These Walls: The Blair Mansion in Tulsa

Article excerpt

Those who want to see the plantation home of Jefferson Davis should seek out the B.B. Blair Mansion in Tulsa - now the $21.7 million property of the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

B.B. and Priscilla Blair chose the Biloxi, Miss., homestead of Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America, as the pattern for their dream home on 33 acres along the Arkansas River, said longtime Tulsa architect and residential historian John Brooks Walton. In 1958 the Blairs used architect John Duncan Forsyth, who Walton once worked for, to design a reflection of Beauvoir, the Davis home still under reconstruction from Hurricane Katrina.

His interest could reflect Blair's upbringing, the son of an Iowa riverboat captain raised on romantic images of the mighty Mississippi and the South. It could also draw from the renewed interest in the conflict that swept America with the war's first centennial.

"I think his fascination went way before that," said Walton.

In his book One Hundred Historic Tulsa Homes, Walton noted how Blair's life path led him from Texas to Tulsa, where the University of Iowa agricultural graduate found work on Waite Phillips' ranch, the future home of the Southern Hills Country Club. Catching the owner's eye, Blair rose through the oil business ranks to become Phillips' chief landman. That gave him the platform for building his own wealth in such firms as Anchor Petroleum and Western Supply.

For many years Walton said the Blairs lived in an estate at 25th and Riverside, raising vegetables, fruit and alfalfa on the 33 chosen acres he acquired in 1939. But as they farmed that land, the Blairs dreamt of building a home there.

"They bought it intending to build there," said Walton. …