DeBarr Historic District
The DeBarr Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The DeBarr Historic District is an early twentieth-century residential neighborhood adjacent to the northern boundary of the University of Oklahoma. It encompasses approximately six blocks of houses and consists of 138 structures, of which 99 are contributing elements. Bungalow is the predominate style of architecture, although other styles such as Prairie School, Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival can be found. Directly south of the DeBarr Historic District, at the north end of the University of Oklahoma campus, are three- and four-story red brick Collegiate Gothic buildings. However, a few high-rise structures have been constructed over the past thirty years. In 1991 a thirteen-story red brick Modern Movement high-rise, the Sarkey Energy Center, was completed. It is located directly south of the DeBarr Historic District. To the west of the DeBarr Historic District is the Campus Corner area, a small, four-block commercial district. The commercial buildings in the Campus Corner area were built between 1915 and 1955 and are generally one- or two-story brick structures with typical commercial storefronts. A few of the buildings in the commercial area are designed in the Mission Revival style. The Waggoner-Larsh neighborhood, a slightly older residential section of the city, is directly north of the district. Norman, the county seat of Cleveland County, is seventeen miles south of Oklahoma City and abuts Interstate 35. The DeBarr Historic District has maintained its historical and architectural integrity.
The DeBarr Historic District encompasses five full blocks and two partial blocks adjacent to the north edge of the University of Oklahoma. The DeBarr Historic District is quite distinct and separated from other neighborhoods. Boyd Street, a four-lane street, separates the campus from the surrounding residential areas and serves as the southern edge of the district. The Campus Corner district, a small commercial area developed between 1915 and 1950, serves as the western edge of the district, and the Santa Fe Railroad tracks serve as the eastern boundary. The northern boundary is formed by the edge of the Waggoner-Larsh neighborhood, a turn-of-the-century residential area.
The original townsite of Norman was laid perpendicular to the Santa Fe Railroad tracks; as a result, the oldest streets run roughly from southwest to northeast and southeast to northwest. At the northern edge of the DeBarr Historic District the streets change to the traditional cardinal grid pattern.
Constructed between 1907 and the beginning of World War II, the DeBarr Historic District is a display of the living quarters available to both students and faculty in the early years of the University of Oklahoma. DeBarr Avenue is most typical of this era and is lined with two- and three-story Bungalows and Prairie style residences, which were built to accommodate boarding rooms for single persons and also to serve as sorority and fraternity houses. Twenty-five percent of the DeBarr Historic District was built before 1918 and 62 percent of the district was built between 1918 and 1925, resulting in a total of 87 percent of the houses in the DeBarr Historic District constructed prior to 1926. These structures are characterized by low-pitched roofs with wide overhangs and large front porches with massive columns.
The Bungalow dominates the neighborhood, although excellent examples of the Prairie School, also popular during the early years of the DeBarr Historic District's development, can be found. Common identifying characteristics of the Bungalow style generally include a one-story plan, a gabled roof, gabled front porches, exposed rafter tails, and decorative beams. Common to both styles are the massive porch supports with masonry piers and wooden columns. The Prairie School, common between 1905 and 1915, is well-represented in the DeBarr Historic District. Characteristics of the style include a square, two-story plan, a low-pitched hipped roof with wide eaves, full-facade porches with hipped roofs supported by massive square porch columns, and simply designed detailing. The DeBarr Historic District reflects this blend of architectural elements with few exceptions to these two styles. Two notable exceptions, however, are a three-story brick Italian Renaissance building at 701 DeBarr Avenue, which once housed a fraternity, and a Mission Revival sorority house 103 West Boyd Street.
While the DeBarr Historic District appears to be dominated by larger homes, built to serve as boarding establishments, 48 percent of the houses are one-story, single-family residences. Clapboard sheathing is used throughout the DeBarr Historic District, but a few red-brick structures and a small number of stucco residences also appear along the streets. Building setbacks of approximately twenty-five feet are typical of neighborhoods of this period and provide room for sidewalks and front lawns.
Also important to the DeBarr Historic District are the number of one- and two-story backyard apartments. Common are two-story garage apartments, often with the garage converted to serve as an apartment. One-story garages, built at the same time as the associated residences, are also common to the area. Some of these buildings have also been converted to small apartments. Very few of either the two-story garage apartments or the one-story garages or one-story converted garage apartments are completely visible from the street. Two-story garage apartments, visible from the street, have been counted as either contributing or noncontributing properties. One-story garages and one-story garage conversions have not been individually listed unless the garage is both visible from the street and has been substantially altered.
The boundary lines include only those properties that share the historical characteristics of the neighborhood although a few noncontributing retail and office spaces (circa 1965-1985) fall within the DeBarr Historic District's southern boundary. The DeBarr Historic District's consistency of scale, material, architectural styles, and setback contribute to its delineation as a visually cohesive unit.
The DeBarr Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the first residential district to provide housing for faculty and students of the University of Oklahoma. Developed primarily between 1907 and 1925, the DeBarr Historic District is also significant for its architecture as an outstanding example of large two-story, two-and-one-half-story, and one-story Bungalows and Prairie School residences built during the early part of the twentieth century. Many of the early Oklahoma University faculty, including most of the college deans, built homes along DeBarr Avenue, Jenkins Avenue, Monnett Avenue, and Duffy Street. Early sororities and fraternities also made their homes along these streets, concentrating along DeBarr Avenue. Families who lived in the area rented extra rooms to both faculty and students, while other residences were used strictly as boarding houses. Located next to campus and within walking distance to the train station and downtown Norman, the DeBarr Historic District presented a convenient location for both faculty and students to reside. The period of significance for the DeBarr Historic District encompasses the years 1901-1930. These years delineate the establishment of the residential additions (1901 and 1909) until the neighborhood became fully developed.
The land run on April 22, 1889, which opened central Oklahoma to white settlement, brought the first settlers to the city of Norman, and the years to follow were ones of steady growth. Downtown buildings were constructed and neighborhoods were established primarily to the east in the Original Townsite and south in the Waggoner and Larsh additions. While Norman did not attract newcomers as did other cities such as Oklahoma City and Guthrie, it was selected as the site for the University of Oklahoma on December 19, 1890.
The University of Oklahoma was established seven months after the creation of Oklahoma Territory. In December 1890 territorial governor George W. Steel approved a legislative bill designating that the university be located at Norman, Oklahoma. Construction of the first university building began in April 1891. In September 1892, the first classes at the university were held in the Adkins-Welch Building, a rented building on Main Street in downtown Norman.
One year later in August 1893, the first university building was ready for occupancy. Fires demolished the university's first attempts at construction and the current administration building, completed in 1912, was the third constructed. Early university buildings include Old Science Hall and the Carnegie Building, both completed in 1904. Seven other buildings were built before 1919. Between 1919 and 1923, enrollment at the university doubled and a building boom followed. Constructed during this period were Sutton Hall (1924), Felgar Hall (1925), Buchanan Hall (1926), and the Physical Education Building (Field House, 1927). The student union and the stadium were also completed during the twenties. By the 1922-23 school year, the number of students enrolled had reached 5,000.
While the campus was being planned and constructed, the University Board of Regents selected David Ross Boyd as university president As president, Boyd canvassed the country looking for highly qualified professors to serve on the first faculty. The new faculty members appointed by Boyd were William N. Rice, professor of ancient languages and literature; Edwin C. DeBarr, professor of chemistry and physics; and F.S.E. Amos, professor of English, history, and civics. Besides his duties as university president, Boyd was also a member of the first faculty and taught mental and moral science. Of the four original members of the first University of Oklahoma faculty, Edwin C. DeBarr served the university and the State of Oklahoma for over thirty-one years.
The DeBarr Historic District is composed of parts of two additions, the University Larsh Addition, platted in 1901, and the State University Addition, platted in 1909. The University Larsh Addition was platted by D.L. Larsh, an early Norman land developer, and surveyed by Edwin C. DeBarr. The first four streets laid out in the DeBarr Historic District were Boyd Street, DeBarr Avenue, Duffy Street, and Jenkins Avenue. The second addition, State University, was developed by W.W. McCullough, Clyde Pickard, A.R. Eddington, I. Monnett, John Zink, and J.W. Sturgis, a group of faculty members and local Norman businessmen. The year before, in 1908, Monnett and Zink had formed a real estate firm, and it was not uncommon for faculty to invest in property around the university. Most of the lots did not begin to sell until 1907. Professor J.H. Felgar was one of the first to purchase property in the neighborhood.
Few dwellings were built along DeBarr before 1909, but after the second addition was platted lots began to sell quickly, and by 1925 the entire neighborhood was developed. In 1909 sidewalks were being laid along Monnett Avenue, and most of the lots along that street had been sold. Twenty-five-foot lots along DeBarr Avenue and Jenkins Avenue were being sold for $225 to $300. DeBarr Avenue and Asp Avenue, noted in 1911 by the Norman Transcript as the principal streets leading to the University, were paved that same year, Duffy Street was paved early in 1917 and Jenkins Avenue was paved in 1920. Asp Avenue and University Boulevard, originally named the Boulevard, are located directly west of the DeBarr Historic District and during the late 1800's and early 1900's were the primary links between the City of Norman and the campus. Between 1909 and the mid-1920's, the residential growth of the community followed the increasing student population of the University of Oklahoma. In 1912 there were 876 students and by 1920 the student population was almost 4,500.
The DeBarr Historic District is a reflection of the residential facilities available during the early years of the University of Oklahoma. Developed primarily between 1907 and 1925, the neighborhood was directly adjacent to the north side of the campus, providing easy access for the faculty and students of the University of Oklahoma. Separated by only a few blocks from the Norman Original Townsite, the DeBarr Historic District is also adjacent to the Santa Fe Railway tracks. This neighborhood bridged the gap between downtown Norman and the university.
Edwin DeBarr, one of the four original members of the first University of Oklahoma faculty, was instrumental in the development of the neighborhood. DeBarr was a graduate of Michigan State Normal School and the University of Michigan, where he received his Ph.D. in 1899. He started his teaching career as a public school teacher in Michigan and as professor at Albion College, Albion, Michigan. He came to the University of Oklahoma in 1892. In 1908, DeBarr served on the first University of Oklahoma Medical School faculty, and that same year the State of Oklahoma appointed DeBarr as State Chemist, a position he held until the early 1920's. He was also selected in 1908 to serve as the first vice president of the university. In honor of his contributions to the University of Oklahoma, the first chemistry building, completed in 1916, was named DeBarr Hall. Although DeBarr lived at 12 S. University Boulevard, outside the DeBarr Historic District, he surveyed and platted the area, and consequently the street was named after him. The first concrete sidewalk laid in Norman on University Boulevard was done by DeBarr. After leaving the University in 1923, he served as the Norman Public Health Officer.
Faculty members who lived in the area included Fredrik Holmberg, the dean of the School of Fine Arts, who resided at 766 DeBarr Avenue; Roy Gittinger, dean of Undergraduates and later dean of Admissions, who lived at 225 W. Duffy Street; James H. Felgar, dean of the College of Engineering in 1909, who lived at 743 DeBarr Avenue; H.H. Herbert, the first director of the School of Journalism, who lived at 702 Jenkins Avenue; Errett Newby, registrar and secretary to the president and a community leader, lived at 730 DeBarr Avenue; and Julien Charles Monnett, who lived at 772 DeBarr Avenue. Monnett, dean of the Law School, lived at this address from 1914 until his death in the early 1950's. (The house is no longer extant.) These faculty members represented the majority of college deans, and the area continued to be the most popular location for university faculty and staff until the early 1920's when the Chautauqua neighborhood, west of campus, began to develop.
Fraternities and Sororities
Fraternities and sororities are significant because of the role they played housing students during the early years at the University of Oklahoma. Between 1892, the university's first year, and 1936 the university did not offer student housing; rather students boarded with private families, lived in boarding houses, or joined fraternities and sororities and lived in the fraternity or sorority house. Off-campus housing was regulated by the university, and each unit had to be "university approved" before it could be rented to a student.
A number of large dormitories were built during the first quarter of the century by private or religious organizations. These include King's Hall, the first dormitory for women students, built by the Episcopal Church in 1910; Agnes Moore Hall, built by the Methodist Church in 1920; Albert Pike Hall, the first men's dormitory, built by the Masons in 1920; and Newman Hall, built by the Catholic Church circa 1922. The first dormitory for women built by the university was Hester-Robertson Hall, completed in 1936. After Hester-Robertson Hall was built, freshmen women attending the university had two alternatives to living on-campus: either pledge a sorority and live in the sorority house or live in one of the church sponsored dormitories. They were not allowed to live off-campus in private halls.
The DeBarr Historic District is the heart of the area where students and faculty lived during the early years of the university. For the first ten years, from 1892 until after 1900, the student population grew to 500, and between 1902 and 1912 it grew to 876. Five years later, in 1917, the student population was 2,568 and by early 1920 the number of students had grown to over 5,000. Many of the large houses along Asp Avenue and DeBarr Avenue were constructed as rooming houses, although a number of them were built for single family residences with an additional room for one or two boarders. In the early years, fraternities and sororities would lease entire rooming houses for the exclusive use of their members. Between 1905 and the early 1930's, the majority of fraternities and sororities lived in such houses in and around the DeBarr Historic District. In the early twenties, most organizations continued to live in residential-styled housing, although by then a few had built their own houses. While most of these were located north of campus, a few were south and some were west of the campus.
During the 1905-1906 school year the first fraternities were established on the University of Oklahoma campus. The Kappa Alpha fraternity was granted a charter in the summer of 1905, and the national chapter of Kappa Sigma fraternity was established commencement night in June 1906. These first fraternities were quickly followed by others. Sororities were not established until the 1909-1910 school year when the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and the Delta Delta Delta sorority came on campus. These Greek organizations were first located on the residential streets north of the campus in two- and three-story rooming houses. These streets included University Boulevard (then referred to as the Boulevard), and Asp Avenue (later a commercial area — Campus Corner), Boyd Street, and DeBarr Avenue. DeBarr Avenue, however, was the most popular location for both sororities and fraternities.
As new Greek organizations were established and as older ones grew in membership, the individual organizations moved from house to house. Few stayed at any one location for very long; each desired to eventually build a house they could call their own and that would meet their specific needs. One of the first organizations to do this was the Beta Theta Phi fraternity, which constructed a three-story brick building a 701 DeBarr Avenue in 1915. The top two floors were divided into individual rooms, with communal shower facilities. The first floor was used as a gathering place, a dining room and kitchen, and the houseparents' or housemother's apartment. This fraternity continued to inhabit this house until 1929, when it moved west to 800 Chautauqua Avenue, an area which became a popular location for both fraternities and sororities in the mid-1920's through the 1940's.
Several houses were built along the north side of Boyd Street across the street from the campus. The last sorority house built within the boundaries of the DeBarr Historic District was constructed by the Alpha Chi Omega sorority in 1927. It built a Mission Revival style house at 103 W. Boyd Street. Other houses along Boyd Street included the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house at 111 E. Boyd Street (ca.1920 and later demolished) and the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house at 119 West Boyd Street (built in 1923 and later demolished). One block south of the DeBarr Historic District, on Jenkins Avenue, another sorority house was built in 1921. This house was the fifth project designed by Harold Gimeno, a local Norman architect known for his Spanish Revival style homes. It was demolished in the early 1980's when construction of the Energy Center on the campus of the University of Oklahoma began.
The DeBarr neighborhood was fully developed by 1930. By this time the Chautauqua neighborhood, west of the campus, was becoming a popular location for the construction of faculty housing, as well as a location for Greek housing. Many of the faculty built Colonial Revival homes and the Greek organizations followed this trend. As early as 1917, The Umpire, a student newspaper, stated that "westward invasion of the Greeks well under way." By 1930, almost every fraternity and sorority had built its own facility. A few fraternity and sorority houses remained on University Boulevard until the 1970's, when each one was demolished by fire, razed, and the lots used for parking.
The DeBarr Historic District contains a unique collection of Bungalow style and Prairie style houses built to accommodate students and faculty from the University of Oklahoma. The larger houses are concentrated along DeBarr Avenue, while smaller one-and-one-half-story Bungalows dominate the remainder of the historic district. These two styles define the DeBarr Historic District, although examples of almost all other architectural styles popular during the first half of the century are also represented.
The Bungalow style, popular between 1905 and 1930, is located throughout the DeBarr Historic District. Popular between 1905 and the mid-1920's, this style spread throughout America, through pattern books and magazines. Many of the Bungalows in the DeBarr Historic District represent the typical one-story front-gabled prototype, with its decorative beams, exposed rafters, and tapered porch supports. But also well represented is a two-story interpretation that is both simply styled and merged with a floor-plan more typical of the Queen Anne style, with bay windows and dominating front-facing gables. The larger Bungalow residences are located primarily on DeBarr Avenue, with the smaller homes spreading east along Jenkins and Monnett avenues, and north along Duffy Street. Excellent examples of this style include the residences at 708 DeBarr Avenue, 22 W. Duffy Street, and 702 Monnett Avenue. A row of smaller one-story Bungalows on Jenkins at 715, 717, and 719 Jenkins Avenue also illustrate this style. Each of these residences has gabled roofs, exposed end beams and rafter tails, and massive porch supports.
The vernacular form of the Prairie style residence was popular from 1900 until 1920, the formative years of the DeBarr Historic District. One of the few indigenous American architectural styles, its characteristics include the boxy, two-story shape, capped with a hipped roof and accented with a hipped dormer or dormer located on the roof slopes. A full-facade porch with a hipped roof supported by massive brick porch supports was usually incorporated. The floor plan of the Prairie style made it easy to accommodate boarders in the upstairs bedrooms, while large dining rooms offered spacious facilities for dining. In the DeBarr Historic District, examples of this style include 710 DeBarr Avenue, 720 DeBarr Avenue, and 747 Jenkins Avenue. While these three residences demonstrate the typical design elements of the style, many similar residences are spread throughout the district.
Other styles represented in the DeBarr Historic District include Italian Renaissance (701 DeBarr Avenue), the Mission Revival style (103 W. Boyd Street), the Colonial Revival style (737 DeBarr Avenue), and the Tudor Revival style (724 Jenkins Avenue). The John and Emma C. Hardie House at 734 DeBarr Avenue is one of the more architecturally significant private homes in the neighborhood. It was described in the Norman Transcript as one of the largest residences built in the city (circa 1921). It is a two-and-one-half-story Prairie style residence with Mission Revival influences. A hipped roof of red clay tile covers the structure and the exterior walls are stuccoed. A large one-story screened-in porch (now glassed-in) covers the front facade and a porte cochere is located on the north elevation.
The DeBarr Historic District has an excellent selection of Bungalows and Prairie style houses, as well as a number of excellent representatives from other architectural styles popular between 1910 and 1930. Overall the DeBarr Historic District has a high degree of architectural integrity and continues to reflect the historic character of Norman's oldest university-related residential area.
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