The Sophian

Posted on Thursday, July 21st, 2011 in Stories

In the Sophian Plaza we find refuge in the treetops with our books, art, and totems.

Living in the Sophian feels like living in a sturdy landlocked ship built of brick, concrete, and steel. It must have felt this way even back in the 1920s when a newspaper advertisement for Tulsa’s first luxury apartment building bragged, “There’s nothing just like Sophian Plaza in all Tulsa.”

Indeed, those words hold true to this day.

Ghosts whisper in the lobby and pad down carpeted halls scented with the aroma of cooking breakfast and supper. They wander in and out of apartments, ride the elevator, and sometimes pass through the basement where an enormous furnace bellows and snorts and keeps time on winter days. Visions of servants summoned by buzzers secreted under fine rugs linger, as do uniformed doormen who announced visitors and shuttled gleaming automobiles from the garage to the porte-cochere.

They are not stalking specters but well-mannered spirits from times past when seekers of oil and princes of commerce and coiffured ladies lived here. They recall the days of the riding stable, a delicatessen and barbershop, and a dining room with room service. These phantoms remember Babe Ruth — the “Sultan of Swat” — at rooftop parties sipping bootleg highballs with pals.

From our windows we see old Route 66 — the most famous highway in the nation — straddling the Arkansas, a coffee-colored river flowing southeast on its way to a rendezvous with the Mississippi. Traffic crosses on the newer concrete span built next to the Eleventh Street bridge, a deserted relic that serves as a shelter for the homeless who sleep in makeshift camps beneath the old bridge.

We gaze down at the Sophian grounds and take in the tapestry of flower and herb gardens, the arbor and pool, and the sloping tree-lined lawn. Beyond we see the architecture and landscape of the surrounding neighborhood.
In our bed we hear the call of geese flying low over the shining river as the moon silently glides through clouds. The breath of night wind comes into the room and touches our faces. Midnight trains whine and our cat turns in her sleep.

On most mornings great tribes of birds greet us. They lift off as one from the tallest trees and make grand sweeping circles amongst the morning stars. Outside, on the open stairway, we see the soft touch of spinning spiders in the cool shadows.

Sometimes we are so comfortable we contemplate never leaving our lofty domain. This is a coveted enclave where the past and present gently collide. It is an elegant building with authentic style and grace. The Sophian — steeped in Tulsa history — is a portal to the past.