Architecture Professor Marks 35th Anniversary of Historic Preservation Course

The 2022 Fall Semester marks the 35th Anniversary of Associate Professor Ron Frantz’s being involved with the Historic Preservation course at the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture.

For the 1987 Fall Semester, Professor Arn Henderson asked Ron Frantz, then the Architect for the new Oklahoma Main Street Program, to be a guest speaker for the Monday evening Historic Preservation Seminar. “If I remember correctly,” stated Frantz, “There were seven students in this class—mostly Architecture majors. These students came right out of design studio and into this evening class.” The group decided to head to an official Oklahoma Main Street town and document three historic buildings. The town selected—Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

From 1987 until 1997, Professor Henderson asked Frantz to come speak to the class. Then the class headed out on a Saturday to document buildings in an Oklahoma town. Over the years, the group went to Pawhuska (1987), El Reno (1988), Shawnee (1990), Sapulpa (1991), Ponca City (1992), Purcell (1993), Cordell (1994), Stroud (1995), and Perry (1996).

When Frantz took a teaching position with a college in Georgia in 1997, successors Barrett Williamson and Todd Scott continued the partnership, going with Professor Henderson’s classes to Chickasha (1998), Enid (1999), Cushing (2000), and Collinsville (2001). Frantz stayed in touch with each class and reviewed their work.

With changes in the teaching load for Professor Henderson and changes in staff with the Oklahoma Main Street Center, there was a small gap. Frantz kept in touch with Henderson the whole time. They first met in the 1970’s, through the mail, when Frantz read an article about Guthrie, Oklahoma, that quoted Henderson. Frantz was then an architecture student at Tulane University and wrote Henderson about preservation efforts in Oklahoma.

For the 2011 Fall Semester, Frantz came to the University of Oklahoma to teach as an Associate Professor in the Division of Architecture. Since then, he’s taught a course, Historic Preservation Planning, which is a derivation of the Historic Preservation Seminar from many years ago. For the 2022 Fall Semester, Frantz and his graduate assistant Rebecca Blaine have the largest class ever, 42 students in three sections (an Architecture graduate section, an Environmental Design undergraduate section, and a Regional and City Planning graduate section).

“Since 2011, our class travelled the state working with community leaders on historic preservation projects,” stated Frantz. “All 3 sections now have the ‘SERV’ designation for meeting community outreach and service-learning criteria. The undergraduate section is one of four core courses for the Environmental Design Program which has 59 students this semester. Over the years, we received four Citations of Merit from the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office for our coursework. Although Professor Henderson passed away several years ago, I know that he would be so happy that what he started in the 1980s continues.”

Like that fall back in 1987, this year’s class will head out to explore historic buildings in Norman, Oklahoma City, and Pauls Valley. The work continues….

Featured Image: Each year, students in the Historic Preservation Planning class take a field trip to the OU Western History Collections in Monnet Hall where Jackie Reese and her staff introduce the group to Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, historic photographs, and manuscripts related to that semester’s coursework.