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Two Okies in the Mecca of Mod

Modernism Week in Palm Springs

We'd been hearing about this desert city full of Mid-Century Modern architecture for years. But it's difficult to comprehend until you actually experience that cool-building-on-every-corner aspect of Palm Springs, California. The celebrities who frequented this city in the Forties, Fifties and Sixties built cutting-edge homes to use as their Winter retreats. Today this city of approximately 45,000 is awash in well preserved examples of Streamline Moderne, International, Brutalist and Postmodern architecture.

And fortunately for us the civic leaders appear to understand the power of architecture as a tourist attraction. Preservation has saved many important buildings, and many commercial structures are protected from any visual alterations or possible "remuddle" jobs. New construction also leverages the  modern look by incorporating classic Fifties styling cues like a butterfly roof or aluminum brise-soleil.

If you love modern architectu…

The Maple Ridge Poolhouse

It's another Mod of the Moment!

If you've seen this house you don't quickly forget it. Reactions are polar- you either love it or hate it. Never in between. And thanks to Modern Tulsa you can drop in and form your own opinion this Sunday!

Mod of the Moment
March 6, 2011
4:00 to 6:00 PM
1220 E. 21st Place

The home, known as the Scherbatskoy house, began life as a typical Maple Ridge home from the Twenties. It appears in the book One Hundred More Historic Tulsa Homes, where John Brooks Walton calls the chapter How a Swimming Pool Designed a House.

In 1957 the owners asked Robert Buchner to design a natatorium and integrate it into the east side of the house. A few months later fire partially destroyed the roof of the original house- so Buchner was called in again. The final result is a distinctive swimming pool with a house attached!

For more details on the event, the organizers or who the heck Robert Buchner is visit Modern Tulsa.

Go here for listing information...

Lake View

Most Tulsans are familiar with Lortondale. The unique modern abodes along Yale Avenue have been turning heads ever since they were built in the mid Fifties. But did you know these aren't the only flaptops in town?

A little-known neighborhood in North Tulsa called Lake View is also primarily comprised of homes with that low and minimalist look of Lortondale. I don't know who designed or built these homes- but they certainly are similar in size and style.

Built in the late Fifties and early Sixties, the suburban development on Delaware Avenue near Mohawk Boulevard hoped to capitalize on its proximity to Mohawk Park and Lake Yahola. That's the lake that is within view in case you were wondering. However, by the Seventies this area was suffering from the mass exodus to the suburbs. Tulsa, like most American cities at the time, saw a huge migration away from urban centers. This impacted North Tulsa especially hard.

The area went into decline, much like Lortondale did during tho…

Modern Surprise in Cushing

Last summer we passed through Cushing, Oklahoma during a road trip searching for Lustron Homes in Oklahoma. We found the two Lustrons located in Cushing, then proceeded to cruise this once-bustling oil town. You should be glad we did!

We turned off Highway 33 on Highland Avenue and proceeded south. At about 9th Place we found ourselves in the midst of a Mid-Century Mod haven. Low-slung ranchers were spread out alongside a small creek. The creek also provided space for a neighborhood park.

It was a beautiful area and the homes are well kept.

Turns out, many of these homes were designed by the late Blaine Imel. Born in Blackwell, Oklahoma, Imel grew up in Cushing and served with the Marines as a fighter pilot during World War Two. During the war he shot down 3 enemy planes, jumped off his aircraft carrier after it was kamikazied and earned numerous medals. After the war he studied architecture at OU under Bruce Goff, and that influence shows in the circular themes and organic shapes fo…

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…

Distinctive Tulsa Hilltop Home

This afternoon we dropped by an open house at one of Tulsa's most distinctive modern houses. Perched atop Reservoir Hill just north of downtown, this glass and steel abode is easily visible from the Tisdale Parkway. And the dramatic lighting of the roof makes the view at night nothing short of inspirational.

Designed by Tulsa architect Patrick Fox this home was built in 1987. A steel framework supports the two-story home and an aerial crossing that connects to the parking area. Redwood siding softens the hard edge for a ski resort feel that blends nicely with the steep topography. Large windows accentuate an open floorplan that spills out on to large wide decks along the back of the home. This is where you'll find that dramatic view of Tulsa's skyline.

Below the elevated walkway is a secluded courtyard. The main bedrooms open on to this private deck area. Follow the perimeter around and you'll be in the stepped backyard.

The house is just over 3200 square feet with 3 …

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 rin…

International Style Open House

One of Oklahoma's Most Significant Modern Homes Open for Public Viewing Next Week

On June 24, 2010 an open house will be held at the recently-restored Robert Lawton Jones House in Tulsa. A Look magazine article called it the International House of Style. This 1959 beauty is a textbook example of the International Style, and the first Mid-Century Modern house in Oklahoma to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Robert Lawton Jones was a principal architect with Murray-Jones-Murray, a firm familiar to any Tulsan who appreciates the art of minimal design. These are the folks that gave us the Tulsa International Airport, First Place Tower, Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and the Tulsa Assembly Center. Jones studied under Mies Van der Rohe, and it shows in much of his work. The simple lines and sparse ornamentation are hallmarks of his work.

Back in 2008 I snapped these photos after an Oklahoma storm had toppled trees near the house. Fortunately the falling foliage …

Prairie House in the 'Burbs

It's not often I see unique homes in South Tulsa. In fact most of them are pretty un-unique.

That's why it caught my eye when I spotted this prairie-style home near 101st and Garnett. The large overhangs give it a distinctively Wright-esque look. And the large glass areas appear to be structural in some areas.

Anyone know more about it?

Dallas Mods on Display at Upcoming Home Tour

Here's a little news from "south of the border" for all you mod-lovin' Okies.

This weekend there's a home tour in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. This is the fifth year for this event and most of the homes are Mid-Century Modern. Hours are noon to 5:00 pm on both days and advance tickets are available at area merchants.

White Rock Home Tour
April 24-25, 2010
Dallas, TX

Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the event. More information on the homes, sponsors and tour details are available online at www.whiterockhometour.org

If that whets your appetite you might also want to know about the Ju-Nel Homes exhibit at the Dallas Center for Architecture. These homes, designed by Lyle Rowley and Jack Wilson, are considered modernist jewels. This exhibit kicks off in conjunction with the White Rock Lake event because many of the houses on the tour are Ju-Nel homes.

Ju-Nel Homes: Dallas Jewels of Mid-Century Modernism
April 23-May 28, 2010
Dallas Center for Architecture

A specia…

Tulsans Enjoy Another Mod Moment

Modern Tulsa's second Mod of the Moment event was quite a treat for the folks that attended.

From curbside the house looked moderately interesting. The only real hint this was a notable mid-mod abode was the carport in lieu of the usual garage. But once inside the magic happened. Small windows and ceiling lights featured butterflies and leaves encased within the glass. Terrazzo floors throughout and an open floorplan made this a worthy stop for this ongoing series of open houses. I've included a few photos to give you an idea of just how cool this house really is.

Mod Moments
The "Mod of the Moment" is a series of open house events showcasing modern and contemporary homes that on the market, or soon will be. These events are a great idea for a number of reasons.

First off, fans of these "unusual" homes get to tour them along with others who appreciate the contemporary aesthetic. It's not just camaraderie though- networking like this is fun and educational…

Dallas Round House Violated

It appears that the unique "dome" has been removed. In an article from November 2009 in the Dallas Observer: A Roundhouse Kick to the Round House, the signature iron trellis has been removed.

Jackie and I visited the round house on a recent trip to the Big D (see Letter from Dallas). Unfortunately we weren't able to tour the home, but we did get a chance to see it up close and walk under the wisteria-covered entrance. At the time that visit was a bit of a letdown- now it's suddenly a cherished memory.

Here are some more photos from that visit (click to view full size)...


That huge mound of green is actually the wisteria covering the steel rods that made up the large trellis.


Jackie called this the Hobbit Hole.


"They stole these from the Frankoma House!"

First Tulsa Mod of the Moment Event

Modern Tulsa has announced an open house event this Sunday, January 17, 2009. This Mod of the Moment event is the first of what we hope will be many!


I think this is a really great idea. During the 2008 National Preservation Conference we were fortunate enough to catch a presentation about Houston Mod presented by Anna Mod (and yes, that is her real name). This non-profit group has accomplished some pretty impressive feats. One that really resonated with me was their "Mod of the Month" program.

The idea is not just to connect buyers and sellers- it's also about educating real estate professionals to recognize there is a market for these "unusual" houses. Homes are often needlessly "improved" to increase their mass-market appeal. This type of relationship with local realtors is a win-win for our community. It's been a huge success for Houston, hopefully we can capture a little of that magic!

To learn more about Houston Mod visit www.houstonmod.org

Just Another Teardown

This smart looking modern house doesn't stand a chance.

I've always liked the house, especially the upstairs deck and railing. It looks like a very sensible size (which means it's tiny by modern standards) and doesn't appear to be very run down.

Unfortunately it's cursed with a prime location that adjoins a large vacant lot. The realtor is so convinced nobody would want this boxy Fifties bungalow they felt the need to add "LOT" to the for sale sign. Seems like we could give the house a chance. Do we really need to point out the oversized lot to would-be developers? Or is the $450,000 price tag not obvious enough?

The house is on on Terwilleger Boulevard just west of Utica. Enjoy it while you can.

Letter from Dallas

or Everything's Bigger in Texas.We recently visited Dallas for a few days of wining, dining and shopping. Our hideaway for this excursion, the Abby Brown Guest House, put us close to Knox-Henderson, Greenville and North Park Mall. Here's a few notes from the trip... One of our first stops was Design Within Reach. As you can see they have a Texas-sized version of the classic adjustable desk lamp. I enjoyed a mod pit group while basking under the glow of the giant lamp. I also visited my favorite chair, the Eames LCW. While we were at DWR we met David Goltl who showed us around the store, explained some of the finer points of modern furniture and printed off some maps of Mid-Century and modern neighborhoods in the Dallas area. This turned out to be wonderful information because... ..we soon found ourselves touring an area known simply as the "Disney Streets," because all the streets have names like Snow White or Peter Pan. This neighborhood was not only full of cool…

Bruce Goff's Bavinger House

On the Trail of Julius Shulman: Stop 5
Probably the best known stop on our modern bus tour of Oklahoma City is actually on the outskirts of Norman. The bizarre abode known as the Bavinger House is nestled beside a two-lane strip of asphalt and hidden amongst blackjack trees and tall bamboo.
While writing this fifth and final installment for On the Trail of Julius Shulman we received sad news of Shulman's passing at the age of 98.
While there were many remembrances published in the following days, one I found insightful was from the blog of retailer Design Within Reach. Shulman worked with DWR over the years on various projects and promotions. Their blog was titled simply, Remembering Julius Shulman.
The house juts up from the surrounding flora like an abandoned UFO. The brown roof blends in with the surrounding vegetation- yet its thin, steel supports (pilfered long ago from the cabane struts of a local aircraft manufacturer) glint in the sunlight. To call it unorthodox would almo…

More Oklahoma Lustrons

We've been fascinated by the metal homes made by Lustron for many years. In fact, one of the very posts on this site was to document two examples here in Green Country (see Lustron: the Power of Steel). Now, here's an update to our search for Lustrons in Oklahoma. Turns out there are three Lustron homes in Oklahoma on the National Register of Historic Places. Two are in Stillwater and one is located in Cushing. All three are grey and appear to be the two-bedroom model. These are the two Lustrons in Stillwater. They're pretty similar except one has a mysterious aluminum patch near the entry. The real prefab gem from this trip is this beauty in Cushing. Note the contrasting trim and optional Lustron garage out back. Very nice! To locate Lustrons near you visit Lustron Preservation.org and use their handy, dandy Lustron Locator.

Modern Choices