Buried beneath downtown Tulsa, a system of secret underground tunnels was built to connect many of Tulsa's early skyscrapers. The tunnel system was designed at first for freight, but soon became a millionaires' highway, protecting the wealthy and elite from danger. This is a story of Tulsa's secret tunnels.
Tulsa Tunnels: A Guide
He stood at the window, clutching his brown fedora in his hands, admiring the "queen of the Tulsa skyline." Waite Phillips was proud of his creation. The Philtower was completed in 1927, and the building he now stood in, the Philcade, was completed just two years later. He felt as if he owned the city, and still, he was humble enough to know that if it weren’t for his elder brothers and the support of the community, he wouldn't be where he is today.
Still, as with all wealthy businessmen of the day, Waite Phillips had to remain vigilant. The lawlessness that centered in Chicago during the 1920s and 30’s spread fear across the country, especially among many prominent and powerful citizens. Many millionaires began taking precautions, especially after the son of Charles Lindbergh was abducted in 1932.
From this fear of crime and chaos in a distant part of the country, the Tulsa underground tunnels were born.
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.
Map of Tulsa Tunnels
Tulsa Tunnel Notes: Entrances and Interesting Information
- The Tulsa Tunnels were said to be used during prohibition to discreetly supply the oil barons plenty of booze.
- The tunnel that connects the Philcade to the Philtower once housed a local radio station. This tunnel is apparently no longer open to the public. The entrance is hidden in the basement and has a large vault door system.
- The First Place Tower (BankOne) and the Main Park Plaza (The Mayo Building) are connected by an interior concourse. This underground route is not connected to the rest of underground system.
- Williams Complex (Formerly known as The Forum) - The parking garage under the Williams Complex exit onto Samson Plaza next to the Crowne Plaza. From there, you can walk through the hotel and the parking garage into the tunnel.
- Adam's Mark Hotel - The North tunnel entrance is inside the lower parking garage of the Adam’s Mark Hotel.
The history of the tunnels under Tulsa is both fascinating and enlightening. Most people who travel the streets of downtown are unaware that the tunnels even exist. Next time you're in downtown Tulsa, ask around. Visit the buildings and ask the people that work inside; most of the time, you'll find quite a few people who are willing to offer great stories of the tunnels, as well as direct you on where to find their entrances.
Buildings Linked by Tunnels in Tulsa
|Building Name||Address||Date Building Erected||Notes|
511 S. Boston
Lobby built in the shape of a "T" for Tulsa
427 S. Boston
Second skyscaper in Tulsa
409 S. Boston
Built in the shape of an inverted "T"
401 S. Boston
Tulsa's first skyscraper
321 S. Boston
Lobby offers a 10 story atrium
320 S. Boston
320 S. Boston
12 Floor Addition added
320 S. Boston
21 Story Tower was Added making this Tulsa's tallest building.
Adam's Mark Hotel (Crowne Plaza)
100 E. 2nd Street
Tulsa Performing Arts Center (TPAC)
Williams Tower (BOK Tower)
Tulsa City Hall
Main Park Plaza
Questions & Answers
Question: Are the downtown Tulsa underground tunnels open daily to the public?
Answer: Yes, most of the tunnels are publically accessible. Many are accessible from the street.
Question: Where is the easiest place to access the Tulsa Underground Tunnels?
Answer: There are several places to access the tunnels. On our map, I tried to show were these locations are.
Since this article was written, there is now a group that does tours of the tunnels. You can find their page here: http://www.toursoftulsa.com
This article provides a more detailed description of how to navigate the tunnels: https://www.theoutbound.com/oklahoma/hiking/underg...
Finally, this article provides a great map and description to the tunnels mentioned here: http://www.tulsapeople.com/Tulsa-People/June-2009/...
Tulsa Truther on May 05, 2020:
There is a lot of stuff that isn't public common knowledge about Tulsa. Like there is a furniture store ran by a lebonese man near admiral and Harvard in the basement of said store are two bank vault style doors once through those doors it opens up into a big cavern with tunnels going each way at back of cavern but in this cavern is some kind of market with little store front type booths setup with display tables and such fully stocked covered by sheets.
Rumor has it the old moroocan lounge had tunnel access.
71st and Lynn Lane has an armory nearby which has good size underground military facility that goes all up under that intersection 3 levels underground. It is regional supply point containing all sorts of weapons and ammo on levels one and two and on level 3 is the worst of the worst. I'm sure you can imagine what level 3 is tacticle hirishimas and such not icbm's but missile and artillery type stuff.
Tulsa airport under the air guard armory is bunker and missile and other fun stuff storage.
Also rumor about FBI data center under Tulsa airport.
There is a manhole just inside the east side of a self storage place near 46th and Peoria that when you go down into it. It is a 3 way T it goes left or right and also goes straight up under the river to Webster high school gym in the basement Midway of the pool if it's still there is a small door that goes down some very steep steps into this tunnel. This tunnel continues West to an unknown location but if you follow it as a straight line out towards Sand springs I believe it runs up under Chandler Park which I have been told has a secret bunker underneath the park. The entrance to this bunker is supposedly hidden underneath a culvert drain pipe or the tunnel may lead out to Holly refineries which has some old nuclear missile silos that are no longer used hidden between some of those huge 55,000 gallon tanks. This tunnel is big enough that two dump trucks can drive passed each other going opposite directions.
Another note about Holly refineries is that there are numerous caves underneath that for many many years were used to dispose of 55 gallon drums of toxic waste and those drums are leaking badly. Big secret don't tell anyone why their kids are coming out with all kinds of birth defects. Holly is to cheap to pay to clean it up and it's so bad it wouldn't make much difference. Those drums have been there for decades.
Teresa on July 05, 2018:
There is a group tulsa foundation for architecture that do tours of the tunnels twice a year! I think once in winter/spring and once in summer (august maybe?) - their website or fb should say. I went last year, so worth it!
Mary McCauley on February 28, 2018:
There were also tunnels under 11th street that connected to a parking lot, a medical building, and Hillcrest on 11th and Utica.
Eric Standridge (author) from Wister, Oklahoma on December 11, 2017:
Many people still don't know about the Tulsa underground tunnels.. even those people that live in Tulsa. It's always fascinated me! There's a lot of different cool things in Oklahoma that people don't know about.
Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 11, 2017:
This is a revelation to me for sure....such an interesting article. Who would have thought such a passageway existed. I would love to have a tour if the tunnels were still open. thanks for sharing. Angels are on the way to you today ps
Lana on October 14, 2016:
Are you able to go see it without a tour?
FlourishAnyway from USA on September 29, 2013:
This is so interesting! I had no idea a place like Tulsa would have underground tunnels. You'd expect it from Chicago maybe or DC. I don't know why. Voted up and more.
Bo Tipton from Cecilia, KY on December 20, 2012:
Yep I found it at https://www.facebook.com/oklahoma.traveler. Yes there is ton of good pictures in there that you have posted. Sounds to me like you still have several hubs to write about castles and tunnels in Oklahoma. I look forward to reading them.
Eric Standridge (author) from Wister, Oklahoma on December 20, 2012:
I've read about those, but have never had the opportunity to visit them. I bet that was a fascinating tour! The one that I would like to go through is the massive tunnels over in Europe (the name has escaped me!) They say those are some of the most fascinating in the world.
There's a lot of hidden architectural gems like that in Oklahoma. Under the Parkinson Hotel in Okmulgee (the tallest building there), there's an olympic-sized swimming pool. It was still there back in 2004, but someone said that it's all been closed off since then.
In Tulsa, there's a lot of tunnels and caves, many of them just rumored to exist. I've seen parts of the tunnels that lead from the Cave House. At one time, that building was a bootleggers hideout and had a secret room at the back that led to the tunnels. Closer to downtown, there were plans to build a subway system. Many have claimed that it was started, but all I've ever seen was the proposed plans. There's no evidence that it was built beyond a few stories. Rumor also has it that there are mass burial graves and tunnels in Tulsa that relate to the Tulsa race riots, but again, that's just rumor.
One of the more fascinating places in Tulsa is where the airport is. During WWII, it was heavily involved in the military. It's said that there was a secret bunker located under the airport. I haven't found any real documentation, but I would imagine that that's still classified. It was also said that that same bunker also housed some of the top prisoners of war. Knowing how involved the area was with the military, I believe that this one existed/exists. Eventually, I would like to get proof of it and get that published as well.
You may know this already; Oklahoma had a lot of POW camps, and the only POW hospital in the country. The hospital was located where the OSU campus is in Okmulgee. Parts of the original camp can still be seen. Somewhere, I have photos of that as well.
If you're on Facebook, look up "Oklahoma Traveler". If I remember right, I posted quite a few of these photos under that name in the past.
Bo Tipton from Cecilia, KY on December 20, 2012:
That is interesting I had no idea that there were tunnels under small towns. May favorite ones are under Seattle. I took that tour and it was astonishing what was down there. Although Moose Jaw, SK, Canada is not a big city and it has tunnels that you can take tours through.
Eric Standridge (author) from Wister, Oklahoma on December 19, 2012:
Surprising, there's quite a few towns in Oklahoma that have tunnels under them. Most people expect tunnels to exist in the bigger cities, such as Chicago and New York, but it just amazes me that they're in places like Bartlesville and Okmulgee. It seems to have been a big fad back then.
Bo Tipton from Cecilia, KY on December 19, 2012:
I have always been interested in the tunnels under cities. Most big cities that I know of have them.
martinnitsim on July 28, 2012:
hello there steven if your still knoking around here is there site
and some info ,ring them for advice ,tell them mart put you on
Cary on June 24, 2012:
I made a video of the tunnels. Feel free to view it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLRIlABLKfE&fea...
Eric Standridge (author) from Wister, Oklahoma on January 20, 2012:
Malachi, yes, many of the tunnels under Tulsa are still used. Tours of the Tulsa tunnels are conducted by Bandana Tours. I believe that they are the only ones that still offer the Tulsa tunnels. Their website should tell you all the information you need: www.bandanatours.com
malachi mcsherry on January 20, 2012:
I live in Bixby and was wandering do they still use these tunnels and do they have tours ?
Audrey Selig from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on June 25, 2010:
Great hub about Tulsa underground tunnels. Tunnels in cities are fascinating. Thanks for the history lesson. From a fellow Oklahoman.
Little Pebbles Academy on June 23, 2010:
These are still here but have you seen the ones under the Tulsa International airport? Every large major city supposedly has these & its rumored that they all connect from a time during world war 2