If you’ve lived in Oklahoma long enough, you know the state has a multitude of architectural wonders within its borders. The types of structures vary, from Under Her Wing Was the Universe, a sprawling native prairie structure located in Enid, to the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church in downtown Tulsa – said to be one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in the United States. 

Both Tulsa and Oklahoma City have foundations for architecture, and both seek to spread awareness of the ample hidden (and not-so-hidden gems) in the state. 

“The mission of the Oklahoma City Foundation for Architecture is to promote excellence in our built environment through education, recognition and preservation,” says Melissa Hunt, the foundation’s executive director. Offerings include monthly programming alongside events and tours, she says.

The Tulsa Foundation for Architecture is also pushing relevant architectural information out to the people. 

“The TFA is working to spread awareness through our many tours and programs, as well as the work we do advocating for historic preservation in our community,” says Amber Litwack, TFA’s executive director. “Along with our public programs, we keep a calendar of speaking engagements for a variety of audiences.” 

Each foundation has a number of engagements to keep the public excited. A popular event called Drinks x Design sees patrons gather for refreshments and tours of designs throughout OKC. 

“We also have an architecture scholarships program and the Lynne Rostochil National Register Grant program,” says Hunt. 

The grant, named in memory of an architectural historian and photographer who advocated for the preservation of Oklahoma’s heritage, is used to help fund the preparation of National Register nominations for structures, sites and districts in the state. A past program was the Celebrate 100 book, a guide to architecture in central Oklahoma from the past century. 

“It’s out of print now, but I do have a few copies in my office and it’s available online, too,” says Hunt.

Tulsa’s foundation also works diligently to keep its audience connected. 

“We host a wide variety of tours, programs and events for a range of audiences and ages,” says Litwack. Popular choices include the Second Saturday Tours, which feature a different location every month with conversational walking tours, elucidating building features and different historical perspectives. Those who want more can visit the Tulsa Underground Tunnel Tours, featuring the history of prominent buildings and tunnels that connect downtown. 

Everyone has favorites, and although narrowing it down isn’t easy, both Hunt and Litwack have a few of their own. 

“The Gold Dome,” says Hunt. “It’s one of the most recognizable and unique pieces of architecture in our city. We’ve lost so many important landmarks in Oklahoma City, and I hope this one can be saved.” 

Litwack lands on the John Frank House, a home specifically designed by Bruce Goff to showcase Frank’s love of pottery. 

“It’s special to me because the property was clearly a labor of love,” she says. “The home is truly unique.” 

Places to Visit:

Church Studio Tulsa – Historic, state-of-the-art recording studio that’s been fully restored

Coleman Theatre Miami – Iconic theatre built in 1929, home to the “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ

Marland’s Grand HomePonca City – Restored home of oil tycoon and Oklahoma’s tenth governor, E.W. Marland

The Gold Dome Oklahoma City – Geodesic major landmark that originally housed Citizens State Bank

Guthrie Scottish Rite Guthrie – One of the world’s largest Masonic Centers, the great Temple of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry

Historic Mattie Beal Home Lawton – Restored neoclassical house with self-guided tours and events

Belvidere Mansion Claremore – Three-story mansion built by John M. Bayless in 1902

Main image cutline: Bits of stunning architecture can be found across the state – including in downtown Tulsa at what was once a Warehouse Market. Photo courtesy Tulsa Foundation for Architecture

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