On the Market: Living the Country Life in the Middle of the City
text and photos by Lynne Rostochil, except for the first image, which is from Nathan’s listing. Vintage images courtesy of the Oklahoma History Center.
I’m feeling very tranquil and at-one with nature after visiting Sqadder, Nathan’s, recently listed home on five acres along NE Grand. It was really hard to believe that I was in the heart of the city as I strolled around the bright house and hilly, wooded grounds, which are located just a few blocks from the Science Museum. Yes, if you’re looking for a centrally located mid-century modern oasis where you can relax and enjoy the surrounding nature, this brick and flagstone abode may be just the ticket for you.
The home was constructed in 1953 and is sited atop a hill overlooking the five acres that is part of the property. It was built for C.E. Bretz and his wife, Mamie, pictured here with their award-winning pointers, Pat and Mike, in 1944:
Bretz was originally from Pennsylvania but moved to Oklahoma City in 1919 as the town’s Water Works Superintendent. Here he is within a few years of his arrival:
Bretz was in charge of the construction of Lake Hefner, as well as the Atoka Water project. At some point in his career, he realized he could earn more money as a contractor instead of a city employee, set up his own hydraulic engineering firm, and hired out to OKC and other municipalities at much higher rates than his former city salary. Ole C.E. was right and quickly became an affluent man.
After World War II, acreage belonging to the old Bourne Dairy Farm on Eastern (now Martin Luther King Blvd.) became available, and Bretz purchased a large parcel. Here are a couple of vintage 1930s images of the dairy farm:
Bretz planned to develop a small housing subdivision on part of the land that would then pay for the personal residence he planned to build on the northernmost section of the land. He hired Berlowitz & Commander to draw up plans for his new abode, which are still with the house today:
And here’s a site plan:
C.E. and Mamie had no children together (he had an older son from a previous marriage), so they built a comfortable two bedroom home that more than met their needs. The couple lived here until their deaths — his in 1977 and hers 20 years later. A second owner had the place for about a decade until the current owner purchased the place. So, now that you know its history, let’s begin our tour.
From the front door, the very spacious formal living and dining spaces are on the right:
Of course, no mid-century-era home would be complete without a bay window:
I’ve always wanted a home with a bay window with a comfy cushion on the windowsill where I could sit and read books on chilly winter afternoons, and this looks like the perfect spot for such mind expanding activities.
You can enter the kitchen from this room, but we’ll save that for a bit later. Back at the front door, walking straight ahead takes you to what the blueprints have labeled as the Club Room, which sounds so much more raucous and fun than calling it a den, don’t you think?
I don’t know what to salivate over more, that drop dead gorgeous flagstone fireplace or the view to the backyard. Let’s start with the fireplace:
How great is that? I’ve never seen one quite like this with both brick and flagstone, but I really like it. And those built-ins are all original, too. LOVE!
This room has some beautiful parquet flooring, too:
A conveniently located half bath separates the Club Room from the kitchen, which received a not-so-great remodel before the current owners moved in:
Nope, it’s not my favorite, especially when you see photos of how it used to look:
There is a silver lining to the kitchen, though, which you’ll see in a bit. The good thing about it is the kitchen is huge and the current owner had some preliminary ideas to redo this space in a much more thoughtful and mod way, including extending the windows over the sink all the way to the doors to take full advantage of the backyard views. I think that would be the first thing I’d do with this space — get the most out of that glorious view!
Going toward the two-car garage is a large laundry room and another half bath. Now that you’ve seen the common areas of the home, let’s turn to the left from the front door and check out the more private spaces:
The first bedroom is so large that I immediately thought it was the master,
especially when I looked into the giant dressing room/closet that goes with it:
You know how people always lament about the lack of storage in older homes? Well, that is absolutely NOT the problem in this house. All of the closets are made for hoarders like me and there are an abundance of them scattered throughout the house. So, go ahead and move all your clothes and goodies in and don’t worry about where you’ll put everything.
Another closet in the hallway contains even more blueprints:
Across the hall is a well appointed bathroom that could stand to have some mod put back into it:
The tile and sink are all original, so this space could be funked up by tossing those pulls and that mirror and maybe painting the cabinets.
At the end of the hall is the true master bedroom that is surrounded by a wall of windows looking out onto the pool area and backyard:
Both bedrooms have these corner windows on two sides, allowing for some great cross ventilation when the windows are open and tons of light. Oh and the closet in this room is so big that it holds two dressers in addition to clothes and the sort.
Even with all of the great things about this house, I know that some of you are poo-pooing the idea that it’s two bedrooms. Well, the current owner hired Ken Fitzsimmons of TASK Design to come up with an idea to add a master suite to the home, and, as usual, Ken returned with something that is truly inspired. The plan is to convert the garage into the master wing, with a huge window overlooking the backyard and framed by a cantilevered private patio:
How incredible would that be? But wait, there’s more. Ken would then add a complimentary porte corchere on the front of the house for parking:
Here are a few bird’s eye views of what the home could look like:
Pretty fantastic, aye?
Okay, so now that we’ve checked out the house and have explored all of its possibilities, let’s go out the back doors of the Club Room and see what is definitely my favorite backyard in the city:
You could definitely have some shindigs on this enormous patio overlooking the backyard, which is exactly what Mamie and C.E. did during their years here. They were known for throwing quite a few dances and gatherings at the house, which was obviously made for entertaining big crowds. Here’s the view from the patio looking toward the master bedroom and pool area:
The current owner installed the pool a few years ago and it fits right in with the entertaining desires begun by the Bretzs:
From the main house, take a few steps down to the valley of the property, which is open and looks like it’s ready to accommodate a hearty game of flag football or even a hole of golf:
On the opposite side of the valley, go up a few rock steps…
… and it’s back to more woods. On the right is a sweet concrete picnic table with, yes, an original Sundrella shade:
You don’t see those in the wild very often. This cozy, shaded spot offers a beautiful view of the valley and house beyond:
Turning away from the house, a few steps up the hill is a rock-faced fireplace and horse barn that date to the days of the dairy farm:
The century-old horse barn is in great condition and has its own driveway, so it could be converted into an Airbnb or even a rent house. Let’s go to the arched front door…
… and take a peek inside:
It’s difficult to tell from my crappy photos, but this is an enormous room. The current owner planned to install a kitchen and bathroom in two of the old horse stalls and convert the attic space into a master suite:
Again, my photos don’t do this place justice — the attic is BIG, with a lot of old and untouched furniture and boxes left over from Bretz’s days as owner. I looked into one box and found information about a gas station he owned near the Las Vegas neighborhood in the 1940s:
I’m assuming that the gas station is this one, which received a mod awning in the 1950s:
Oh, remember when I said there’s a silver lining with the kitchen? Well, here it is. The second owner kept all of the original cabinetry and countertops, and they are stored in the barn’s attic:
I’d definitely reuse those cabinet doors and would also try to match the countertop color as closely as possible to restore the kitchen to its former glory.
Back outside and around to the back of the barn is flat ground that was once the dancefloor at the Bretz’s gatherings:
There’s a private entrance here, as well, so this could be converted to a driveway for the barn. Oh and we haven’t seen all that the barn has to offer. The Bretzs kept the original doors to the barn and added screen doors on the inside so that everything could be opened up on those fun party nights for easy access inside and out without having to worry about pesky bugs and critters:
There are a lot more things to see on the acreage, including the swing that hangs from a tall and sturdy tree — and yes, I tried it out:
There’s also a picnic area where you and a gaggle of your pals can hang out and enjoy long summer evenings:
The current owner also built a fabulous treehouse for his kids that is guarded by concrete lions that actually once adorned the front of my house:
Let’s head back up the tree-lined path to the house:
Can we take one more look at that phenomenal backyard, please:
Can you imagine waking up to any more beautiful surroundings in our normally flat-as-a-pancake city? Me, either.
During the Bretz’s tenure at the home, they had all kinds of animals, including their beloved pointers, chickens (there’s still a coop in the barn)…
… and even peacocks. Passersby were so intrigued by peacocks roaming around the property that they often confused the Bretz house with the Oklahoma City Zoo down the road. That’s when a sign for the zoo was posted outside the property, and one has remained there ever since:
There is so much to love about this place — the house, the history, the barn, the land. I hope the next owner loves everything about this bit of paradise in the heart of the city and continues the tradition of treasuring everything about it.
If you’re interesting in touring the home, please contact realtor Kacie Kenney of the Kinney Team at 760-3455. The two bedroom/three bath home is 2,162 sf and is listed for a very reasonable $375,000. Also, go here to see much better photos of the property and to view the listing.