McGregor House - East
December 8, 2014

Tulsa Lawyer Finds—and Saves—a Goff-Designed Diamond in the Rough

Mark Sanders had been driving by and looking at the McGregor House in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for more than 20 years. Something about the lines, he says, always appealed to him. He’d also heard rumblings that Bruce Goff—known for being the mastermind behind some of Tulsa’s most noteworthy buildings, including the Boston Avenue Methodist Church—may have designed the home, but nobody ever had solid confirmation. So Sanders continued to drive by admiring the home’s design.

But all that changed in 2013, when a For Sale By Owner sign was placed in the front yard of the home.

McGregor House - Fireplace

A detail of the living room fireplace during restoration

Sanders, who is a lawyer, decided to purchase the structure and restore it using historic tax credits.

“If you’re from Tulsa, it’s probably a house that most people had seen and wondered about for years,” Sanders says. “It was sort of crumbling before our eyes. I had watched it for over 20 years sort of deteriorate and always wondered who designed it, and you know, it was just a real interesting structure. It appealed to me.”

When Sanders bought the home, it was in severe disrepair. Animals had been living throughout, the flat roof was leaking water, and, overall, it was falling apart, he said. The homeowner had said Frank Lloyd Wright designed the home; Sanders knew better. The comment, however, confirmed Sanders’ suspicions that the house had some sort of connection to a famous architect.

McGregor House North - Original

The north facade before restoration work.

McGregor House North - Current

The north facade after restoration.

Soon after, Sanders located an architect who knew Goff and had taken Goff on a driving tour of Tulsa in 1950 at which point Goff identified the home as one of his designs. It turns out Goff had designed the home in 1919 or 1920 as a teenager interning at a Tulsa architectural firm, not while as a licensed architect. That discovery, as well as the structure’s architectural integrity, helped Sanders get the home listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“That was a great day,” he says. “It’s a wonderful honor to know that you own a property that has historical significance. But I guess more importantly for me right now, that [historical significance] is one of the requirements for preservation tax credits.”

The historic preservation tax credits will help make the property renovation economically feasible for Sanders.

“If it wasn’t for the ability to get those tax credits, this project never would have occurred, and I would venture … no one would have renovated the property and it probably would have been torn down,” he says.

The renovation work should be complete by January or February at which point he will lease it out to a homeowner or for office space, Sanders says. It’s been a labor of love for the lawyer, who said it’s been difficult because of the expense involved and the state of the structure when he purchased it.

McGregor House West - Original

The west facade before restoration.

McGregor House West - Current

The west facade after restoration.

But that hasn’t curtailed him from the thought of doing a similar preservation project in the future if another Goff home were to present itself.

“I’ve just always had a real love for Tulsa history, especially for Tulsa design, for the unique sort of period [and] architectural design,” he says. “It all sort of sprung out of that late teens, early ‘20s oil boom and lots of money, and people thinking the sky was the limit.”

Amanda DeCort, a preservation planner at the City of Tulsa, says the restoration project is a perfect example of a property owner taking advantage of the historic tax credit program to save a small building.

“Mark demonstrated that anyone can take on a historic rehab,” she said. “It’s also in a section of midtown where recent development has not been respectful of preservation, so it’s nice to see a better example being set for that neighborhood.”

Kristi Eaton is a roving journalist, communications strategist and author of the book "The Main Streets of Oklahoma: Okie Stories From Every County." Visit her website at KristiEaton.com or follow her on Twitter to see photos from her travels.

@KristiEaton

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