BY KIM BROWN World Scene Writer
Sunday, March 28, 2010
4/08/10 at 11:33 AM
This story originally contained an incorrect caption. The caption has been corrected.
For Kristin and Nathan Pickard, living in the historic Brady Heights District is an opportunity to gain a new perspective. For Cathryn and Wess Young, it's been home for some 30 years, and a source of pride for the neighborhood association they founded in 1980.
The neighborhood, just north of downtown and extending from the Inner Dispersal Loop along Denver and Cheyenne avenues to Marshall Street, has some of the oldest homes in the Tulsa area and was one of the first to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
But this neighborhood strives to be more than a group of homes and buildings. Its residents are determined to keep Brady Heights a true community.
If you ask many residents what drew them to Brady Heights, they'll give you practically the same answer: the nice neighbors.
"We wanted to be in a diverse community," said Nathan Pickard, who lives with his wife, Kristin, in their second home in the neighborhood. "We were both kind of in surburbia with our parents and wanted to get to know people that weren't just like us."
Kandy White moved back to Tulsa from Portland, Ore., in August after living there with her husband, Bill, and three boys. Her grandparents had a house in Brady Heights in the 1960s, and then her mother moved their family into the neighborhood in the 1980s.
"Growing up," White said, "it was one of those communities where everybody knew everybody, and you just felt safe and felt that kind of warm and fuzzy neighborhood feeling."
After White lost her job in Portland, they decided to give Tulsa another try. Brady Heights fit. Soon, she became the president of the neighborhood association.
"After living in Portland for almost 15 years, we saw some very similar transformations there, where you have older neighborhoods and have development come in and revitalize the place and restore the history. I'd like to be a part of that."
The latest owners of the historic Brady Mansion don't have any major plans to rent it out for weddings or turn it into a bed and breakfast. Right now, they plan to live in it.
"My wife always wanted to live in an old mansion," said Jim Kufdakis. "We just want to restore it to what it was if we can. We'd like to go toward the Brady Heights mission of making it a single-family residence."
From the block
The Youngs moved to Brady Heights in the late 1970s and founded the neighborhood association together — Wess Young worked the night shift, so he organized during the day. Cathryn worked during the day and worked with her neighbors at night.
Today, they're not as active as they used to be — Wess, 95, was 4 years old when he survived the Tulsa Race Riot — but their neighbors keep them up to date.
"They come over and do what they can for us and they talk to us about what's going on," said Cathryn Young, 85. She was impressed when their neighbors recently volunteered to help move some brush out of their alley when the city of Tulsa required they clear it. "It was a great relief that they helped. They came to us and were really nice."
Their neighbor, Margee Aycock, said her family has lived in Brady Heights for about 19 years. They bought a fixer-upper as young parents and took on the challenge of restoring a historical home.
"We knew it was a multi-racial neighborhood and wanted to raise our children in a neighborhood that had more than one race in it, and we wanted to do it safely," said Aycock, an artist. "We weren't willing to move into a neighborhood that was dangerous."
Tim Williams bought his first home in Brady Heights with his boyfriend in the early 1980s when he was 19. Since then, he's been buying and restoring homes in the neighborhood.
"At last count, we had done 13 houses in the neighborhood, and we're too old to do any more," he said, laughing. "It's like living in a small town with all the assets of living in a big city. There's diversity — it's not for people who like white bread or for people who want all the houses to look the same."
Keeping it authentic
The Brady Heights Neighborhood Association is focused on several issues today.
Catholic Charities, which housed several services in Brady Heights since the mid-1950s, moved most of them in December to 2450 N. Harvard Ave. The neighborhood association has approached Catholic Charities about being involved in discussions with them about what they'll do with the vacated properties.
Executive Director of Catholic Charities Kevin Sartorius said his group is "especially interested in the future development of OSU Tulsa to the east of Brady Heights."
White said the vacant buildings could have real potential for the neighborhood.
"I just envision more development. The area needs it. What kind? I don't know exactly what could go there, but I think it needs to be at least brought to the people to give input."
Residents are also optimistic that their neighborhood can grow without forgetting about its older residents.
"When the neighborhood started cleaning up and became more of a desirable place for younger people, we were worried about the older people being shunted out," Williams said. "But the neighborhood association has made an effort to make sure no one has been forced out of their home. In all the years I've lived here, I can't think of anybody being priced out of the neighborhood."
Wess Young said neighbors worked hard to get Brady Heights the historic recognition it deserved. Once his work was finished, he was happy to pass the torch to the younger generations of neighbors.
"I started refusing to be the president because I wanted the younger people to take over with fresh ideas," he said. "We're really proud of it and proud they kept the neighborhood going."
But Brady Heights still has some vacant lots and homes in need of repair.
"The pride of home ownership has been missing, but you see that coming back," White said. "You have a lot of young professionals moving into the area. You can definitely see the change."
Know your neighbors
On a recent snowy Saturday,
about 25 residents of Brady
Heights met for their monthly
meeting at the Centenary United
Methodist Church. Then, many
stayed with their children to
work on mosaic art for the traffic
circle monument at Marshall and
“We’re in the process of putting
in more artwork on that
circle, which is one of the things
that helps slow traffic through
our residential neighborhood,”
said Kristin Pickard.
Here’s what more of the residents
say about living in Brady
“We stick together, and that’s one
of the good things. We e-mail each
other and talk to each other, but we
respect each other’s privacy. The biggest
thing is if everybody gives a little
bit, it goes a long way.”
— Luke Harris
“It’s kind of peaceful and beautiful.
I love the old houses. Through
the neighborhood association, I got
to know a lot of people, and they’re
reaching out. It’s a strong community.”
— Tara Bowen
“We like to get involved in things.
My grandmother, she was heavily
involved in the Brady Heights
Neighborhood Association and she
did a lot, so I was like, what better
way to live her legacy and follow in
— Kandy White, association president
“We really like the houses
— they’re situated so you can walk
around and talk to each other. It’s
nice that you can get to know your
— Jeremy Brennan
“If you drove through the neighborhood,
I could tell you on every
block who at least half of the people
— Tim Williams
“It reminded me of the small town
I grew up in. Big trees in front of the
houses, people caring about their
neighbors. That’s actually what’s kept
us here year after year.”
— Margee Aycock
“We’re very walkable. We actually
have a little commercial district
in the neighborhood which is very
rare. My brother, Justin, owns a little
neighborhood grocery store. So that’s
one of the things we really want to
see — more commercial stuff.”
— Nathan Pickard, association vice president
What makes your neighborhood unique?
The Tulsa World wants to profile
Tulsa neighborhoods. If you
want to tell your neighborhood’s
story, call Kim Brown at 581-8474
or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kim Brown 581-8474
"Growing up," said one resident who moved back, "it was one of those communities where everybody knew everybody."
Nathan and Kristin Pickard pose in the kitchen at their home in the Brady Heights neighborhood. "We wanted to be in a diverse community," says Nathan. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
A sign marks the Brady Heights neighborhood. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
A home in the Brady Heights neighborhood. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
President of the Brady Heights neighborhood association Kandy White helps her son Seth White, 5, with a mosaic at the Centenary United Methodist Church. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Wess Young: "I wanted the younger people to take over with fresh ideas."