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On the Trail of Julius Shulman

Tour buses descend on Nichols HillsOn Saturday we had the good fortune to attend the Oklahoma Modernism Architecture Tour, an event conducted in conjunction with the Julius Shulman exhibit at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art (OKCMOA), now ongoing through June 7 (see Mod Photog). The guided tour featured visits to five homes and commercial buildings that Shulman had photographed during his visits to Oklahoma throughout the Fifties and Sixties. Consider it a Who's Who of modern architecture in OKC.

The museum staff has created a slideshow of photographs from the tour...
View Slideshow
Or would that be a What's What?

Either way, instead of trying to document all of the great buildings we saw in one colossal post, I'm going to spread them out over the next few weeks (so now might be a perfect time to take advantage of our convenient email notification system provided by our friends at Google). Today I just want to share some of the stories from the tour and a few things Jackie and I learned along the way.

Mods sigh a collective gasp at the Bavinger House in Norman.More Than Just a Bus Tour
The schedule included St. Luke's United Methodist Church, Oklahoma Capitol Bank, McConnell Residence deigned by George Seminoff, St. Patrick Catholic Church and Bruce Goff's Bavinger House in Norman. In addition to examining these renowned buildings inside and out, we also enjoyed brief "drive-bys" of the Founders Bank building and Herb Greene's Prairie House.

But even before the tour got started things were getting interesting. While enjoying a hot cup of coffee, we met a couple that had made the trek all the way from Florida to take part in the tour. It turned out Andrea Coston had grown up 25 miles away, and had a strong connection to the church building that was sheltering us from the rain on this dreary morning. In addition to attending church there, her father was one of the principal architects. Truett Coston was also a close associate of Julius Shulman, and the famous photographer would stay with the Coston family when visiting Oklahoma City.

In fact, photographs of the Coston residence are included in the current exhibition (and were mistakenly tagged with "DEMOLISHED" ). The home, which is surrounded by suburbia today, was once an 80-acre farm near Edmond. During one of Shulman's visits a newborn calf was even given the name Julius in honor of the photographer. From all accounts this good-natured earthiness was not lost on Shulman, and he enjoyed his assignments in the wide open plains of the Sooner State. For us, hearing these stories firsthand from the daughter of a well respected modernist architect was a really special treat.

Coston's daughter explains details of the St Lukes sanctuary.When the time came to start the tour sixty some-odd architecture nuts piled aboard two buses as the dreary grey sky pelted us with cold raindrops. But our bus was warm, clean and spacious, with a commanding view over the weekend traffic. The impending weather slowly receded, as only minor cloudbursts punctuated the drizzle. The OKCMOA crew did a dandy job organizing the tour and everything went smoothly. Even the box lunches were better than expected, and the veggie option didn't appear to be an afterthought.

It was a great event! Watch for more info and photos from each of the tour stops over the next few weeks.


The Recent Past

The Bruce Goff House in Vinita

We were recently surprised to learn about a Goff-designed home just an hour away from Tulsa in Vinita, Oklahoma. Vinita is probably best known to OK Mod readers as the home of the Glass House on I-44, also known as (shudder) the World's Largest Largest McDonalds . Anywho, turned out the Goff house was on the market, and the owner was more than happy to let us have a look around. We took a short drive up the turnpike one Sunday afternoon to meet the realtor, snap some pictures, ask some questions and enjoy another one of Bruce Goff's unique creations. The home is known as the Adams House and was built in 1961. The 3,700 square foot home is arranged in a circular floor plan with a large sunken "conversation pit" at the center. Rising up from this pit is a large metal fireplace, its chimney surrounded by skylights, which dominates the entire house. Rooms surround the perimeter with folding accordion doors acting as walls. To maintain some semblance of privacy an inner

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 fr

Oklahoma State Capitol Bank

On the Trail of Julius Shulman: Stop 2 "This is a bank," the sign outside the futuristic building read. According to legend a prankster added a strategic question mark and echoed the sentiment of many passers-by: "This is a bank?" That was back in 1964 when it opened. Today the Arvest on Lincoln Boulevard looks a bit less Jetsonian, mostly due to replacement of structural glass below the "saucers," but it's still an unusual bank. Designed by Robert Roloff of the architectural firm Bailey, Bozalis, Dickinson & Roloff, the State Capitol Bank caused quite a stir in Oklahoma City when it opened. Heck, it's still pretty shocking today! Originally the flying saucers appeared to hover above the building (as seen in this vintage postcard). All the glass that made that effect possible also made heating and cooling an expensive proposition. Security concerns also mandated replacement of those windows with solid materials and small square portholes