Saturday, May 14, 2011

Awnings, Part 2 - Oklahoma City History

I'm working on my second paper right now.  It's about the influence of Italian architecture on that of the Palace of Versailles.  It's been a very interesting topic to research and I'll write more about it in a future blog entry, but for now I wanted to share some things that I learned while researching for my paper on the awning in my neighborhood.  Because my topic was something located in my own community, I found information about Oklahoma City and Crown Heights that I didn't know.

It's been interesting to think about the growth and changes this city has seen over the last century.  I think about what James and I want to accomplish here and it's somewhat comforting to know that so many people have felt exactly what we've felt...and to know that they DID  reach their goals.  It's inspiring! So here's a sampling of some facts I thought were intriguing.

  1. The house house to which the awning is attached was designed in 1938 by the architecture firm, Sorey, Hill and Sorey.  This is the same firm that designed the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, the library/Student Union on OSU's campus and many important buildings here in Oklahoma and outside of the state.  They also designed Crown Heights Christian Church's sanctuary and some of the Sorey, Hill and Sorey families lived in Crown Heights themselves.
  2. Tom Sorey Sr. helped start the architecture program at the University of Oklahoma.  
  3. Crown Heights used to be the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club, until it moved to the Nichols Hills area.  G.A. Nichols developed Nichols Hills, Crown Heights, the Paseo neighborhood and had a hand in Hertiage Hills as well.  He really had a huge vision for our city.  It reminds me of people like Aubry McClendon and others who hold the same ideas of growth and enrichment for OKC today. 
  4. Crown Heights used to be called "Pill Hill" because so many prominent physicians lived in the neighborhood. In fact, the man Sorey, Hill and Sorey built the house for was named Dr. James H. Robinson, a surgeon and obstetrician at the Oklahoma City Clinic. It was the last house he and his wife, Beatrice, would live in as they stayed for almost 35 years.  
  5. The development of Crown Heights was only slowed by the Great Depression for a few years. By 1934 the lots were selling again and development continued.  However, while these buyers' American Dreams were being realized, there were still many people living in migrant camps along the North Canadian River and on May Avenue.  The contrast in these images and circumstances caused me to question the strength of the government programs instituted during the 30s to help the economy. 
  6. Good things did come out of those programs, though. Many artists, musicians, writers, and actors were given work. A huge number of buildings and roads were also built because of the WPA. Check out the structures around Oklahoma lakes and the old armories in your towns. You'll see what I'm talking about.
  7. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is a grandchild of sorts of the Federal Art Project and The Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra derived from the Federal Music Program. The current Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra is a different organization, but it was created after the former orchestra met its demise in October of 1988 and held many of the same members as the original orchestra. 
  8. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art will be hosting an exhibit of works from the Smithsonian American Art Museum this summer titled, "1934: A New Deal for Artists," and I have to say I'm really excited to see it.  I knew it was coming when I left the museum last summer and was sad that I wouldn't get to work on it.  I can't wait to see it!
  9. The plaque on the wall outside by my front door says that it was built in 1931.  After my research, I realized it's more likely that it was 1934. I don't even think my street had lots for sale until 1933.  I might need a new plaque! :)

I have realized from living in and renovating my house over the last four years that one of the things I like to do is think about the people who lived here before me and what they might have thought or felt while they were here. Did they plan, dream, fear and love here? Of course they did. They were human. Did they experience loss as I have? Of course. Did they experience success? Did they see dreams realized? I hope so.  It helps to know that I'm not the first person to feel what I'm feeling, whatever it is, in the very place that I live. It gives me hope. 

I love my house and have worked hard to make it my own.  Most of the people in this neighborhood have done the same.  It's a love for history, architecture and preservation that keeps us working on our houses. It's a project that is never over because they need so much love and attention.  I guess my house is a lot like me. :)


  1. I have realized from living in and renovating my house over the last four years that one of the things I like to do is think about the people who lived here before me and what they might have thought or felt while they were here.

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