Many of the 1960s-era houses in northwest Oklahoma City's Rollingwood neighborhood were designed in the “storybook ranch” or “rustic ranch” style that had gained popularity in California and was spreading to Oklahoma at the time.
Ron Frantz, associate professor in the University of Oklahoma College of Architecture, grew up in a storybook ranch house in Rollingwood, and has turned his admiration for midcentury design styles into a career specialization.
Frantz said the emergence of so-called “Garden View” designs reflected key socio-economic changes taking place as the post-World War II building boom spun families farther and farther from traditional city centers to the suburbs.
As air conditioning became the norm in private homes, people no longer needed their front porches “for either comfort or for social needs,” Frantz said.
Frantz also pointed out that as television began to replace “neighborly conversations,” families became “more private” — eschewing formal living rooms and front parlors for carpeted family rooms arranged to feature the TV “and maybe the wet bar” — and that home design responded to these new proclivities.
Frantz spoke recently at the 25th annual Oklahoma Statewide Preservation Conference in Perry, discussing “Twentieth Century Living Spaces.” He cited a 1972 article by syndicated columnist Hiawatha T. Estes, who he called “a prolific promoter of ranch-style house plans.”
Estes, a Tishomingo native who in 1948 founded the Nationwide House Plan Book Co., syndicated his column from 1955 to 1986. In the article, Estes identified a trend: Americans were gravitating toward “Garden View” homes that shifted the more important rooms to the back of the house “to enjoy a garden view.”
Notice that “it didn't say ‘sit in the garden,' ” Frantz said. Ranch-style designs became popular because by the 1960s, “everyone wanted to sit inside, with the air conditioning and the television.”
Frantz nominated his mother, Beverly Frantz, and his childhood home for a Citation of Merit that was awarded during the Preservation Conference, a project of the State Historic Preservation Office of the Oklahoma Historical Society.
“The 1960s Rollingwood neighborhood of northwest Oklahoma City is just that: rolling woods. It features houses known as ‘rustic ranches' or ‘storybook ranches,' ” Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Melvena Heisch said in presenting the award.
The Frantz house is on a corner lot and features rough cedar siding, diamond-pane windows, and the low-slung roofline, Heisch noted. Interior features include the original wainscoting and crown molding, she said.
“Learning that her house's design was based on a 1956 Parade of Homes model and featured on a California-based, storybook ranch website, (Beverly Frantz) decided to let others know about the significance of this architectural style,” Heisch said. “In 2012, she arranged for a speaker to discuss the topic at the Rollingwood Neighborhood Association's membership meeting.
“Afterward, her neighbors began repairing aging architectural details, repainting their wooden trim, and appreciating the unique character of the neighborhood. Through her work, there will be many more chapters for these Rollingwood Storybook Ranch Houses, including the one in which she and her husband raised their four children.”