On Architecture By ROGER COFFEY, AIA
EARLY GOFF STRUCTURE: This Tracy Park Art Deco home was built in 1927 as a studio and residence for artist Adah Robinson. It is believed to be the first residence in which Bruce Goff was involved. Goff later became an influential architect and, for a time, was head of the University of Oklahoma School of Architecture.
ROSSY GILLE for GTR Newspapers
At the edge of Tracy Park, a National Register-listed Historic Neighborhood in Tulsa, is a modest Art Deco residence. The house is significant not just for its design but also for the persons involved in its creation.
In 1924, Adah Robinson, a soft-spoken artist, began planning her combination studio and residence. A high school art teacher, she was assisted by her prize student, Bruce Goff whose ability was encouraged in his after-school job at Rush, Endicott and Rush, a well-known Tulsa architectural firm. This is said to be the first residence in which Goff was involved. He later became an influential architect and, for a time, was head of the University of Oklahoma School of Architecture.
Certainly, Goff received a significant education through his apprenticeship at Rush, Endicott and Rush. This firm designed the Tulsa Club Building, the Atlas Life Building and the Spotlight Theatre (home of the Drunkard and the Olio). Rush Endicott and Rush were the architects of record for the Boston Avenue Methodist Church (finished in 1929/1930), though the church officially credits Robinson with its design.
Robinson eventually became head of the art department at the University of Tulsa, where she was awarded a Doctorate of Fine Arts. After , Robinson left Tulsa to join the staff of the art department at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.
Robinson’s residence is a handsome, almost sculptural work of vertical Art Deco. The exterior is a monolithic off-white stucco (devoid of ornamentation) with chamfered corners and clear leaded glass windows. A two-story studio element with tall north-facing windows emphasizes this feeling of verticality.
The interior of the studio includes an Art Deco fireplace as a focal point. The fireplace has a semi-circular hearth which is sunken (precluding the conversation pits popular in residences of the 1960s). At the south end of the studio are two bedroom/bath/dressing room suites, one stacked above the other. A small stair leads to the second-floor bedroom with a balcony overlooking the studio. Terrazzo flooring is used throughout most of the main level. Light fixtures in most areas are reminiscent of the Art Deco fixtures at the Boston Avenue Church.
Construction on the residence began in 1927. Well-known Tulsa architect Joe Koberling worked for the building contractor and was instrumental in getting the house finished even after Robinson’s funds were exhausted and the contractor went out of business. During construction, a friend, noticing the dining room, asked the owner where the kitchen was. Robinson, who didn’t cook, had forgotten to include one. A small kitchen was soon added.
Today, the residence is owned by architect, Thomas C. Thixton. It serves as his office and residence. The exterior is virtually unchanged except for a long skylight-lit garden room to the east, which connects to a generous carport and serves as a backdrop for a small swimming pool.
Simple and unassuming, like its original owner, the house represents a significant segment of Tulsa’s architectural heritage.