NORMAN — The owner of the east Norman Bavinger House, designed by noted architect Bruce Goff, said Monday the home has been torn down.
But the home’s spire can still be seen from 60th Avenue Southeast, and Norman police on Tuesday said the distinctive home was still standing. Bob Bavinger, the son of the late Eugene and Nancy Bavinger, said he “took it down to the ground” last week.
The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of the signature works of a major architect.
The destruction could not be independently confirmed and Bavinger did not return phone calls and emails late Monday. A “no trespassing” sign has been put on the home’s front gate and black plastic has been hung on the fence. Before the plastic was up, motorists could see parts of the home from the road.
Norman police were dispatched to the home Tuesday after an Oklahoma City television reporter, checking out the rumor that the home had been destroyed, told police he heard a gunshot.
Police Capt. Tom Easley said officers could find no one on the property and that the house was intact. There were no injuries to reporter Gan Matthews.
Bavinger, in a Monday interview, blamed an ongoing dispute with the University of Oklahoma over restoration and ownership of the historic house, which was completed in 1955. He claimed OU had undermined his efforts to gain funding to restore the family home and he felt compelled to destroy the home and “remove the target.”
“It was the only solution that we had,” Bavinger said. “We got backed into a corner.”
OU architecture professor Nick Harm said he had been in conversation with Bavinger to try and save the home through private donations and foundation grants, but those talks had not been successful.
The house was built in a grove of native blackjack trees and was designed to make the home compatible with the environment. It included native stone, quarried from nearby outcroppings. The home was featured in Life Magazine and was opened to tours for many years. It was closed for tours in 1974, but reopened annually on Mother’s Day weekend at OU.
The Bavinger House was one of the best examples of Goff’s work, who was recognized nationally and internationally for his knowledge as a teacher and for his expertise as an architect. He was a former director of the OU School of Architecture.
Bob Bavinger and his son, Boz, had been trying to raise money to restore the home, which had fallen into disrepair. Their work was featured in Abner magazine this past spring.
“We opened it up to tourists out of the goodness of our heart, but we had to stop that because we didn’t know who the people were that were coming out,” Bob Bavinger said. “They tried just about everything to get it. We just couldn’t afford to take a chance.”
The home’s website, which Bavinger said got more than a million hits a year, had a “closed” sign on it Monday. Tuesday, it said “Closed due to storm damage.”