The Castle Crumbles
The demolition brings up memories of a regal Tulsa hotel.
With a handkerchief out to wipe raindrops off his glasses and the air so chilly he could see his own breath, Jeremy Stevens didn't plan to stay long. Besides, he couldn't bear to watch. Stevens met his wife at the Camelot Hotel when they both worked there in the 1970s, back in the Camelot's heyday. "It was a swanky place," Stevens remembered. "Elvis stayed there. That tells you it was first-class."
Stevens and a handful of other spectators stood safely behind a chain-link fence Thursday morning as a demolition crew began knocking down the building's north wall.
The south facade -- with its turrets and spires, reminiscent of a medieval castle -- remained untouched, for now. But the truth is: The Camelot has been falling apart for years.
The building has been vacant since 1996, when burst pipes flooded several floors with raw sewage. Once a ritzy landmark, the hotel became a decaying eyesore.
"I hate to see it knocked down," said Paul Fischer, who lives nearby and remembers when the Camelot was, in his words, "the pride
Crews have been preparing the site since September, but Thursday was the start of the main structure's demolition.
After buying the property in June, QuikTrip is making way for a new convenience store and other businesses.
The location, at Peoria Avenue and Interstate 44, is near the site of 1958's original QuikTrip, so the company thought it would be an appropriate place to build its milestone 500th store.
Now considered part of Midtown, the site was described as south Tulsa when the Camelot opened in 1965.
With eight floors, 330 guest rooms and the 150-seat King's Court Dining Room, it was one of the largest hotels in the city. And the castle motif turned it into a curiosity for highway travelers.
"People used to come in just to look around, even if they weren't staying there," said Stevens, who performed administrative work for the hotel while his future bride served as a part-time caterer.
"It was quite a place," he said. "I guess I just wanted to see it one more time."
History of the Camelot Hotel
June 1964: Construction begins.
October 1965: Camelot opens, with eight floors, 175,000 square feet, 330 guest rooms and a 150-seat King’s Court Dining Room.
May 1967: Memorial High School class of '67 has prom at Camelot
1968: Kin-Ark Co. purchases the Camelot complex from Ainslie Perrault. Kin-Ark expands and renovates the hotel throughout the 70s.
1973: Camelot wins a coveted four-star rating from Mobil Travel Guide.
1982: Kinark Corp. sells Camelot to an investment group that includes J. Ronald Getty, the son of J. Paul Getty.
1984: Kinark repossesses hotel.
March 1992: Name changed to Camelot Parkside Hotel, part of the British Parkside franchise.
November 29, 1992: Camelot closes, and Kinark repossesses it again.
November 1993: A Maharishi group pays $1.15 million for the property.
August 1994: Hotel opens during PGA tournament as Heaven on Earth Plaza Hotel, but closes the next month because of low demand.
July 1996: Building opens for the last time, renting rooms for $27.95 per night or $130 per week.
Sept. 20, 1996: Health inspectors condemn the building after finding raw sewage flooding its hallways.
January 1997: Broken water pipes flood the building from the sixth floor down.
January 2002: Local investors announce a $14 million plan to convert the vacant hotel into a seniorliving home, but the financing never materializes.
March 31, 2007: Tulsa Industrial Authority approves $1 million loan to demolish the hotel.
June 28, 2007: QuikTrip Corp. buys the property as the site for its 500th store.