Of all the cities in the state of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City is the largest and the most prominent. It is also the state capitol. The actual State Capitol building is as unique as the city itself. Underneath it, you can find an oil well. This, in 1941, was called the “Petunia Number One.” It derived its name from the flowerbed through which someone slant drilled to reach the well. Nor was the well dry, it managed to produce oil for more than 43 years.
In a similar fashion, the architecture of commercial establishments and custom homes in Oklahoma City reflect the character of the state and its inhabitants. The styles once and currently an integral part of the now urban landscape reproduce the culture and mores of those who once built them.
The Early Built Environment
The variations of the early built landscape are viewed in both the indigenous housing and the wooden structures of the settlers. From beehive-shaped homes to log forts, barns and houses, Oklahoma and Oklahoma City are studies in a state’s approach to the building of what we would now call “custom homes” and structures.
In settlements such as Guthrie and Oklahoma City, new settlers created domestic structures of logs. They were generally simple one-room structures – cabins with a gable end and, sometimes a porch along the eave side of the cabin’s front end. A chimney was attached to either or both of the gable ends of the log structure. An extension could be then added to one gabled chimney end. This created a structure called a “saddlebag.”
Further additions could be made as the family grew. The addition of still another room to the opposite gable as well as a chimney would result in the creation of a “Cumberland.” Meanwhile, certain Choctaw Chiefs had expanded their residences upwards, creating a second floor. These structures included many of the popular architectural finishings common to this early table. These included sidings, oak doors and fine windows.
Oklahoma City in the 1900s
Oklahoma City was home to the mishmash of styles of the late 19th and early 20th century. The earlier Gothic, Victorian mansions competed with the later Art Deco custom homes of the 1930s. Behind the wave of changing styles was one particular architect – Solomon Andrew Layton (1864-1943). In particular, his Oklahoma County Courthouse in Oklahoma City is a classic example of the Art Deco while the Skirvin Hotel is neoclassic style. This initially 10-story hotel in a winged tower features a unique and ornate exterior. By 1930, under a different architect, the now famous hotel rose 14 stories. The Skirvin, renovated again in 2007, still operates as a hotel.
Bruce Goff (1904-1982) also had a major influence on architectural design. His style moved from Art Deco to the truly unique. Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, he forged to create a truly organic architecture. In 1957, he designed and built one of the most unique custom homes in Oklahoma City. This was the Donald Pollock House. It is a unification of two separate residences linked by a walkway over a reflecting pool.
Whether it is for simple residences or immense mansions, the architects and designers of custom homes in Oklahoma City have managed to establish a unique type of local architecture. From the early log cabins to the later industrial displays, the skyline of Oklahoma City offers visitors to view and enjoy the history and development of the city from this viewpoint.
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