Michael Overall: Tulsa’s historic Adah Robinson House getting a makeover | Local News

Moving home to Tulsa after law school and looking for a place to live with his wife, Rod Yancy drove past a charming Art Deco house next to Tracy Park east of downtown.

It didn’t have a for sale sign in the yard but Yancy asked his real estate agent to look into it anyway. Ironically, the owner had found the house the same way – driving past and deciding to make an offer even though it wasn’t on the market.

He wasn’t ready to sell the place to Yancy in 2006. But that was probably for the best. The Adah Robinson House might be a unique piece of Tulsa history, but it’s obviously not the best place to raise a family.

Bruce Goff, who achieved international fame as an architect and was the genius behind some of Tulsa’s most iconic landmarks, designed it during the 1920s for his high school art teacher, Adah Robinson. But Robinson had asked for a studio, not a house. And she apparently didn’t decide to live there until late in the design process, according to the archives of the Tulsa World.

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The result was a house with no obvious place to put a bed, a kitchen that’s not much bigger than a broom closet and a dining room that can barely fit a table for two.

What it did have was style. Lots of it.

Robinson slept on a balcony overlooking a double-height living room with two-story stained-glass windows and a sunken fireplace.

While Goff became her most famous student, Robinson achieved widespread acclaim in her own right as a painter and printmaker, with some of her work acquired by the Philbrook Museum. And she founded the University of Tulsa’s Art Department in 1928.

She temporarily moved away from Tulsa in 1945, and that’s apparently when she sold the house at 1119 S. Owasso Ave., according to some historical sources.

In 1974, local architect Thomas Thixton bought the house and used it as both a residence and an office until this spring, when he listed it for sale after moving into an assisted-living facility.

“It’s one of a kind,” he says. “You get emotionally attached to real estate, especially when it’s a unique property like this.”

As the new owner, Yancy is embarking on a thorough renovation that will repair broken plaster, restore stained-glass windows, remove awnings that are not original to the house and replace a 1970s-era addition with a new sun room that will cover the same footprint but blend in better with the 1920s architecture.

The kitchen and bathrooms will also get updates that will better reflect the home’s original Art Deco style, Yancy says.

Perhaps most importantly, he plans to use the property the way Goff envisioned, not as a residence but as a studio.

“I’m not a visual artist,” he says. “But what we do is creative in its own way.”

The company he founded, Oath Law, handles estate planning and investments with offices in 10 states.

“My dream,” Yancy says, “would be to bring together other creative types, other entrepreneurs, also visual artists, and use this space like it was originally used — as a ‘salon’ from time to time.”

Robinson’s “salons” have reached almost legendary status in Tulsa history. It’s said that she hosted a veritable who’s who of local artists and intellectuals to gather around the fireplace to discuss culture, politics and the news of the day. An invitation to “Adah’s house” became a status symbol.

Yancy owns it now. But it will always be “Adah’s house.”

“I want to honor the history of it, restore it and use it somewhat like a creative space for myself to continue to develop ideas,” Yancy says. “When we bring people from out of town, this is the place where we can host them and just kind of show off Tulsa.”