While the southern portion of Utica Avenue undoubtedly provides one of the most beautiful drives through midtown Tulsa, sandwiched between the hospitals and Utica Square is the picturesque neighborhood that once was the site of an amusement park.
Swan Lake, bounded by 15th and 21st streets, has a colorful history that goes back to the late 1800s. A cattle ranch outside city limits featured a watering pond from a natural spring, and the summer heat also made it a relaxing spot for Tulsans.
The area north of the pond was turned into Orcutt Lake Amusement Park, which opened in 1909 with rental boats, a covered swimming pool, a movie theater and an open-air dance pavilion. A 40-foot-high, 600-foot-long roller coaster was added in 1911.
The park and lake were later donated to the city, and the surrounding lots became developed for residential use. The street around the lake was paved, creating a beautiful centerpiece for the neighborhood.
Swan Lake got its name after architect Joseph Koberling incorporated a swan into the facade of his house in 1944, and the park provides a setting ideal for watching birds and various waterfowl.
In the past six decades, the lake has been the home of a 3-foot alligator, who was possibly taken from Mohawk Zoo and ultimately returned to the zoo by employees; a bluebill duck named Charley, who was later joined by his mate, Bridget; and many other birds and waterfowl that became beloved by residents.
At the center of the water is a fountain that was built in 1939 but has been in disrepair since 2000. Among projects requested by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department this year is a $3.1 million irrigation of the fountain.