tunnel, but it's actually up and around and in buildings and that sort of thing, it's not real obvious,” she said.
We crossed Fourth Street and entered the Mid-Continent Tower from there we stayed at street level going through the Atlas Building and wound up at the Philtower. That's where Andrea introduced us to Jim Hawkins, owner of the Philtower. This building was built by oil magnate Waite Phillips in the 1920s.
Hawkins took us underground.
“(Phillips) had people from where ever the build tunnels come up and dig it,” Hawkins told FOX3.
There is a tunnel that connects his tower to the Philcade Building. It's been closed to the public for several years, but Hawkins tells us, he's all for reopening it.
“We would be excited about having it reopened because we would have essentially another block,” he said.
Hawkins helped us answer questions about the history of the urban connectors. Wealthy men like Phillips built them to keep kidnappers at bay in the wake of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping. It was a case that captivated the country in 1932. By using the tunnel, Phillips could move around downtown undetected.
“That's the urban legend,” Hawkins said.
Andrea managed to move us across four downtown blocks, without stepping a foot outside. Most of the tunnels should be open during regular workday business hours. Some companies even offer guided tours of tunnels.
Tunnel tour company:

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