In the Secret Places

Hidden Spaces Throughout the Historic Harwelden Mansion

Curiosity is a basic human attribute, I think, right on the heels of creativity, and just ahead of adventure.  Every day I learn something new about Harwelden Mansion, its people, traditions, its essence.  It’s completely rational while sipping tea in the gardens, to reminisce about the Roaring 20s when Earl and Mary Harwell first dreamed of building their stately English-Tudor estate.  The 1920s ushered in the birth of Jazz, silent motion pictures, a 5-cent cup of coffee – and great prosperity and growth in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Oil discovery changed everything, and Tulsa went from a trading post and Cowtown to a metropolis in a blink of an eye.

In 1923, 21st Street was on the outskirts of Tulsa city limits.  Nearly 4 acres on the Arkansas River, the Harwelden Mansion would take almost 3 years to construct and would promise 4 floors, 30 rooms, 7 fireplaces, English-Tudor, Collegiate-Gothic architecture, and a few hideaways not often seen or mentioned.

Hand-carved wood paneling disguises pocket doors in the dining room and entrances to several rooms – some almost indistinguishable like Earl’s Chamber on the ground level.  An elegant powder room is hidden behind the paneled architecture in the foyer. There was no doubt that the prestigious architect firm of Wight and Wight wanted you to enjoy the paneling, not door hardware.

Pocket door leading to the dining room

Another distinct hidey-hole is located in the fireplace in the Dining Room. This side panel has a secret reveal, encasing a heavy-duty metal safe to secure priceless silver and family heirlooms.

Hidden Metal Safe in the Dining Room

Most astonishing is the secret tunnel from the main house’s lower level, “Mary’s Chamber,” to the Carriage House basement; I imagine a speakeasy during prohibition days with Earl Harwell holding a cigar and brandy snifter planning big deals with oil tycoons  –  or perhaps simply to “shelter in place” during tornadic weather or to stay out of the rain when headed to the Carriage garage.

Secret tunnel in Mary’s Chamber

It’s hard to imagine what the historic Harwelden Mansion has heard and seen in nearly 100 years!  But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself – attend a one-hour Mansion Tour and learn more about this iconic property with such a significant story relevant to Tulsa’s unique history.

Every other Thursday, enthusiasts can take a walking tour of the mansion, grounds, and carriage house. Also offered are bookings for private tours for yourself and friends. The historic mansion boasts spectacular stained glass, a stunning staircase, crystal chandeliers, breathtaking gardens; all on one city block overlooking the Arkansas River. Guests learn about the Mansion’s history, its architecture, renovations, and significance over the years and the Harwell family who built it and loved it.

Join us, won’t you?



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