Mod Blog

Save the Circle: A Brief History of the Donnay Building and Why We Should Save It

Posted by on Jul 20, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Photos by Lynne Rostochil unless otherwise stated.

Last week, released a story about Braum’s plan to demolish the iconic Donnay Building, which is home to Charlie’s Records, the Drunken Fry, and the Hi Lo Club, along with the building in which the iconic Classen Grill is housed.  Right away, the Mod Squad posted a petition in protest, which now has over 13,000 signatures.  With all of the uproar, every major TV and radio station covered the news, and the first protest, organized by City Councilman Ed Shadid and the group, Save Classen Circle, was held just two days later:

One guy even made a bunch of t-shirts on such short notice:

Here’s Ed Shadid being interviewed by KFOR’s Bill Miston:

This lovely lady, who is in her ’70s, remembers going to the Patio Restaurant as a kid and braved the 100-degree weather to join the protest:

There was even a guy there banging the drums and keeping everyone rhythmically entertained:

So, why all of this fervor over a building that has, admittedly, fallen into disrepair since the owner, Red Oak Properties, purchased it in the mid-’90s?  Well, let’s go into a bit of the building’s history to learn why.

The Donnay Building was the brainchild and namesake of Matt Donnay, a WWI vet who worked as an architect and home builder after his return from the war.  Here’s a photo of him during a VFW ceremony in 1984 — he’s the chipper older gentleman on the left:

(OPUBCO collection at the History Center)

In 1949, he branched out of his single-family comfort zone when he designed and built his first apartment complex, also named the Donnay and now known as the Chardonnay in the Paseo District:


(Oklahoma County Tax Assessor)

The complex was originally 12 units and cost $25,000 to build, and the Donnays lived here during the time that he developed the property at Classen Circle.

I believe that he also designed his self-named mixed use building along the old Classen Circle.  The Donnay Building may have been constructed in two phases, the first in 1948 and the second in 1954.  A few things lead me to believe this.  First, I have phone directories from 1949 and 1950, and the only mention of the Donnay Building is for Matt’s construction office and also for an insurance company he owned.  I looked up other businesses that may have occupied space — restaurants, bars, attorneys and architects offices, beauty salons and barber shops, etc. — and didn’t find anything else listed at that address.  Although I looked around in my phone book, I still need to check a reverse directory to verify that Donnay’s businesses were the only ones located in the building in 1949 and 1950.

Another thing makes me think that the building may have been constructed in phases is this photo from

The Donnay Building is in the upper right corner of the photo — here it is blown up:

This aerial shot was taken in 1954, and it looks like the entire front, rounded part of the building (where the Patio was located and where the Drunken Fry is now) hasn’t been built yet.  In every other aerial photo after this one (1969-2013), it is easy to spot the circular portion of the building, as well as the section where Charlie’s Records is now, but neither seem to appear in the 1954 shot.  As an example, here’s the 1969 view of the Donnay Building — it’s yucky and grainy and has a water mark, but you can clearly see the space where Charlie’s is now and where the Patio was:

Here are the detail shots from 1954, 1969, and now (from Googlemaps) so that you can see the difference between the 1954 version of the structure and later versions:




The shadow from the diagonal portion of the building on the west side is apparent in all of the images after 1954, but it’s not in the 1954 photo.  So, I think that those parts of the building were added very soon after the 1954 photo was taken.  What do you think?

I believe that the Matt Donnay waited until after the Classen Traffic Circle was completed in 1952 before he decided to expand the building.  It seems that, when it was announced that the circle was going to be constructed, the City took some of Donnay’s land and didn’t pay him for it.  He filed suit against the city and they went back and forth for two years until a jury sided with Donnay and awarded him a $4,450 settlement.  Perhaps he used that money to expand the building once the traffic circle was constructed.  Here’s a photo of the Classen Traffic Circle soon after it was completed in 1952:

(Oklahoma History Center)

This is the intersection looking south from Classen just north of the circle.  That’s Horn Seed in the foreground on the right.  The vacant plot of land just to the left of the circle is where Jimmy’s Egg is now.  Anyway, apparently there was so much confusion on how to use a traffic circle that the City produced a local TV show called “Going in Circles” to teach citizens the “proper driving procedure” in using the unusual intersection.  Um, okay.  I guess Oklahoma City drivers were just too dumb to know how to handle a traffic circle, even though they had been exposed for a decade to another one at the intersection of May and NW Expressway, which was completed in 1940:

(Oklahoma History Center)

The May Avenue traffic circle was replaced with its current and odd three-clover-leafed exchange in 1952 — probably because people didn’t watch “Going in Circles”:


I find it very interesting that city planners chose to build a circle at Classen and the same time they were opting to remove the one at May.  Anyway, more about Classen Circle later….

Here’s a ’60s photo from the Oklahoma History Center’s collection of the lovely Donnay Building in all of its mid-century glory:

Soon after the circle was constructed, the first of the Donnay Building’s iconic businesses, the Patio Restaurant, opened on October 9, 1954, perhaps the same year that the building was added on to.

(Mark’s Super Blog)

With its giant, amoeba-shaped sign, the Patio was one of the big hot spots in town for well over three decades.  Here’s a photo of the Patio and its beautiful sign from 1975:

(Oklahoma History Center)

How glorious is that?  The sign, along with the Donnay Building itself, was such a staple in the community that artist Greg Burns took the time to paint it in the 1980s, and it has remained one of his best sellers:

(Greg Burns)

Almost anyone who lived in town during the restaurant’s heyday remembers the tiny, 900-square-foot space that seated just 34 people.  There was rarely a day that the place wasn’t packed with enthusiastic patrons devouring one of owner Loreta Eckles’ sweet treats or a Joe Miller burger (named after an Oklahoman photographer) prepared by her husband, Vern.  According to Classic Restaurants of Oklahoma City by Dave Cathey (a book that I highly recommend, by the way), Loreta and Vern were working for the Beverly’s chain when he drove by the Donnay Building one evening.  “It (the future Patio space) was so cute I fell in love with it.  I bought it the next morning, went home and told my wife and she wouldn’t speak to me for a year.”  She must have forgiven him pretty quickly when she saw the line of people out the door day after day.

Back to my theory that part of the Donnay Building was constructed around 1954, six years after the original structure was completed.  I found a classified ad in the Oklahoman stating that there was a “new luxurious office space” for lease above the Patio Restaurant.  This ad was placed in September 1954, just a month before the Patio opened for business.  “New” certainly makes me think that this was, duh, new and not just a revamped space.

As for the Patio, it remained in business in one form or another until 2000, when it closed for good.  Bummer.

The next of the Donnay Building’s long-term businesses to open was the HiLo in 1956.

It looks like the Hi Lo has been the scene of many an interesting evening.  Perhaps the most unusual event to happen on the premises was in 1966 when a man (possibly a boyfriend) was seen loitering outside the Hi Lo.  When a woman exited the bar at 1:30 a.m. on a quiet Tuesday night, he fired shots at her, dragged her kicking and screaming to his car, threw her inside, and took off.  Witnesses saw the incident and called the police, but the man, who was 27, and woman, 22, were long gone by the time they arrived.  According to the Oklahoman, police found “a coat, which contained four bullet holes, two pairs of shoes, a skirt and sweater, and other articles of clothing when they arrived at the club.”

After leaving the parking lot, the man drove onto the Turner Turnpike heading toward Tulsa.  At the Chandler turnpike gate, the woman escaped the vehicle and started running.  The man jumped out of his car and took off after her.  Luckily, a highway patrolman saw the two struggling at the gate and came to the injured woman’s rescue.  While he was assisting the woman, the man got back into his car and took off toward Tulsa.  The officer took the woman to the Chandler hospital, where she was treated for “minor flesh wounds and powder burns.”  The police found the man in Tulsa and initially arrested him for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon but vacated that charge in favor of a more serious one, assault with intent to kill, which carried up to a 20 year sentence.  The man was the son of the owner of the Tulsa Oilers baseball team and was released on a $2,000 bond.  I haven’t been able to find out if he was convicted or went to jail, but it looks like he was a free man and living in Texas by the 1990s.

Even from its earliest beginnings, the Hi Lo was a place to hear great music.  I found this image of local pianist, Leslie Sheffield, playing at the Hi Lo in 1960:

(Oklahoma History Center)

Surprisingly, even with all of its original vintage charm, the bar looks quite a bit different now, doesn’t it?  That’s because there was a fire that gutted the bar in April 1970.  Here’s a photo of the bar’s charred remains from the OPUBCO collection at the History Center:

Those poor, beautiful lights and all of that great furniture ruined.  So sad.  Here’s another image of a fireman on the roof struggling to put out the blaze:

Happily, the club was rebuilt and opened not too long afterward.  I say happily because the neighborhood watering hole morphed into one of the first public spots in town where members of the LBGTQ community could gather without fear of being discriminated against, beaten up, or worse.  The Hi Lo was a safe haven — it was home.  Now, the Hi Lo is home to anyone and everyone who walks in the door and remains one of the most popular taverns in town.  And, the fact that the decor hasn’t changed a bit since after the fire makes the place a true treasure for all kinds of reasons.

The uplit bar is the BEST in town:

And the stage where all of the great music and drag show magic takes place:

Here’s a photo of KFOR reporter, Bill Miston interviewing bartender Topher last week:

The next oldest business that calls the Donnay Building home is Charlie’s Records:

Here’s a little blurb I wrote about Charlie’s a few years ago:

As always, the atmosphere was low key and funky at the venerable Charlie’s in the old Patio building on Classen, which is the premiere store in town to search for old jazz, blues, and R&B records.  An eccentric’s lusty wet dream (and a neat freak’s worst nightmare), Charlie’s is a crazy-but-cool amalgamation of all of the Charlie’s passions — music, old band instruments, wild African masks, and ancient microphones and cameras — all of which is for sale for the right price.   

Although Charlie died recently and his 18-year-old grandson, Justin, took over the shop earlier this year, the record store remains the best place to go in search of that longed-for jazz or blues album.

The baby in the building is the Drunken Fry, which opened in the old Patio space in 2009 and offers a great beer selection, as well as french fries with over a dozen dipping sauces.

This place is always hopping and, if the Donnay Building is saved, promises to be around for a long time like its much older neighboring businesses.

When it was constructed in 1948 or 1954 (or both), the Donnay Building was one of the first mixed use projects to be built in town.  The building contained retail and office space, as well as apartments.  Today, the apartments are still being rented — I don’t know how anyone sleeps in them with all of the activity downstairs, but at least tenants don’t have far to go after an evening of pub crawling around the building and across the street at Edna’s.  (Another early example of a mixed use building is the old Nuway Cleaners on May, which was designed by Hudgins Thompson & Ball and built in 1953.)  To me, it’s so exciting to realize that these buildings are the grandparents of all of the mixed use projects sprouting up in Midtown, downtown, the Plaza District and, really, all over the city.  They were the first.

The Donnay Building is not the only one on the chopping block — so is the one that houses one of the most popular breakfast spots in town, Classen Grill:

(Remax Oklahoma)

As for Classen Circle, it was obsolete within a few years of its construction.  By 1966, over 55,000 cars were going through the circle daily, many more than it could handle.  There was usually a back up along NW Expressway, and there were too many accidents to count.

(OPUBCO collection at the History Center)


In 1966, a columnist for the Oklahoman wrote, “As soon as we get everything straightened out on the moon, I wonder if we could start working on the Classen Circle traffic bottleneck.”  In spite of an effort in 1972 to stop the bottleneck by enlarging the circle, the complaints and accidents continued.  Finally, in 1976, funding was approved to remove the circle and start over with something new.  A few years later, city planners announced that the circle would transform into an “interstate-type intersection with thoroughfare ramps.”  Area citizens and business owners protested this solution, though, citing that it would be even more difficult to get around the area with all of those ramps — not to mention how ugly all of that would have looked.  The plans were changed to omit the elevated ramps and create some kind of semblance of a proper intersection.  The new non-circle opened to traffic in 1981, but it wasn’t much more effective at curtailing confusion, traffic, and accidents than the circle — and it was a lot uglier, too.  Over the years, the non-circle has received more facelifts to help with traffic problems, but all to no avail.  It’s still a mess of an intersection and probably will always be.


So, even with all of this interesting history, why should we worry about saving an obviously dilapidated structure like the Donnay Building?  Why shouldn’t it come down to make way for a Braum’s parking lot?  On the practical side, because the area is already congested enough with traffic — NW 50th can be a big pain in the butt at certain times of the day, and people still can’t figure out the whole jumbled Classen Circle/non-Classen Circle intersection.  Imagine what all of that will be like if a Braum’s comes in and amps up the traffic by thousands of cars a day.  I don’t know about you, but I will want to stay far away from that mess.

Also, with each historic and unique building we lose, Oklahoma City loses a little more of its identity, which, in my opinion, is more important than building yet another ugly, soulless box.  Also, the long-standing businesses in the Donnay Building may not reopen if their homes are demolished.  Imagine a celebratory Saturday night with no Hi Lo or Drunken Fry or an early morning Sunday brunch without the delicious fixin’s and freshly squeezed orange juice at Classen Grill.  Oh no, I can’t — I just can’t.

For those of you who love the Donnay Building and its businesses, you can fight to save them by signing the petition and by showing up at the City Council meeting on August 24th at 1:30 that will hear Braum’s motion to rezone the area so that the company can build on the site.  Also, you can join the Save Classen Circle Facebook page to learn about planned protests, etc., or keep up with everything on the Okie Mod Squad Facebook page.  Finally, I will update this Mod Blog with all news as it happens.

Save the Circle!!

(Save Classen Circle Facebook Group)


A huge thanks goes to Pete Brzycki at for always being on top of things in OKC and for breaking this story.

Low Cost Housing for Urban Renewal: Architectural Research Report, Part 1

Posted by on Jul 11, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Brochure from Lynne’s collection.


Not too long ago, I found a really fascinating booklet called Low Cost Housing for Urban Renewal.  It was put together by the OU School of Architecture research staff, which included these guys:


From the names on this list, I’m guessing that this booklet was created in 1964 or 1965.  Sponsored by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority, the report “consists of studies to determine the feasibility of moderate income housing within the University Medical Center Urban Renewal Area.”    This is a pretty thick booklet, so I’ve selected some excerpts for you to enjoy.

The Urban Renewal Plan:


According to the booklet, the architects “were concerned with the problems of the ever mounting construction costs in all types of building, and the necessity of arriving at the desired low cost rent.”  As part of their research, the group studied different materials that could be used to reduce construction costs, and they also constructed a small test building to illustrate how materials and efficient building methods could control costs.

Scheme A:

Scheme A was designed in accord with the FHA’s “Minimum Property Standards for multi-family dwelling units” and intends to “give maximum variety and interest to the buildings … to avoid the anonymous character generally associated with housing developments of the same size.  Emphasis is placed on the importance of the individual and to give him in these apartments, a proper environment in which to live and raise his children, with beauty and economical living and full use of space.”

The architects designed “a flexible grouping of three types of living units ….  Each entranceway serves a maximum of nine families in the few instances of the three story units, but the vast majority will serve only six families, and yet the amount of space given to circulation is minimal….  Through the provisions of the pleasant garden type entrance there is an atmosphere that suggests a garden apartment but takes full advantage of the economies of the urban row house.”









Scheme B:

“All of the living units are to be placed so that they are parallel to the parking lots and facing the surrounding exterior streets.  The admirable aim of this plan is to grant greater freedom for the courts and play areas as framed by the buildings.  This will create an architectural regularity and unity from the street side by placing the buildings in a symmetrical arrangement.”  With the buildings constructed on the periphery, the inner courtyard and play spaces could be easily protected and controlled.  The buildings themselves mostly would be three stories and constructed of budget-friendly pre-cast concrete.








“It is not difficult to imagine that living in this environment would be both relaxing and friendly.”

Scheme C:

This plan “provides a good car/occupant ratio” and uses an “open exterior balcony for the access corridor to the apartment units.”  The buildings would be constructed with “controlled density concrete” and would “provide a maximum amount of living floor area.”









Next week, we will look at Scheme D and discuss some of the ways the group suggested to improve the area surrounding the proposed site of this multi-family housing.

Go here to see Part 2 of this post.

The 2017 Oklahoma Modernism Weekend Mod Home Tour, Part 2

Posted by on Jul 6, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and most of the photos by Lynne Rostochil.  Other photos are credited below.

Today, we are finishing up with the Mod Home Tour that was the capper of the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend.

Gray House
Bush Hills
Designed by Thomas Goto

Bush Hills was the brainchild of developer J.A. Bush.  He started advertising lots for sale out in the country in April 1929.  Lots would be one to 10 acres with a starting price of $1,500.  A few homes were built along the back side of the lake and on Bush, but the area didn’t develop much during this time due to the Depression.

After WWII, the building boom was on and more plots were sold to people eager to live the country life in what was rapidly becoming an urban area off of Route 66.  Development exploded in the 1950s and most of the sites were filled with homes by the 1960s.  As Bush Hills filled in, surrounding land began being developed, including the parcel where this home is located.

In the 1960s and 1970s, architect Thomas Goto worked with housing developer, John Gray, in designing homes in the Lansbrook, Penn Park, and Canyon North additions. During the early years of their partnership, Gray, Goto, and a few of their friends decided to buy lots on a quiet cul-de-sac and build their homes there.  Goto’s home was at the head of the cul-de-sac and the home he designed for Gray was a few doors down.  A native of Hawaii, Goto incorporated many elements of modern Hawaiian residential design in this residence, including a low-slung, U-shaped plan surrounding an intimate, central courtyard.

Current owners, Michael and Jennifer Hopkins are avid collectors of all things mid-century modern, including an original Princess Grace Ford Thunderbird Landau.  Here’s a photo of Michael telling us all about the interesting history of this car:

Apparently, Princess Grace (formerly Academy Award-winning actress, Grace Kelly) chose the color scheme for the car — Corinthian white with dusk rose accents.  It’s as elegant as the lady herself:

Just 2,000 of these special edition cars were made, with #1 going to Grace’s husband, Prince Ranier himself.  Learn more about the exciting history of this rare care here.

With Michael’s discerning eye, the rest of the Hopkins’ house is just as interesting as the car.  Take a look at this living room, which is sheer perfection:

Original owners, the Grays loved to entertain and had a distinctive buffet built in the dining room with carved tropical flowers that further accentuates the home’s Hawaiian style.  You can see it along the back wall in this photo:

Other features include original slate flooring, an honest to goodness Flair in the kitchen…

… and, a rarity for Oklahoma, a large basement den.  The lighting wasn’t the best in the den, thus the blurry shot of the space.  A blurry shot is better than no shot, so I’m going with it:

Michael also collects all things Playboy, and the upstairs bar is the perfect place to show off his finds:

The stuffed bunny is a decanter from the early 1960s and the key is from the same era:

If that key could talk….  Here’s another shot of Michael and Jennifer’s loungy bar area:

Pretty great, aye?

High House
Nichols Hills
Designed by Norman Berlowitz

In 1929, real estate developer, Dr. G.A. Nichols announced that farmland in what was then the far reaches of OKC would be converted into a 1,280-acre neighborhood of luxury homes and estates.  Previously, Nichols had developed such neighborhoods as Paseo, Military Park, Gatewood, University Place, and Lincoln Terrace, but his self-named neighborhood would be much different, with plenty of parks, green spaces, and winding roads.  Wonder if he was influence by Edgemere Park when he began platting Nichols Hills….  As with the other pre-WWII neighborhoods in town, development in Nichols Hills was slow during the Depression and war years and didn’t begin to really boom until hostilities ceased.

Nestled on a quiet residential street in Nichols Hills surrounded by much more traditional homes, the unique, two-owner ranch we toured provides all kinds of indoor/outdoor living opportunities with an uncommon and very private front courtyard and a lush backyard pool area:

Inside, the home is nearly all original and is perfect for today’s casual living with its open-plan common areas offset by a huge two-sided fireplace overlooking the dreamy backyard, which has been expertly updated by current homeowner, Monty Milburn:

Tour goers relaxed by the pool…

Enjoyed the art…

And had the opportunity to look at original blueprints and before/after shots of the master suite:

An addition to the master bedroom was a paneled disaster that Monty beautifully remedied this way:

So, the bedroom is on one side of the fireplace, and the gorgeous sitting area and master bath are on the other and overlook the pool.  How great is that?

Cunningham House
Quail Creek
Designed by Herb Greene

From Nichols Hills, we mosied north to Quail Creek to view an internationally recognized gem of a house that was surely the “big wow” of the tour.

Quail Creek was built on farmland once owned by Virgil Browne, and developers anticipated that it would be the “showplace of America.”  The developers — Jack Johnston, his dad Paul, his brother Paul, Russell Caston, Ben Head, Tom Downs, Gene Moss, Carl James, and Bud Krogstad — believed that there was a large need for higher end neighborhoods in OKC, and they were right because lots began selling quickly in the $44 million neighborhood that included a mid-century modern country clubhouse with a giant pool and championship golf course.  The platte consisted of 860 sites, with 177 “estate homes” on larger lots surrounding the golf course.  The minimum home size was 1,800sf and averaged $35,000, while the larger “estate homes” were priced from $60,000-$150,000 in 1961 dollars (that’s $490,000-$1.23 million today).

This stunning home was designed by Bruce Goff student and former OU professor, Herb Greene and is certainly one of the most impressive examples of mid-century modern residential architecture in the city.  Here’s a photo I took of the front of the house in the winter — you can’t see much of the front once the trees bloom in the spring:

In the common areas, curved walls lead to a swooping, wood-planked ceiling that hovers over giant windows running along the back, offering a panoramic view of the golf course beyond:

Owners Tammy and Kent Switzer have decorated the home to perfection, too:

Yes, that’s a genuine Murano mid-century mod disc hanging on the ceiling — love it!

And I also love the bedroom with accordion doors that open to the living spaces and also to the golf course view beyond:

Looking up into the bedroom from the dining area downstairs:

Tammy and Kent also shared some interesting ephemera and books about Herb Greene and the home:

Check out this amazing fireplace:

Outside, four iron screens add even more visual interest:

Back inside and up the stairs to the ground floor level…

… is a den with its own private patio sanctuary:

There’s even a built-in stereo in the studio/office:

To say that this is a mind blowing space is a vast understatement!

Krogstad House
Quail Creek
Designed by Robert F. Reed, addition by Ken Fitzsimmons of TASK Design
1964, 2016

The final home of the tour is also located in Quail Creek and was designed by Goff student, Robert F. Reed, for one of the neighborhood’s early developers, Bud Krogstad.  This organic modern head turner provides quite a bit of visual eye candy with repeating rock pillars inside and out …

…vaulted beamed ceilings, and angled windows:

A master-suite addition completed in 2016 beautifully complements the original architecture.


And that’s it for the 2017 Mod Home Tour!  I’d like to thank all of the tour homeowners for very generously letting us enjoy your spaces for a few minutes.  Also, a huge thanks goes to Jim Jordan, who made sure that every home had a classic car parked in front.  And thank you to all of the people who sponsored, volunteered, vendored, and/or planned the Oklahoma Modernism Weekend.  Finally, we’d like to thank everyone who attended this year — see you in 2018!

The 2017 Oklahoma Modernism Weekend Mod Home Tour, Part 1

Posted by on Jun 29, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and most of the photos by Lynne Rostochil.  Other photos are credited below.


This year’s Mod Home Tour was another great Oklahoma Modernism Weekend event, and I thought I’d share photos of the homes we toured for those of you who couldn’t make it.  I’ve included a little history about each home and its neighborhood.

Papahronis House
Edgemere Park
Designed by John Bozalis

Edgemere Park was developed by Leon Levy and lots began selling in 1928.  Levy wanted the neighborhood to be a “garden city” so he included 20 acres of green space and a park with rolling hills, mature trees, and the Deep Fork Creek running through it.  This was one of the first examples of community planning in OKC with winding streets and boulevards surrounded by lots and homes of all different sizes.

Site prices began at $1,050 – almost $15,000 today.  Small homes averaged around $5,000 – about $78,000 today.  Edgemere Park contains 300 homes, with just a few examples of more modern architecture sprinkled among more traditional styles.  Lots along Broadway weren’t bought in the first wave of development – they were finally developed after World War II and included several quaint apartment buildings — I found a photo of this block of buildings in a 1949 edition of the Oklahoman:

Interestingly, a resident on the block, Keith Pouder, caught this image of a lightning strike on the nearby WKY and KOCY towers the night before:

If you go to Historical Aerials and type in NW 36th and Broadway, you can find an aerial view of this block in 1954 and 1969.  The block was demolished when I-235 was expanded in the 1970s.  As for the rest of Edgemere Park, it was added to the National Register in 1980.

In 1954, Johnny Papahronis, owner of the iconic Lunch Box in the heart of downtown, hired architect John Bozalis of Bailey Bozalis Dickinson & Roloff to design a new home for him and his family.  The result is this L-shaped, low-slung beauty that features an open-plan living and dining room — here’s the space with current owner, Matt Goad, chatting with tour goers about the history of the house:

The living room is anchored by a stunning flagstone fireplace:

Matt, who is just the second owner of this beautiful space, told us that the tri-colored sofa came from an office at the Tulsa Airport — very cool.  As for the dining room, the wall of windows overlooking the backyard make for a very inviting space:

(Kelly Moore)

Love this pass-through to the kitchen and that dreamy, honey-colored paneling:

Matt painstakingly remodeled the kitchen, but it looks so perfectly vintage that no one would ever guess it’s not original:

Even his collection of Russel Wright matches:

Matt has done an excellent job of enhancing all of the home’s amazing original features with his exciting modern furniture and art collection, including vintage album covers that adorn the walls in his den.

(Bren Johnston)

(Kelly Moore)

Morey House
Architect unknown

One of OKC’s best kept secrets is the hilly Wildewood addition.  The neighborhood sprang to life in 1955 after brothers Lamar and Med Cashion bought up 220 acres of untamed woodlands in the northeast part of town.  Unlike most of flat-as-a-pancake Oklahoma City, this area looked more like the eastern part of the state, with rolling hills and canyons containing winding creeks and tall, mature trees.  Wisely, the Cashions decided to capitalize on the natural wonders of their newly acquired land and advertised that the development they named Cashion’s Wildewood would be filled with “large palatial homes for families who like a blend of modern living and nature in the rough.”

Lots in the exclusive neighborhood would run from $5,000 to $10,000, depending on location and size, and various local architects and builders were invited design and construct custom homes that would range in price from $20,000 to $100,000 — from $178,000 to nearly $900,000 in 2017 dollars.  Soon after the first announcement that land was being cleared for the neighborhood’s scenic, twisting streets, new homes started popping up on the hilly, tree-studded lots in Wildewood.  By 1957, the first phase, including this split-level delight, was pretty much complete.

This flagstone stunner takes full advantage of its hillside site with this light-filled, split-level plan.  Upstairs, an expansive living/dining area overlooks the wooded backyard:

Current owners, Matt and Cara Greenhaw, recently completed a very sensitive re-do of the kitchen, which is a vast improvement over the ’70s-era yuckiness that was there before:

(Kelly Moore)

A spiral staircase in the formal living room…

… leads to a comfortable den with wood paneling, rock floors, and flagstone walls that ground the home on one side…

… and, on the other side, sliding doors that lead to a giant deck overlooking the wild expanses of the hilly wooded lot beyond:

Originally designed for developer Jimmy D. Morey, the distinctive home is being thoughtfully updated by Matt and Cara, who are making some pretty fantastic design choices, I think:

Morgan House
Designed by Brian Fitzsimmons, AIA and Mike Morgan

This neighborhood located south of St. Anthony’s (thus its name, SOSA) was originally comprised of homes built in the early 1900s.  It was a sad, derelict area when, in 2005, architect Randy Floyd and her partner, Michael Smith, renovated two territorial homes.  Mod didn’t arrive until Brian Fitzsimmons designed his personal residence on a hilltop overlooking downtown in 2010.  A few more modern homes sprouted up in the next few years and then the building boom began in earnest; now, there are over 51 completed projects with many more on the books, and the neighborhood has quickly become a modern architecture mecca in the city.

Homeowner Mike Morgan stepped into dual roles of design collaborator and general contractor to create the perfect home for him and his wife, Lea.  Here’s Mike welcoming tour goers:

The home sits on an elevated corner with prime views of downtown Oklahoma City…

(Kelly Moore)

… and features two cozy outdoor spaces on the first level where you can sit and enjoy all of the surrounding architectural eye candy:

Inside, the first level is home to Mike and Lea’s extensive library and art collection:

An exciting surprise awaited those who trekked to the garage:

Upstairs, an open-plan living, dining, and kitchen space makes full use of every square foot of space and serves as the perfect backdrop for more of the Morgans’ amazing art:

(Kelly Morgan)

Corten steel, wood, and brick mix to create a warm, almost cabin-like modern home, and the natural landscaping in front further adds to the homey ambiance.

Next week, we will finish the tour with a look at a home in Bush Hills, one in Nichols Hills, and two in Quail Creek.

On the Market: A Dreamy ’50s Delight in Thompson’s Woodland

Posted by on Jun 20, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil and the Zillow listing for the house (identified)

If you’ve ever driven through the quiet oasis that is the Thompson’s Woodland neighborhood in NE OKC, you know what a special area of town this is, especially for those who love mid-century modern architecture.  According to an Oklahoman article from 1988:

Long before the state Capitol was built and long before anyone settled in the northeast part of town, Thompson’s Woodland was a grazing farm owned by its namesake, W.J. Thompson, a local banker.  

Thompson leased the land to farmers from the 1930s to the late 1940s.

After Thompson’s death, his children decided to develop the land into a housing addition. To do so, they enlisted the help of William Porter, who was just beginning his real estate career. During the following years, Porter developed the acres into a respected residential area. He built the first seven homes, including his own, which he lived in for 16 years.

Property buyers included World War II veterans who sought a “pastoral setting” in which to build their new homes and lives, said Porter, who now owns Porter Investment Co. with his son Ed Porter.

Most of the individuals acted as their own contractors and custom-built their homes, which accounts for the addition’s varied architectural styles, Porter said.

“There were no building specifications,” Porter said. “Individual homeowners were free to follow their own ideas as long as they complied with city regulations.”

Valued between $65,000 and $150,000, the houses range from English Tudor to Spanish. They sit on acreages dense with oak, redbud and cypress trees and surrounded by rolling hills and paved paths and streets.

Today, the neighborhood is little changed.  People move in and never want to leave, so when a home in Thompson’s Woodland comes on the market, it doesn’t stay there for very long.  A case in point is the lovely, two-owner Hirschi House.

This 1953 stunner was designed by James E. Bignell, who attended OSU and later formed the firm Bignell & Fischer, which is perhaps best known for designing Christ the King Catholic Church in 1961 and the Oil Center in the mid-1970s.  In this home, Bignell created an unusual I-shaped shaped plan — here’s an original model of the home — yes, you heard that right, an ORIGINAL model:

And there are some original blueprints, too:

In 1961, architect Robb W. Moore designed an addition to the house that included a spacious den off of the kitchen and a private mother-in-law suite on the other side of the house that expanded it to its current 2,423 square feet:

Moore was an OU grad who designed the original Sunset Dial Building at 2205 N. Rockwell (the 1961 building behind the less attractive 1967 addition) and Luther Burbank Elementary (now Independence Charter Middle School) in 1959.

So, with the history out of the way, let’s start the tour.  This house is filled with cozy nooks that begin with an interior courtyard that greets visitors at the front door:

Open the front door, and a wood panelled paradise — also known as the formal living room — cheerfully greets you:

(Zillow listing)

This warm, inviting room with two walls of windows is huge and features a dramatic fireplace topped with clerestory windows that further brighten the space:

Here’s another view of the fireplace with the built-in shelves next to it. Even though the home was built in the ’50s, a time notorious for terrible storage, this home contains shelves and cabinets almost everywhere — no problem finding the perfect spot for your bric a brac here!  And, speaking of that, let’s take a minute to ooh and ahh over the owners’ incredible collection of everything mid-century modern.  Every piece is perfection and feels right at home in this lovely modern environment.

(Zillow listing)

Did you see that rock floor?  Wowza!  You can follow that little bit of beauty straight into the den and breakfast area:

(Zillow listing)

Don’t you love all of the windows in this home?  They make for such a comfortable, friendly space, don’t they? And, yes, that is an original Eugene Bavinger painting on the wall.

Off of the den is one of the most exciting features of the home and one that the current owners can take credit for, a giant and thoroughly screened-in living area:

Yes, they constructed the roof around the tree because they didn’t want to take down this bit of living history.  Very nice!  This two-level playroom would be the perfect spot for a summer gathering or lively house concert:

So much fun!  I think I’d spend most cool evenings in this ground-level treehouse enjoying the calming breezes while listening to the chirp, chirp, chirp of singing crickets in the backyard.

Back inside, the kitchen isn’t huge, but it’s laid out so perfectly and has so much storage that you’d never know it:

(Zillow listing)

Did you notice the aqua boomerang countertops?  Uh-huh, I knew you’d love that detail, and the best part is that they are brand-spankin’-new and are in perfect condition.  The perforated hanging lights in the kitchen (there are two of them) are pretty impressive, too.

Go through a second entrance to the kitchen to enter a L-O-N-G hallway and the bedroom wing of the house:

Love that honey-colored panelling, and there’s storage almost everywhere that there’s not a room.  Speaking of rooms, I love this sweet guest room overlooking the covered patio:

This room next door is pretty great, too:

There’s an all-original bathroom along the hallway…

… and the ample master suite is at the end:

Love those windows and that exposed brick, don’t you?  And the aqua door leads to another original bathroom.  So charming and oh how I love these great sink fixtures:

Going back down the hallway, a pass-through laundry room leads to the mother-in-law suite, which is being used as an office now:

(Zillow listing)

This would be a great game room or a teenager’s retreat even — it’s such a flexible space that it could be used in a variety of ways.

So, this house is on the market for a very reasonable $259,000.  The owners received a fast offer when it hit the market but the potential buyers had to back out, so their loss is your gain.  If you are looking for a mid-century modern paradise in the heart of the city, you won’t find many better examples than this sweet abode.  Contact listing realtor Gary Hicks with Metro First Realty at (405) 249-8878 and go check it out!

Recapping the 2017 Oklahoma Modernism Weekend

Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil

Thanks to all of you out in Mod Squad land for making this year’s Oklahoma Modernism Weekend such a great success!  Here’s a little photo recap of all of the fun on Friday and Saturday — I’ve “borrowed” some of the photos that I’ve seen on Facebook and will credit the photographers of all images that aren’t mine.

Set up:


Friday Night Preview:

(Steve Smith)

Flashback Fashion Show:

(Debbie Ellis)

(Debbie Ellis)

(Debbie Ellis)

(Debbie Ellis)

(Elisa Kraemer-Paonessa)

Charles Phoenix:

The original church spotlight used during Charles’ show!

(Jennifer Hopkins)

(Greg Oppel)

(Jennifer Hopkins)

Charles Phoenix had everyone rolling in the aisles with his hilarious Space Age Slideshow!



(Terri Sadler)

(Jim Jordan)

(Peter De Les Dernier)

Mod Swap:

(Kenny Blackketter)

(Kenny Blackketter)

(Mike Ford)

(Mike Ford)

Mod Market:

(Joe Jeldy)

Lectures/Church Tour:

The lecture by Garrett Colton about Evel Knievel’s trip to OKC in 1972 was one of the big highlights of the weekend.

Checking out First Christian Church blueprints during the tour.

Nick Leonard and Tim Anderson’s sign presentation was off-the-charts good.

(Tim Anderson)

Afterparty at Space: 20th Century Modern:

(Christopher Charles Fields)

(Christopher Charles Fields)

Next, we will go on the Mod Home Tour!


Urban Renewal Authority Annual Report – 1973

Posted by on May 3, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.  Brochure courtesy of Robyn Arn.

Today, most everyone in OKC is critical of I.M. Pei’s ambitious plan to modernize 528 acres in downtown Oklahoma City.  Nearly 500 buildings, such as the beloved Biltmore Hotel and Baum Building, were demolished before the whole Urban Renewal project finally and thankfully petered out in the late 1970s.  This annual report from 1973 both heralds the advancements associated with the Pei Plan and also foresees that many of the projects would never been funded and completed.  It’s truly a fascinating document and well worth a close read, and I’d like to thank Robyn Arn for sharing this interesting piece of history with the Mod Squad.

Click an image to enlarge it.



Highlights from the 2017 AIA Tour

Posted by on Apr 27, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil.

Last Saturday, the 16th annual AIA architecture tour took place, and if you missed it, you missed seeing some pretty incredible buildings that ranged from a 1930s Streamline Moderne home to an old automobile building to a brand new school in Edmond.  Here are a few of the highlights:


BP Lower 48

Owner: BP Lower 48
Architect: Brian Fitzsimmons, Fitzsimmons Architects
Contractor: Flintco, Inc.
Interior Decorator: Laura Leffler

Located in Automobile Alley, the Pontiac Building remodel was certainly one of the big WOWs of the tour, I thought.

How fun would it be to slide down that ramp?  As for the office space, the combination of wood and glass give it a warm and modern feeling all at the same time:

Just beautiful!

Mason House

Owner: Steve Mason
Architect: ADG
Contractor: Lingo Construction

One of the latest additions to the burgeoning SoSA is the stunning Mason House.  The two story home was designed for comfortable, easy living with jaw-dropping views of downtown.

Bob Moore Auto Group

Owner: Bob Moore Auto Group
Architect: Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Contractor: Smith and Pickel Construction

For me, the best surprise of the tour was this remarkable remodel of the dealership’s collision center, which was a one-story brick building constructed in 1951.  The architects added a second story to create an open and very modern office space.  This is the first building to be completed in Bob Moore’s new campus.

Vahlberg-White House

Owner: William and Susie White
Architect: Robert Vahlberg
Contractor: White & Associates

The sentimental favorite of the tour was surely this lovely home in the heart of Edgemere Park.  Architect Robert Vahlberg designed the home for his parents in 1937.  Here are a few of the blueprints that were on display during the tour:

A few years ago, the previous owners opened the home to the Mod Squad for a tour, and I’m happy to say that the new owners have added things, like a master bathroom and a pool, that only enhance the beauty of the home, while leaving all of the original goodness alone.

Nepveux House

Owner: Janise Nepveax
Architect: Ken Fitzsimmons, TASK Design
Contractor: Bryan Beavers

It was really refreshing to see a space on the tour that was more modest in scale — from the chatter around me when I toured this one, people could see how they could mod up their own spaces a bit because this was one they could relate to.  I like that.  And how great is this kitchen?

Originally, walls, a closet, and an indoor hot tub broke up the kitchen area, making it dark and choppy.  Now, it’s sheer perfection.

Unfortunately, I volunteered at the refreshment stop for the first part of the tour and missed getting to Edmond to see the last two stops, the Brewer House and Heartland Middle School, but I heard that they both both very popular destinations.  Being at the refreshment stop at the AIA office, I did get a chance to view some of the beautiful images from the OKLAHOMANMADE photography competition, though:

 Good stuff.  And, finally, this particular Architecture Week was especially rewarding because the Okie Mod Squad was awarded the B.H. Prasad Honor Award for our work in bringing awareness to the community about mid-century modern architecture and preservation efforts.  Way to go, Mod Squad!!!

Beautiful Fare for Everybody: The Vahlberg House in American Home Magazine

Posted by on Apr 12, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

by Lynne Rostochil.

The June 1948 issue of American Home magazine features one of my very favorite OKC mid-century modern homes on the cover, the fantastic Vahlberg House in Forest Park.  Here’s what the home looks like now:

Forest Park neighborhood NE OKC

Pretty amazing, aye?  This really is such a stunning home, one that architect Robert Vahlberg designed and built for himself and his family and where they lived for over 50 years.  Have a look at the house when it was new and read the accompanying article:

Vahlberg house American Home mag june 1948


It was hard, those first years of married life in a crowded apartment after the Vahlbergs came back to Oklahoma from the East.  Bob had been studying architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had attained his Master’s Degree.  It was hard for him to convince Jane that, because nothing in the city offered in the way of a home would satisfy him, they should wait until they could build a home of their own.  Jane wanted a home right away.

Bob had definite ideas about the house he wanted to build.  Patiently he explained to Jane that contemporary thinking in architecture is still in a nebulous stage with the average man and woman, but that modern architecture has captured the imagination and creative drive of the young men in the profession — that what the public sometimes regards as merely “daring” is backed by what these architects term “organic certitude.”

The Vahlbergs feel that their home, at last a reality, offers proof of this.  Because the house was designed to have the appearance of springing naturally from its setting, lines and compositions fall easily into place, and it looks valid, not artificial.  Indoors, the unobtrusive colors of the decorative scheme, planned by Jane to accent natural textures, contribute to this effect.

The house is a logical expression of their own way of living.  They like to be informal, relaxed; they like being together.  The open planning fosters this. Even Bob’s workshop corner with its drafting board and desk gives him a degree of privacy without sacrificing family unity.

They love the outdoors, swimming, sailing, horseback riding.  The house, in a country setting, overlooks a ravine.  Its wide expanses of glass across the rear elevation capture sunlight by day, starlight in the evenings.

Maintenance has been made easy by the remarkable unity of the house.  The plan is compact; all the space counts.  Storage space was planned around the family possessions, carefully inventoried, even to the baby buggy.  Small daughter Marcia was given special consideration.  The natural wood finishes do not show finger marks, and small matter what she spills on the floors since they are of concrete.  Kitchen and dining areas are particularly well integrated.

The conception of a house like the Vahlbergs’ is quite new to Oklahoma.  Robert Parks, the builder, says that it constituted an educational process for all workmen involved.  Now he is so sold on it that his plans for the future include one similar to it for his own family.  He and his wife like it from every standpoint.  Vahlberg, with is vigorous, new departure from tradition in architecture, may be pioneering a new housing trend in his own home state.

Vahlberg house American Home mag june 1948 screened in porch

Vahlberg house American Home mag june 1948 playroom

Vahlberg house American Home mag june 1948 dining

Unusual screened porch with slanting side flank bedrooms, adjoins dining area, makes roomy play-run for daughter Marcia.  Study, living, dining, kitchen activities are all emcompassed in large rectangle with minimum divisions.  Oversized fireplace in center of room has two flues, burns 10-foot logs or 2 twin fires.

Vahlberg house American Home mag june 1948 windows

Vahlberg house American Home mag june 1948 ext 2

Vahlberg house American Home mag june 1948 outside looking in

Vahlberg house American Home mag june 1948 ext

House turns its back to road approaches, lies long and low. Roof slopes up toward rear facade which is all glass and screen.  Wooded ravine insures privacy, overhang shields window from sun.

(Article written by Eugenia White, photos by Johnny Melton.)

Saying a Sad Farewell to the Bethany Library

Posted by on Apr 5, 2017 in Mod Blog | No Comments

text and photos by Lynne Rostochil.

Darn it!  I hate doing posts saying goodbye to the Metro’s mid-century modern buildings, and this is the second one in a row.  This time, we are bidding farewell to the small-but-sweet Bethany Library:

bethany library

Designed by Bethany architect and Southern Nazarene University (SNU) art professor, Ray Bowman of Bowman & Nicek, the building’s original design looked like this:

bethany library rendering

A few months later, the final design appeared in the Oklahoman:

bethany library rendering 2

Interestingly, Bowman included in his plans the possibility for expanding the library in the future:

bethany library 1st plan

The 8,400 sf building was built in the developing municipal center complex and was constructed for $175,000, which included furnishings and the first 10,000 books.  In addition, the Bethany Kiwanis Club sponsored a book drive that added 15,000 volumes to the new library’s collection.  When the library opened in January 1965, here’s how the interior space was laid out:

bethany library interior layout

Visitors crossed a cute little bridge to get into the building:




Ray Bowman designed several buildings on the SNU campus, and the long awning jutting out from a simple box was certainly one of his big trademarks.  There are still several examples of this distinctive feature on the university campus:

snu building business

Back to the library….



With suburban sprawl sweeping through Bethany in the ’60s and ’70s, the library soon became one of the city’s busiest, and now the building is woefully inadequate for the heavy demands put upon it.  So, voters passed a $8.18 million bond in 2016 to construct a new building that will be three times larger than the original.  The new building’s 23,000 square feet will be able to accommodate 40 computer terminals (compared to just 11 now) for kids, teens, and adults and meeting space for 250 people.  In addition, there will be study rooms along with a drive-up drop-off window, and the library can grow its collection from 58,000 items to nearly 90,000 with the expansion.  Designed by Dewberry Architects, the new building isn’t horrible at all:

architectural rendering of proposed by Bethany library. A bond election is set for April 5.

While I understand the need for the new building, it will be sad to lose this MCM gem.  Someone please save those breeze blocks!