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Two Trust Bloggers Treat Themselves to a Day Trip to Bartlesville

Posted on: October 26th, 2008 by National Trust for Historic Preservation

 

The National Preservation Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has concluded, though staff members from around the National Trust for Historic Preservation are still sending in field reports. Today, Barbara Campagna, Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, shares the story of her roadtrip with a colleague and fellow blogger, Walter Gallas, director of the New Orleans Field Office.

Walter Gallas & Barbara Campagna pose in front of the Route 66 sculpture with Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower in the background during the road trip to Bartlesville, OK.

Walter Gallas & Barbara Campagna pose in front of the Route 66 sculpture with Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower in the background during the road trip to Bartlesville, OK.

Walter Gallas and I usually only talk to each other through our blog postings on PreservationNation. (Walter writes Notes from New Orleans and I write Beyond Green Building.) But this week, the Preservation Conference in Tulsa brought us together in person and we headed north to Bartlesville with Jim Logan, the Trust’s New Orleans Advisor, in between meetings. Luckily we left for Bartlesville earlier than many of our other colleagues who had the same idea, and we managed to get the last three spots on the 11 a.m. tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper, the Price Tower.

Now, since I spend most of my work time overseeing our historic sites, many of which are house museums, it goes without saying that I usually hate tours. But this one was perfect -– only eight people (because the elevators and spaces are so “Frank Lloyd Wright” -- small -- so that more just wouldn’t fit), 45 minutes long and just enough gossip to keep it amusing. We had the best weather today that we’ve seen all week in Oklahoma -- high 60s with brilliant blue skies. I couldn’t remember much about the history of Price Tower, so it was fun to rediscover it. Built in 1956 as the headquarters for the H.C. Price Company (one of the biggest manufacturers and installers of gas pipelines in the world), at 19 floors, it’s the tallest Frank Lloyd Wright building in the world and is even more distinctive for being located in the wide open spaces of the prairie not in the canyons of a city. The organic copper decoration, inspired by native American details, felt very Mayan to me. The key motif and parti for the building is the triangle, which is found everywhere, even in the parking lot sewer grilles.

A detail of Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK. This is the only Frank Lloyd Wright skyscraper in the world.

A detail of Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK. This is the only Frank Lloyd Wright skyscraper in the world.

The office building, which was vacant and deteriorating for many years, now houses the Price Tower Art Center complete with terrific Wright-focused shop and gallery, offices, and a boutique hotel at the top of the building. The tour takes you to one of the remaining typical two-story apartments which is now a museum –- with floor to ceiling aluminum casement windows, built-in furnishings, tiny bathrooms that compete with airplane bathrooms, a walk-in closet smaller than most of our regular closets and a triangular linen closet that none of us could imagine putting even one towel in. Mr. Price’s private office is on the top floor. I enjoyed the views but really liked the huge globe that Price insisted on installing despite Wright’s objections (it wasn’t triangular). That’s probably why I liked it even more.

Now Bartlesville is in the heart of Bruce Goff country and since I never picked up one book on Tulsa before I came, I didn’t realize till I got to Bartlesville that I should have added an extra day to the trip for the Goff buildings. So, no Goff buildings, but getting to spend two hours at the Price Tower was a true highlight of this week in Oklahoma. And getting to go on a mini-road trip with a fellow blogger, priceless!

-- Barbara Campagna

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

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

Tulsa Poster Presentations: Diversity is our Strength

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. Priya Chhaya, program assistant for training & online services in the Center for Preservation Leadership, is in the Exhibit Hall checking out the poster presentations.

One of the common themes I have been hearing in sessions this week links preservation with diversity. From economics to advocacy or even regional and cultural, diversity in all its forms is essential to the goals of historic preservation. At the Tuesday special lecture, Dr. Bob Blackburn described the incredible richness of Oklahoma’s history whether it be Indian, African American, or western expansion and how they each intertwine and support each other. He talked about how each of those stories has come together to create the Oklahoma preservation story. Mayor Kathy Taylor, in her talk stated that “We learned to leverage that diversity into strength.”

In the Exhibit Hall the posters are about a variety of subjects -- and while many deal with cultural diversity across the spectrum of life they also seek to highlight places and people and events and ideas from a bowling alley in 1950s Los Angeles to a Cherokee courthouse due for renovation.

Take me back to the Holiday Bowl

The Holiday Bowl poster.

The Holiday Bowl poster.

The Holiday Bowl originally opened in 1958 and was a dynamic site integral to Los Angeles’ Japanese-American community. Not only a bowling alley, as John English, the author of the poster states -- the Holiday Bowl also “served as a shop, cocktail lounge, meeting rooms, and a children’s play area.”

As a “landmark of diversity,” this bowling area was designed by Helen Fong, a Chinese-American female designer, owned by Japanese-American business men and served Japanese-Americans, African Americans and “people of all ethnicities.” It provided a place of leisure but also a place of community.

John English’s poster provides more detail, but ultimately discusses how this one place meant so much to so many and was a living part of one community’s history. However, despite the efforts of the Coalition to Save the Holiday Bowl the Holiday Bowl was demolished on October 17, 2003. For more information visit: www.holidaybowlcrenshaw.com. To see the poster “The Holiday Bowl: Landmark of Diversity” visit the exhibit hall.

Beyond the African American Narrative

The African-American narratives poster.

The African-American narratives poster.

Two alumni of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's diversity scholar program, Patsy Fletcher and Alison Rose Jefferson developed “African American Places of Leisure,” a poster striving to demonstrate that “there are African American sites to preserve that are broader than those places emanating from the slave or civil rights narrative.” While Patsy looks at 19th century sites, Alison moves forward in time to examine the 20th.

Patsy’s poster looks at the 19th century sites of leisure, dividing them into religious gatherings turned into vacation/recreation (The Big Quarterly in Delaware), areas where amenities are segregated but open to African Americans (Stower College/Harpers Ferry), and sites specifically developed for the African American market (Highland Beach in Maryland).

A century later, Alison examines Lake Elsinore in California trying to pull together ideas of California, African American leisure patterns to argue for the creation of a heritage trail.

Like the poster on the Holiday Bowl, “African American Places of Leisure” are attempting to open the scope of what we know and what we should save as historic preservationists.

The Cherokee Story

The Cherokee courthouse presentation.

The Cherokee courthouse presentation.

During the opening plenary, Chief Wilma Mankiller described the challenge of native peoples to preserve the sites of their culture. She said that we need to figure out how to “capture, maintain and pass on tribal knowledge around the world.”

One such poster embraces that vision. The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Building was built in 1844 and remained the sole Cherokee structures to survive the Civil War. It is about to embark on a two phase restoration -- first the exterior 1875 façade and then the interior work. The intention is to create a Cherokee cultural center which focuses on judicial systems of the Cherokee Nation (for more information visit www.cherokeetourismok.com).

Each of these posters look at sites of diversity and also attempt to think of diversity in terms of site location, and places. While not all are successfully saved (in the case of the Holiday Bowl) they emphasize that we as humans, hold a connection to our built environment in many, many different ways.

-- Priya Chhaya

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

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

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

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

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

Rehab Solutions for Aging Moderns

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. Today, Barbara Campagna, Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is reporting on one of yesterday’s educational sessions.

Farnsworth House, a National Trust Historic Site.

Farnsworth House, a National Trust Historic Site.

We developed an Education Session at the National Preservation Conference specifically to address the intersection between the National Trust’s Sustainability Initiative and its Modernism + Recent Past Initiative. Held on Wednesday morning in Tulsa, “Rehab Solutions for Aging Moderns”, featured case studies on some of the most iconic modern heritage in America. William Dupont, AIA, San Antonio Conservation Society professor and the former Graham Gund Architect of the National Trust discussed the philosophical approaches developed to guide the interpretation and preservation work at two of the National Trust’s modern sites – Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois and Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. David Fixler, FAIA, LEED AP, design & preservation principal at Einhorn Yaffee Prescott Architects & Engineers, discussed intriguing approaches to rehabbing the curtain wall for the IUOE headquarters in Washington, DC and some innovative lighting techniques at Hilles Library at Harvard. And Raymond Pepi, president of New York City-based Building Conservation Associates (BCA), discussed the complex details of rehabilitating the Saarinen-designed curtain wall of buildings at GM’s testing center in Warren, Michigan.

Background on the Initiatives – Why They Matter

The goal of the Trust’s Modernism + Recent Past Initiative is to unite emerging popular interest in preserving the recent past with proper preservation practices through the promotion of continued use and sensitive rehabilitation of these structures. And our Sustainability Initiative promotes the reuse of buildings, the reinvestment in older and historic buildings, the greening of the existing building stock and the respect of historic integrity as the means to addressing climate change. The major intersection between these two initiatives is one of the greatest challenges we face – according to a 2003 Department of Energy report, 55% of America’s commercial building stock was built between 1945 and 1990. And the most inefficient buildings are those built during this same period. Given that almost 50% of the greenhouse gas emissions from the US come from the operations and construction of buildings, the only way we are going to make a demonstrable impact to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is through the greening of our modern heritage – most of which are not stellar icons like those discussed in this session.

Some Design Ideas That Might Just Help

Glass Houses of the National Trust

Philip Johnson's Glass House, a National Trust Historic Site.

Philip Johnson's Glass House, a National Trust Historic Site.

Bill Dupont set the stage for the later case studies by discussing the conflicts inherent in developing a conservation philosophy for buildings from the modern era:

Are they different from our traditional buildings and do they deserve a more nuanced approach? A resounding yes -- from both the previous and current Graham Gund Architects!

Are these icons of 20th century International Style architecture treated differently from other types of historic buildings? Yes, they don’t age like other buildings. They don’t look good with patina. Yet patina proves that they were used, meaning people lived in these homes.

Do they have special problems other buildings do not have? Assemblies, details and use of materials tend to be unproven, at least at the time they were built. These structures were created almost in the manner of a prototype; in the automotive world they use the term concept car, and the manufacturer hand builds one to see how it will look and run. Plus, these experimental materials were often hazardous – like plate glass which is a serious life safety hazard.

How flexible are Modernist Buildings for rehabilitation to serve new uses? Many are not so flexible, the designs are quite tight and thus do not do well with even slight visual changes. There is no place to conceal improvements. Change of use is problematic and thus a threat to survival of this architectural type.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

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

The Tall, the Ornate, and the Sacred: Strolling Through Downtown Tulsa

Posted on: October 24th, 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. Earlier today, Arnold Berke, executive editor of Preservation magazine, joined in a walking tour of downtown Tulsa.

Admiring the details of the Oklahoma Natural Gas Building.

Admiring the details of the Oklahoma Natural Gas Building.

Oil lubricated the way for Tulsa to become the world capital of black gold, and as fresh money sloshed into the city, the urge to show it off became impossible to deny. One happy result: the trophy buildings that sprouted downtown during the 1920s, raised by new tycoons to proclaim their muscle (and that of the city). Skyscrapers and their attendant structures—hotels, stores, civic buildings, churches—make any downtown delightful, and Tulsa built its share, as we learned on today’s downtown walking tour.

Tour leader Marilyn Inhofe-Tucker schlepped a dozen of us through the grid, imparting the richness of its heritage. She was energetic, enthusiastic, and above all, knowledgeable. We began at Holy Family Cathedral, a Gothic structure built in 1914 before the commercial temples to Mammon rose nearby. It’s the oldest standing of a group of churches at downtown’s edge. “One thing that’s helped keep downtown alive is the churches,” said Inhofe-Tucker, “which still have incredibly active congregations.”

Another downtown deco gem.

Another downtown deco gem.

Art deco, of course, decorated most of the tour, starting with the Oklahoma Natural Gas Building, the sort of place folks would trek to to pay their gas bills not so many decades ago. Like most of Tulsa deco palaces, aside from the over-the-top exterior frippery, the star is the lobby, and especially the elevator doorways and doors—confections of zig-zag, as first-period deco is known in this town. This medium-rise building, ripe for rebirth as either condos or flats, is one of three utility company headquarters that added their ornate designs to the skyline. So it wasn’t all financier-financed towers.

Nor was it all deco. To wit, the 1916 high school (Tulsa Central), a sober academic pile (English-y with red brick with sturdy stone embellishments) now filled with offices. And Trinity Episcopal Church, which the famous Bertram Goodhue helped design. Among its stranger doo-dads is Adolf Hitler’s face glowering in one of the stained-glass windows (“representing the personification of evil,” explained Inhofe-Tucker).

Nearby stands a major deco contender in peril, or perhaps death throes—the old Tulsa Club Building, a gem by Bruce Goff that has stood empty and decaying for far too long, its extra-height club space on the top floor, now only viewable in old photos, awaiting the touch of someone clever (two floors of flats? a super loft? a restaurant?). Forget it for the time being, though, since the owner isn’t interested in selling.

... Read More →

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

National Trust for Historic Preservation

National Trust for Historic Preservation

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