Candlelight House Tour Puts Tulsa Hospitality on Display

Posted on: October 25th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Preservation Conference is this week in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Staff members from around the National Trust for Historic Preservation will be blogging from the conference and sharing their experiences. Senior Communications Associate Dwight Young got the plum assignment of covering the Candlelight House Tour.

Let’s just get this out of the way right here at the beginning: Thursday evening’s Candlelight House Tour in Tulsa’s Maple Ridge neighborhood got off to a bad start. A buffet dinner was on offer at the first house on the tour, and it was near-pandemonium: too many people arriving all at once, only one serving table, long lines, you get the picture. Happily, the line at the bar was fairly short, and a glass of wine soothed my nerves. I never did get dinner – but I soon found that in many of the houses on tour, homeowners had thoughtfully set out bowls of goodies. Thanks, homeowners! (Note: I doubt that it has any nutritional value whatsoever, but Candy Corn is amazingly filling. If there’s the slightest chance you’ll be marooned on a desert island, don’t leave home without it.)

Now the good news: That chaotic beginning was the only downer in what turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable tour of nine houses built in the first two decades of the 20th century, mostly by men who got rich in the oil business. There was a handsome example of the Oilman’s Tudor style, a couple of nice essays in the Colonial Revival, a Renaissance mini-palazzo – all ranged along leafy, curving streets that glistened softly in the damp night. There was also something I’d never seen before: a bungalow (that’s what the guidebook called it) that boasted both a domed rotunda (!) and a patio fountain that produced both water and flames. I heard the house was for sale, and I was tempted to slap down a deposit on the spot – even though I’m afraid that fountain might be the work of the Devil.

As always, what made the tour especially enjoyable were the individual expressions of the owners’ personal tastes and enthusiasms. Judging by the kitchen of one house, the owner is fond of pictures of chickens, while in another kitchen, a big Christmas Village sprawled across the top of the cabinets. There was a shrine to OU football in one basement, and another house had a near-idyllic side porch where wonderfully fragrant pinon wood was burning in a little metal stove.

These Candlelight Tours are always a conference highlight for me, and this one was no exception. I got such a hefty dose of friendly Tulsa hospitality that even the evening’s occasional drizzle couldn’t dampen (sorry) my spirits. I’m already looking forward to next year’s tour – but in order to avoid a repetition of this year’s dinner-as-rugby-scrum experience, I’ll take along my own sandwich. Man cannot live by Candy Corn alone.

-- Dwight Young

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded non-profit organization, works to save America's historic places.

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