Skip to main content

House of Clay

The Frankoma house was designed by Bruce Goff for the founders of Frankoma Pottery, John and Grace Lee Frank. It was completed in 1956 with a great deal of the work being done by the Franks. We recently had the opportunity to tour this unique home and learn more about the history of Frankoma.

Today Joniece and Donna Frank call the house their home, and work hard to preserve it and their parents' memory. A recent Tulsa World article announced they were offering tours and listed a phone number to call.

Entry of the Frank HomeNeedless to say, we had to call.

Our tour ended up lasting over two hours. Turns out, seeing a unique house was the least we'd accomplished. We were treated to a unique insight into the history of Frankoma, the Frank family and the unique architecture of Bruce Goff.

We left with a greater appreciation for the artistry of these pottery makers, and the unique interaction this family had with the architect who designed their home.

Sisters holding one of the special tiles for the entrywayThe House
The Frank Home is perched along the side of a terraced hill on the outskirts of Sapulpa. Approaching the house your first view is the elevated swimming pool with its cantilevered deck. From this angle, with the Oklahoma flag flying, it almost looks like the bow of a ship. Behind that is the main house, clad in terracotta tiles and arching across the width of the property. Pulling up the driveway takes you behind the home where the main entryway is.

The entrance is a curved wall of glass and tile punctuated by two circular brick turrets. Above each turret is a huge terracotta-colored planter. Tiled steps lead down to a massive glass door set on an off-center hinge. Behind you is a wall of sandstone covering the hill that was scooped out to make way for the complex. Standing here you see the house virtually as it was built in 1956. The only adulteration being the garage to your left, converted from a then-popular carport.

Those unique tiles covering the entryway (above) were made by Grace Lee herself. Each one painted by hand and lovingly applied to the inside and out of the glass front with mastic. The idea was so unique John was granted United States Patent 3017724 on the concept, a "colored wall that allowed light to pass," as the patent read.

If you're familiar with Frankoma pottery at all you'll recognize the green of the bricks on the turrets (right). John Frank invented this glaze and called it Prairie Green. The bricks were locally made in Sapulpa, then taken to Frankoma's plant where glaze was applied to each brick, just as if it were artistic pottery.

Once you step inside you see the house is essentially one room in a wide semi-circle. The ceramic-tiled fireplace and sunken living room dominate the center of the house with kitchen/dining area to your left and bedrooms to the right. The three bedrooms are each separated by sliding air walls which can be retracted to transform the entire house into one long room.

Trying to quickly document all of the interesting features of this house is impossible. I offer this only as a cursory observation to entice you to pick up the phone, call Joniece or Donna, and enjoy your own tour of this unique snapshot of Oklahoma history.

For reservations call...
UPDATE



Tours of the Frank House are no longer being offered.
Since this article was published the sisters have struggled to maintain the house. A trust has been formed and hopes to make the home a museum. Stay tuned  to this website for news and updates about future developments.

Comments

Modern Choices

Popular posts from this blog

Home of ORU Architect on the Auction Block

Frank Wallace is best known as the man behind the futuristic look of the Oral Roberts University campus. On October 14, 2010 his unique home overlooking ORU will be sold in a public auction conducted by Mister Ed's Auctions. Jackie and I recently had a chance to visit with Mr. Wallace and learn more about the house, his career and his thoughts on architecture.

When we visited we expected to snap a few photos of an empty house and speak with a representative from the auction company. To our surprise the door opened, and we were greeted by Mr. Wallace himself! After assuring him we were not architects, he let us look around. Unfortunately we were not prepared to interview the man whose buildings incite such extremely diverse reactions- but that didn't stop me from asking him several questions anyway. 

The home, completed in 1980, was designed and built by Wallace who is now 87. The expansive home is so large that Wallace spends most of his time in a room that was his late w…

The World Museum

The widening of I-44 through Tulsa will soon claim another mid-century building (see Modern Homes Make Way for I-44).

This unusual landmark near Peoria, once known as the World Museum, is being emptied in preparation for demolition.

The concrete complex was built in 1963 by the Osborn Ministries as a museum and "Interstate Temple." Self-proclaimed minister, T. L. Osborn, and his wife, Daisy, traveled the world as Christian missionaries and collected art and artifacts on their journeys. The unusual La Concha-esque building housed their partial collection and distracted motorists touring along the new Skelly Bypass (aka I-44).

The exterior of the building is adorned with maps of the world's continents. In its heyday there was a good deal more- a giant outline of Jesus was on one wall. The inscription below it, "REX," provided one of my earliest Latin lessons when I asked Dad why that building had my name on it. There was also a large globe that once stood out front …

Renegades Showcases the OU School of Architecture

A new exhibit examines the University of Oklahoma School of Architecture and its unique approach to architectural studies in the years following World War Two. Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture features more than 150 drawings, artifacts and objects, including works by Bruce Goff, Herb Greene and many more.