History of the W.T. Foreman House
The Prairie House Foundation was incorporated on January 04, 2002 in Duncan, Oklahoma by a concerned citizen, Mrs. Jerry Pat (Gail) Loafman, after she purchased the W. T. Foreman house from the Duncan School System in an attempt to prevent its demise. Mrs. Loafman sold the house to the newly established Prairie House Foundation on May 15, 2002.
The W. T. Foreman house is important both historically and architecturally to Duncan and the state of Oklahoma. It may be one of Oklahoma’s oldest, most extant brick examples of the Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie House style of architecture. Built between April and August of 1918, the house is a two-story buff brick icon for the community, standing just south of the 1930’s era WPA neighborhood currently eligible to be listed as a historic district. The W. T. Foreman House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 5, 2003. On July 15, 2003, it was accepted as an official Oklahoma Centennial Project site.
After dedicating the house to the people on November 19, 2006, the foundation held its official Grand Opening on Saturday, June 23, 2007, in conjunction with Duncan’s annual Founder’s Day events. More than 650 people attended the special event, which was also approved as an official 2007 Oklahoma Centennial Event.
First thought to have been built in 1907, according the Oklahoma Historical Society’s Reconnaissance Level Survey of 1999-2000, we were told by the family nurse that Lois (the only child) said her parents built the house in 1917. The papers for the National Registry pinpointed the building of the structure in the summer of 1918.
On the back side of the steps descending into the basement, a 2"x10’ board was found. It was marked [sic] “From Chic. Ml. Wks. Co. to A. A. Cooper, Duncan, Ok.” It is believed that the boards were ordered from Chicago Mill Works Company after Oklahoma became a state rather than while Duncan was still in Indian Territory; the boards were marked Duncan, OK and not Duncan I.T. Initially, no proof of the Chicago Mill Works Company was found. However, further investigation indicated that Mr. A.A. Cooper was a mill worker and owned a business on 6th street in early Duncan. The daughter of Mr. Cooper, Muriel Whitesell, indicated that her father was a contractor and builder. Though he built many houses in the Duncan area, she could not confirm that he built the W.T. Foreman house.
W.T. Foreman liked a friend’s house in Oklahoma City and had his house built according to the floor plan. The house is similar to those designed by Oklahoma resident John Forsyth, designer of Ponca City's Marland Mansion. However, the W.T. Foreman house appears to be modeled after Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie Style houses. Similarities to this design can be seen through the presence of stained glass, inlaid wood etchings on the inside and outside of the front door and window box seats. Also similar are the enclosed overhanging eaves, red oak wood throughout the house, it's box style, openness of design and “sets” of windows found throughout the house. Other similarities to the Prairie Style design include steel supports seen above the front porch, the front door and over the stairwell.
Walls in the Foreman house are 13" thick and 3 bricks deep. Ceilings downstairs are 11 feet tall. Ceilings upstairs are 10 feet tall. The foundation is brick and has a cement footing that is about 6-8" deep. Lath and plaster walls, some in dismal condition, were partially removed and replaced by sheet rock during renovation (2002-2007). The house is built with grade A, #1 quality 2 x12” boards. Woodwork and floors were found in excellent shape for their age but had numerous nails, tacks, etc. removed. Protective polyurethane was applied before the house was opened to the public. Woodwork is solid red oak and required no renovation.
Old style electrical wiring was still in place and retained in some areas for display purposes. All new electrical wiring and plumbing was installed for modern use.
No stained glass windows remained in the house when it was purchased in 2001. However, according to the Reconnaissance Level Survey of Duncan, Dr. Alyson Greiner of Oklahoma State University documented that at least one stained glass window was present in the house in the year 2000.
The house has four fireplaces, all of which are considered to be original. It is thought that none of them ever used wood for heat, but rather the newer, more modern gas available in Duncan at the time. Mr. Foreman always liked the newest, best, most advanced of everything, so it was quite possible that he may have had “state of the art” gas fireplaces installed when the house was built in 1918.
No light fixtures or doorknobs remained in the house and most of the hinges had been removed. Most of the walls had exterior coverings removed and exposed 2 x 4”s. Most of the beautiful crown molding was broken and lying in small pieces on the floor. The pieces were reassembled, similar to a jigsaw puzzle, in order to be returned to the proper location.
Each level of the house has about 1,400 square feet, for a total of 2,900 square feet in the entire house.
Two bedrooms, a sitting room, and one full bath are located upstairs. Also upstairs is the master bedroom and master sleeping room. Downstairs there is a living room, dining room, conservatory/library, breakfast room, kitchen and utility (ice) room. In 2005, part of the ice room was converted to a small restroom. At the ground-level entry, there is a small half-bath that was originally used by early day hired help. Across the hallway is the entry to the basement. The basement door is original to the house and was left untouched. On the inside of that door is a drawing, in crayon, of a skull and crossbones. This was not cleaned or painted over in order to preserve the history and integrity of the door.
The basement has a room usable as a cellar. This cellar contains holes which allow a person to enter through a 2x3' crawl space under the North area of the house. The Southeast corner of the basement has been bricked in and is believed to have been an old cistern. When the roof was replaced during renovation, the valleys to the cistern were blocked off. However, it is possible to see where coal may have been dumped at one time. Steps were built by Mr. Lyndal Strain so that visitors may view the inside of the cistern. Mr. Strain also built a long, single-board bench so that visitors may experience the feeling of "waiting out" a tornado in Oklahoma.
There are forty-seven windows and eighteen doors throughout the Foreman house. Three windows are beautifully crafted stained glass. Another window is made of antique amber glass. The house is built three bricks deep. Two layers are red construction-quality brick. The third, buff-colored brick was used for outer decorative appeal. There is reportedly no wood in the framing of this structure; it is all built of brick. Upon close inspection of the outer bricks, it appears that they may be constructed out of cement rather than grout as the bricks do not have holes in the middle of them.
During a personal visit to the house, Mr. Daniel Carey, director of the southwest office of the National Trust, stated that the Foreman house is "built on the quarter." He explained that this is how old ship builders constructed their ships and their homes so that they could withstand the wind from any direction. Mr. Carey stated that he expects this house to stand after many others have fallen.
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