Friday, November 1, 2013

Solid Grace

Now that Halloween is over, and we've all had our annual dose of feature stories, (un)reality TV shows and movies featuring haunted houses, I'd like to put in a good word for old homes that don't contain scary things.  Rather, these houses kindly draw us in and welcome us, making us part of their ongoing story.  They make us feel like family.

I'm not a historian, an architect or a preservationist, but I do love old buildings.  And I enjoy trying to piece together their history.  

The Crowell House at 801 Flynn in Alva has so much going for it.  The architecture is classic early 20th century Americana -- in the "Prairie" style.  

The house's original owner, George Washington Crowell, was a well-to-do Alva businessman who co-owned a chain of lumber yards with his brother.  According to stories associated with the house, Crowell imported the wood and the leaded glass for the house from Kansas.  (He may also have sourced the red brick for the house and front walkway from Kansas.)

My grandmother owned the Crowell House in the late 1960s to early 1970s.  She rented out some of the rooms and lived in the others.  Now, it has been preserved and adapted for another use as a bed-and-breakfast inn.  And it is well worth preserving.  (Thank you, previous and current owners.)

Inside are dozens of examples of master craftsmen (I wonder who they were?) who worked in solid oak.   Ornate carved oak frames sections of the walls, and runs above each doorway.  

Staircase in 1970

Entry hall in 1970

Entry hall in 2013

The carved oak frames the vintage tin ceiling which the current owners imported from another antique building.

The staircases and railings are also solid oak.

Looking down the stairwell to the first floor, from the third story landing!
The main stairwell also shows some of the gold leaf detail
crafted by an unknown Italian immigrant in 1906.
The oak continues into the dining room, with a wall of storage for glassware (with stained glass doors) and a fireplace surround.

Dining room, 1970

Dining room, 2013 (staircase in background)

Old houses like this share with us openly so many of their treasures.  The word grace with all its many definitions comes to mind: kindness; charm; pleasing appearance; unmerited favor; strength to help in time of need; a blessing.

When I visited last week I asked Lori, the current owner, whether anyone thought the house was haunted.  Quite the contrary, she said; guests tell her this house is gracious, kind and welcoming.  

There's that word again: grace.

To be continued....


This story is one in a series on the historic red brick house at 801 Flynn in Alva, Oklahoma.  This Prairie-style mansion was built in 1906 by local businessman George W. Crowell. 

My grandmother bought it from his heirs in 1968, and lived there for several years. 

The house has changed hands several times since then; it’s now The Vintage Inn, a bed-and-breakfast.  

I went back to visit in October 2013.   All the blog posts I wrote on the visit are collected here:


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