By Michael Kinney
The Mayo Hotel first opened its doors in Tulsa almost a century ago, in 1925. It was considered the epicenter of the boomtown and its growing wealth.
Throughout the years it entertained such guests as J. Paul Getty, Babe Ruth, Charlie Chaplin and John F. Kennedy.
“Back in the day when the Mayo was opened, people came here to make memories,” said Mayo president Macy Snyder-Amatucci. “And so that is what we want everybody to walk away with here — we want them to be able to walk out of these buildings and have created a new memory for themselves.”
However, when the Snyder family took over ownership of the Mayo in 2001, the hotel had been closed for 20 years and had seen better days. By that time it had gone through several owners who had let it fall into disrepair and sold off most of the history that made it special.
The Mayo Hotel was in such bad shape, the lot behind the hotel was actually what the Snyder family was interested in. They bought the parking for $250,000, and the building just came with the deal.
“The property in Tulsa was worth nothing,” Snyder-Amatucci said. “There was absolutely nothing going on in Tulsa.”
The owners turned the basement level of the Mayo into parking, which enabled them to pay the note on the building. But not knowing what to do with the rest of the structure, it just sat there in the middle of downtown Tulsa, a remnant of a bygone past.
Later in 2001 a young lady from Tulsa approached the Snyders and said she had to have her wedding at the Mayo. Despite the elevators not working, the windows boarded up and nothing being up to code, she felt it was the perfect location.
The Snyders agreed, did some slight facelifts to a bathroom and the lobby, and pulled off a “beautiful wedding.
For the next seven years, they hosted weddings in the lobby as the Mayo became the go-to location for special events.
In 2003 the City of Tulsa created Vision 2025 and approved a one-penny, 13-year increase in the Tulsa County Sales Tax for regional economic development and capital improvements. This allowed the City of Tulsa to loan out funds to renovate buildings and revive downtown Tulsa.
“We applied for all of the available funds. We did not receive all the available funds, but we received enough, which was $4.9 million to do 76 apartments,” Snyder-Amatucci said. “Obviously 76 apartments wouldn’t fill the building. So our plan was just to keep doing events in the lobby and have apartments and have the rest of the building sit empty.”
Because the Snyders were able to pay back the entire loan, they were sitting in a great position when they heard an arena was going to be built downtown, which they knew could be beneficial to them.
The Snyders decided to go all-in and renovate the entire building, returning the Mayo to its former glory.
“We did historic tax credits to do the project. If there were not historic tax credits available, there would be no way it would financially make sense to renovate a building,” Snyder-Amatucci said. “It would make way more sense to just build new, but because we did receive historic and state tax credits, we did have to restore anything existing when we started back to the original.”
That included the exterior of the building, the lobby space, the mezzanine and pretty much all the public spaces and anywhere there was existing flooring.
If there was one renovated area that epitomizes the look and feel of what the Mayo is all about, it is the Crystal Ballroom.
“The Crystal Ballroom has been restored to exactly what it looked like before, so it’s such a beautiful room,” Snyder-Amatucci said. “It’s on the 16th floor, floor to ceiling windows, tons of detailed molding, (and) the four chandeliers. It was always called the crystal ballroom because of those four chandeliers, and those have been restored to look just like they used to. So that room definitely is where the meticulous part of the renovation took place.”
The Snyders closed their wedding business halfway through 2007 and started renovating the entire building into hotels and apartments. Renovations on the 102 hotel rooms and 76 residences were completed in September of 2009.
Since then, the Mayo has become a focal point in the rebranding and revitalization of downtown Tulsa.
“I think that there is no other Mayo. There are other beautiful historic hotels, many of which I’ve had the luxury of staying at, or at least going and visiting,” said Snyder-Amatucci. “They are all so unique. The Mayo, it’s just special. I mean, you come in here and you just feel this quality, grandeur, luxurious feeling when you come in and you just can imagine the history that happened here.”
Story first ran in Luxiere