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Visit to the Prairie Chicken House

This unique house on the edge of Norman, Oklahoma is known to most as the prairie chicken house. Designed by Herb Greene in 1960, he preferred to call it simply the Prairie House

Thanks to the Prairie House Preservation Society (PHPS) it is now possible for the public to experience one of Oklahoma's most unusual architectural treasures. 

Tours of the home are now available on the third Saturday of each month. The tours begin at 2:00 PM, and tickets can be purchased from the PHPS website.

Herb Greene attended the University of Oklahoma's School of Architecture. He was drawn to OU during an era of controversial change as Bruce Goff transformed the school's basic method of teaching. The emphasis on creativity versus copying past works was new and different. Greene would later join the OU faculty in 1956 after Goff's departure

The Prairie House gained worldwide acclaim after Life magazine published Julius Shulman's iconic photographs of architecture "between the coasts." The influence of Goff is evident throughout the house– the organic lines, communal spaces, use of natural materials... and those ubiquitous accordion room dividers! But even though much is reminiscent of Bruce Goff's work (even the location is only a couple of miles from the ill-fated Bavinger House) there is a unique feel that sets it apart. 

The bright skies were clear and cold when Jackie and I toured the house on a March afternoon. A stiff wind really was "sweeping down the plain." Once inside, our tour guides let us wander around the first floor while they prepared a video presentation upstairs. 

The 2,100 square feet are arranged on two floors with a small balcony on the roof. Standing in the entrance a central "catwalk" above you dominates the interior space. The ladder-like steps lead to the rooftop balcony for those daring enough to make the climb. Cedar shingles completely cover the walls and ceiling. 

Walking through the house, one space flows organically into the next. There are bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen. But they aren't what you would normally define as a "room." The sleeping area is really one curving space with accordion doors to make 2 bedrooms. The bedrooms flow into the kitchen, which opens to the entryway.

As we made our way upstairs, I noticed a hinge on the wall. And another. Tugging a knoblike piece of cedar I discovered a cabinet. There are several closets and cabinets throughout the house hiding under the camouflage of cedar shake. 

We all gathered around a computer screen to watch a short film about Herb Greene. It covered his trek from New York to OU to study with Goff and featured several of Greene's unique paintings and a couple of interviews. Our tour guide explained the background of Goff's time at OU and the advent of what has been called the American School of Architecture. 

Our visit was brief but memorable. The wind howled across the open prairie as we hurried back to our car and headed for home. As the Prairie House shrank in the rearview mirror we agreed, it's nice to know people are making an effort to preserve this unique little house "between the coasts."


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

OKC's Unique First Christian Church

The Church of Tomorrow Oklahoma's state capitol dome was added some 88 years after the capitol was built, finally completed in 2002. But not far away is another dome that has been turning heads since 1956. It's the First Christian Church of Oklahoma City. Call it a wigwam, igloo, earthbound spaceship or dome- no matter how you describe the shape of the sanctuary, it's definitely eye-catching. The thin-shell concrete dome is massive, with seating for 1200. Connected to the dome is a four-story administrative building and a 185-seat theater. Dedicated as "The First Christian Church of Tomorrow," the architecture caught the attention of local newspapers, as well as Life magazine (Feb. 1957). Last summer I had a unique opportunity to explore these interesting buildings. The main complex was designed by R. Duane Conner in 1953. Conner was a member of the congregation and offered three different designs for the church. Credit is also attributed to his partner, 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