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July 9, 2013

‘Hettie’s House’ making way for new Delta Gamma sorority parking lot

NORMAN — Phyllis Murray is the co-owner of the Montford Inn in Norman and a longtime resident of the neighborhood where Hettie’s House, 739 S. College Ave., is located.

The approximately 70-year-old structure, named after a woman who operated a boardinghouse there for decades, is slated to be razed soon to provide more automobile parking for the Delta Gamma sorority, which owns the property.

It’s a two-story, yellow building with a distinctive appearance. In the English Cottage style, there’s really not many other houses in town like it. Its original, dense cedar shingles on the sides remain intact and the structure is largely in the original form.

Murray’s relatives were significant landowners in early Norman, with several family homes built near Hettie’s boardinghouse. Some of these structures still exist. As a 6-year-old, Murray played in the neighborhood and was attracted to the folks gathered at the boardinghouse.

“I got to be good friends with her (Hettie) and she was always making cookies,” Murray said. “There was always a bustle of people around there.”

During World War II, housing was at a premium because of Norman’s Navy base and renting rooms was a lucrative business. After the war, the boardinghouse continued, with Oklahoma University students being the main occupants.

“Hettie was a delightful woman with gray hair pulled back in a bun on the back of her head and always wearing an apron,” Murray said. “I don’t even know her last name.”

She recalls walking to Amspacher’s Grocery Store to the south and along the way visiting the numerous fish ponds in people’s yards.

She graduated from OU in 1960 and Hettie’s House was still operating at that time.

Susan Atkinson is the city of Norman’s Historic Preservation Planner and is familiar with the modern saga of Hettie’s House.

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