The porch of Carrie Hawkins’ and Zach Fountain’s midtown home is larger than the Airstream they lived in for three years before coming to Tulsa. The RV is still parked behind the 1919 bungalow, but the couple is here to stay; the New Mexico natives came to town in 2019 as part of the Tulsa Remote initiative to attract professionals to Tulsa.
When they found the pristine home at 1732 S. Yorktown Ave., the real estate listing billed it as a stunning design of the late Bruce Goff, a noted architect with Tulsa roots who won the praise of Frank Lloyd Wright.
But Hawkins and Fountain, both 37, didn’t know until moving in that the 1,831-square-foot home is one of Goff’s earliest projects. He was only 15 when he designed the home as an intern at the Tulsa firm of Rush, Endicott and Rush.
Since Hawkins and Fountain both work from home, they spend a lot of time there. The home has one bathroom and three bedrooms; two rooms are used as their offices, and Fountain’s doubles as a music room. (He’s one part of indie folk/electro folk duo the Rushmore Beekeepers.)
Fortunately the home was move-in ready, and the couple hasn’t changed much beyond interior paint colors. They did swap the dining and living rooms. “I just pictured a big dining room table in front of this picture window,” Hawkins says. Right now the large basement is used for storage, but they agree it has a lot of potential.
Previous owners turned the south side of the wrap-around front porch into a sunroom. Though not original, it complements the home with its warm wood ceiling.
Fountain remains impressed with the details and craftsmanship of the home, from the wide, tapered door framing and crown molding to the original wood flooring that changes direction throughout the living area.
Hawkins and Fountain often see architecture buffs stopping to admire their home, and they don’t mind. “The other day I saw some people out in the yard with cameras,” Hawkins says. “I said, ‘I live here. Are you fans of Goff? Would you like to come in?’”
Not only was the 1920 bungalow at 1401 S. Quaker Ave. in bad shape when Mark Sanders’ Preservation Strategies LLC purchased it seven years ago — there was some debate in the local architecture community as to whether the house was a Bruce Goff design.
However, Sanders was fairly certain it was a Goff from its classic Prairie styling and rare terrazzo porch. In 1920 terazzo was typically used in commercial and luxury properties, but Sanders says Goff consistently used it on the porches of his residential projects.
Sanders utilized a preservation consultant in an effort to have Goff officially credited as the home’s designer and to utilize tax credits for renovating a historical property.
The lynchpin was an affidavit from another Goff homeowner, fellow Tulsan Thomas Thixton (see following profile), who recounted a spectacular memory. “When he was chair of the OU Architecture Department, Goff didn’t drive a car,” Sanders says. “So when he came to Tulsa for a school-related event, he needed someone to drive him around.”
Thixton, then a beginning architecture student, volunteered to be Goff’s chauffeur. As he drove through town, the younger man pointed out certain homes and asked Goff which he designed. According to Thixton, Goff confirmed the home on Quaker was indeed his work.
When he designed the home, he would have been only 15. “Bruce Goff was an incredible prodigy,” Sanders says.
Built for a couple named McGregor, the home changed ownership several times between 1920 and 1940, often through foreclosure. Sanders presumes the turnover was related to the Depression. Eventually three successive generations of the same family lived there.
In the course of his massive renovation, Sanders restored the three bedroom, two bath home’s foundation and floor of the back porch, rebuilt the roof and ceiling of the front porch, and replaced all the home’s flat roofs.
Most everything else, including the home’s original windows and floors, has been painstakingly restored or replaced with vintage stock.
Since a requirement of the tax credit program is that the property be income-producing for at least five years, the home has been a short-term rental since 2017, under a long-term lease from Preservation Strategies. It is operated by Sanders’ wife, Sarah Poston, who also is a local attorney. Sanders says it attracts “architectural tourists” from all over the country.
“Two people have walked in and kissed the floor,” he says.
The second cousin of late Tulsa historian Beryl Ford, Sanders has an affinity for historical photos, which he has displayed throughout the house.
A highlight of the three-level home is the northwestern view from its flat roof. Sanders keeps two folding chairs in an upstairs bedroom, where people can access the roof through a window. “The skyline of Tulsa is just in your face,” he says. “People go crazy about that experience.”
Though perhaps the most storied Goff-designed residence in Tulsa, Thomas Thixton’s 1922 art deco home, 1119 S. Owasso Ave., is not a shrine to the famed architect. It’s comfortably lived in, and the place he has called home for 43 years.
Thixton, 87, is himself a retired architect whose coursework at the University of Oklahoma fell within Goff’s leadership of the OU School of Architecture. “Talent was just oozing out of him,” Thixton recalls from attending Goff’s lectures.
Goff originally designed the home as a roughly 1,200-square-foot studio for Adah Robinson, his art teacher at Tulsa’s Central High School. Robinson went on to become founder and chair of the art department at the University of Tulsa. Later the two would work together on the art deco masterpiece Boston Avenue Methodist Church; whether Robinson or Goff should be credited as the church’s designer has long been contested.
After the studio was nearly finished — Thixton says it cost her $7,500 to build — the story goes that Robinson decided to live there. This required a few changes, including adding a miniscule kitchen just large enough for a stove, sink and icebox.
Thixton is the home’s fourth owner. As with Robinson, it started out as Thixton’s workplace, as well. His architecture firm found it in 1974 when looking for a new office.
“It was in terrible shape,” Thixton says. “The roof leaked. There was water in the basement.” Regardless, he knew he had found a Goff gem and paid $21,000 for the home as is. He says, at one time, Zillow estimated the home’s value at $375,000.
For several years, the living room was Thixton’s office, which held four drafting tables. In 1977, he moved in.
Some might be surprised to see that Thixton has taken some liberties with the home’s design. For instance, in 1983 he added on a large sunporch, a garage, pool and fence, and slightly expanded the original kitchen, which remains tiny. Now the home is about 2,400 square feet.
But its original charm can still be found in Goff’s design details such as the terrazzo dining room; three balconies and three fireplaces; original, ornate light fixtures; and various built-ins. “Goff’s architecture was really wild and original,” Thixton says.
Of Thixton’s amendments to the home? Perhaps Goff would approve.
Dream come true
More than 50 years ago young Tulsan Byron Burke fell in love with Goff architecture on South Madison Avenue.
“I would walk home from movies downtown or drive up Madison with my mom on her way to shop at Wolferman’s Grocery on 15th so I could look at the two Goff-designed houses on the street,” recalls Burke, now 68. “Dad was developing homes and shopping centers in Ranch Acres when it was a new subdivision, but I always preferred the older homes and Tulsa’s deco architecture.”
In 2016, Burke purchased one of those long-admired homes known as Madison House at 1712 S. Madison Ave. It was built in 1925 for John L. and Anna A. Dickson, who came to Tulsa from Pennsylvania to work for H. F. Wilcox Oil Co. The home demonstrates Goff’s exploration of the Prairie influence with its low horizontal elements, including a flat roof.
Burke, a property tax consultant, spent about a year renovating the home, which included significant repairs such as replacing support beams and gutting the kitchen master bathroom. He says his wife, Sheri, along with her daughter Stacy Teague, are responsible for most of the home’s current appearance, including colors, granite, tile and cabinets.
Due to its location in the Maple Park addition, the home was subject to the North Maple Ridge Historic District preservation guidelines. This prevented Burke from making changes to the front of the home, but otherwise he was able to be creative. That included redoing the back of the home entirely, replacing windows and a huge deck that was an addition by a previous homeowner. He also built out the basement, bringing the home to about 3,300 square feet, with 2 ½ bathrooms and four bedrooms.
Despite these changes, many original elements remain, including the home’s original lighting fixtures, crown molding and pocket doors. Highlights include an expansive dining room, of which Burke “borrowed” a few feet to add hallway closets and other storage, and a two-way fireplace with green marble surround that opens to the living room and master bedroom.
Burke’s favorite part is the broad picture windows on the front of the home. “Goff’s whole deal was bringing the outside in,” Burke says.
This summer Burke plans to replace the home’s ornamental roofline — an important architectural feature that had rotted with age — add some landscaping and finish renovating the backyard garage.
When he was in college at OU, Burke briefly met Goff when he joined his roommates for a tour of Goff-designed homes in Norman, including Bavinger House.
“I had an opportunity to mention my experience growing up in Tulsa admiring his residential and commercial work,” Burke says. “I didn’t realize I’d ever own one (of his homes).”
About Bruce Goff
Kansas-born Bruce Goff was the son of a jeweler and a teacher. At age 12, the family settled in Tulsa, where Goff’s father recognized his son’s artistic talent and secured him an apprenticeship at local architecture firm Rush, Endicott and Rush. Even at his young age, Goff demonstrated design genius and was given the responsibility of designing several homes.
Goff graduated from Tulsa’s Central High School in 1922. In later years, he would go on to design myriad Tulsa structures including the Tulsa Club, Riverside Studio (now Spotlight Theater) and Boston Avenue Methodist Church.*
In 1934 he moved to Chicago and joined Chicago artist Alfonso Iannelli for a brief period and then taught at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. In 1947, Goff became a professor at the University of Oklahoma. The following year he became chairman of the Department of Architecture and resigned in December 1955. Goff died in 1982.
In his early career, Goff’s architectural style was organic, yet distinctly modern, and influenced in particular by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. During this time period he designed at least 11 Tulsa residences.
In later years, Goff’s designs became more diverse; they have been described by many as eclectic and flamboyant.