History of the Harwelden Mansion

Earl and Mary Harwell

On a rolling hill just south of downtown and north of The Gathering Place is one of Tulsa’s most distinguished and finest examples of Tudor-Gothic architecture. At 2210 South Main Street, it is distinguished because of the quality of its construction and the history of its occupants. Built in 1923 by wealthy oilman, Earl Harwell and his wife Mary, the four-story 13,000-square-foot mansion and its grounds occupies a full city block. 

The Harwell home was deeded to the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa (now ahha) by Mrs. Harwell at the time of her death in 1967. It was and is used as a Historic Mansion Venue in Tulsa and a wedding venue called the Harwelden Mansion in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The name "Harwelden" is a Welsh word meaning "place from which the Harwells came." The council sold the mansion to Teresa Knox and Ivan Acosta in 2018.

The Harwells, substantial donors to The University of Tulsa, the Tulsa Boys Home and The First Presbyterian Church, wanted their home to be built with authentic “Collegiate Gothic-English Tudor" detail utilizing the finest materials available to achieve this quality; no expense was to be spared. They selected the Kansas City architectural firm Billet & Lauch (though some sources say Wight and Wight) to design the house and Long Construction, also of Kansas City, to build it. The Long Company would later build Waite Phillips’ Philbrook Villa now known as the world-famous Phillbrook Museum. During construction, when Mr. Harwell was touring the site, a passerby asked him who was building such a large house. Harwell replied, with his dry sense of humor, “Oh, some old fool with more money than sense.”

The exterior massing of Harwelden is a classic tripartite with the one story north wing housing the kitchen and the two story south wing housing the sunroom and a roof terrace accessed from the third floor. The center block, which faces east, is symmetrical, unusual in residential Tudor architecture. The west elevation includes a slate paver terrace bordered by a handsome brick stone capped railing looking out to the Arkansas River beyond. The roof is slate tile, which has been replaced only once. The exterior walls are wire-textured dark red brick with massive limestone brick molds at doors and windows and limestone quoins at building corners. Gables have limestone capped parapets and limestone finials.

First floor windows at the main rooms are leaded glass with stained glass panels. Second and third floor windows are double hung, divided light, wood.

The oak plank front door is tucked below a massive projecting bay window which includes a frieze of heraldic carved limestone panels. Upon entering the two-story foyer, an oak stair and upper landing railing with barley twist balusters and large newel posts continue the Tudor theme.

On the inside, high ceilings and hardwood floors are typical. The sunroom flooring is “Tulsa Blue” ceramic tile. Doors, casings, moldings, wood carvings and linen-fold paneling are stamped oak at the main floor. Door casings and moldings are painted on other levels. As was common in large houses from this era, the breakfast room was an alcove open to the dining room. The main floor included kitchen, dining room, living room, map room and sunroom all connected by a wide gallery/hallway which runs longitudinally from north to south. This floor looks much as it did when the house was new.

The second floor had two bedroom suites and a guest bedroom which connected internally as well as from a longitudinal corridor overlooking the foyer. The third floor was originally a large playroom for the Harwells’ only child and a maid’s room. Both of these floors have been remodeled for office use. The basement contains mechanical space (originally a boiler for steam heat) and a billiard/game room, which is used as a conference/board room, office space, storage space and a brides’ room.

Today, the mansion is owned by a private owner dedicated to honoring the rich history, the Harwells as well as  maintaining the historical significance and architecture. 

*Thank you GTR Newspapers