Just past the edge of downtown Tulsa and the historic Cain’s Ballroom, a special home sits on a double lot in The Heights neighborhood.
This home, built in 1914, sits near the intersection of West Marshall Street and North Cheyenne Avenue. The four-bedroom, three-bathroom house, spanning nearly 3,000 square feet, is recognized as part of the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s much more than just a landmark: It’s a fully revitalized family home.
Dave and Heather Kobel bought then-103-year-old estate in 2017 and have made efforts to restore the home to its former glory. On Sunday, Feb. 26, design and construction enthusiasts will have a chance to walk through the home and see those endeavors firsthand. The Tulsa Foundation for Architecture will host a tour of this historic house as part of its Distinctive Dwellings series.
“When people come into our home, I hope they see love and warmth,” Heather Kobel said.
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The Kobel family wasn’t always set on living in The Heights neighborhood. The couple lived in a 1930s cottage near Swan Lake and weren’t intent on moving to another historic home. When they toured 1151 N. Cheyenne Ave., however, they felt especially drawn to it, they said.
“We were going to buy something a little newer that didn’t need as much work,” Dave Kobel said. “We were looking at homes up on Reservoir Hill, and we saw they were having a tour of homes in The Heights. We saw that this home was for sale, and we came and did a tour — Heather was the one who first jumped on it.”
“It reminded me of my childhood friends’ homes — homes that were big, super old and cool,” Heather Kobel said.
Heather Kobel said she could envision their family living there, and after a little convincing, Dave Kobel was on board, too.
“When we came in, the feel of the place — the plaster walls, the wood floors — it felt like our style would fit well with it,” Dave Kobel said. “I grow a lot of cacti, and when we went outside, Heather said ‘Imagine your cacti growing here in front of the house.’ I did, and we put an offer in two weeks later.”
Another couple had already planned to buy the home, but the owner decided Dave and Heather Kobel were the right couple to take over.
“Ultimately, the owner said she wanted us as neighbors, and she took a lower bid than the other couple had offered,” Heather Kobel said.
The Heights neighborhood, formerly known as Brady Heights, was constructed in the early 20th century, according to the Tulsa Preservation Commission. The area was home to many well-to-do Tulsans, including I.S. Mincks, George Winkler and “Diamond Joe” Wilson.
The neighborhood was named for W. Tate Brady, who owned the land comprising the neighborhood. However, residents of the historic neighborhood voted by a wide margin in 2021 to erase Brady’s name and become known simply as “The Heights.” One of the signers of Tulsa’s original city charter in 1898, Brady had later become a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Since its construction in 1914, the Kobels’ home has seen many eras and iterations. It’s rumored that Nelle Shields Jackson, founder of Miss Jackson’s department store, once lived there. During the Great Depression, the home was separated into a triplex, with three separate apartments inside serving as affordable housing for families, Kobel said.
“I can’t imagine all the history here, all the people who have come in and out and the stories they must have,” Heather Kobel said.
Despite The Heights neighborhood being added to the National Register of Historic Places in June 1980, the Kobels’ home had fallen into complete disarray, Dave Kobel said.
“I’m told you could stand in the basement and look up and see daylight through the ceiling,” Dave Kobel said. “It was in pretty bad condition.”
According to Dave Kobel, the home’s previous owner, Dani Widell of Widell Renovations, bought the fixer-upper in 2015 for $55,000. After completing massive renovations and restorations to the home, Widell lived in the home for one year before putting it on the market.
“The owners wanted to take the home back to how it was originally,” Widell said. “It’s much closer now to what it was originally envisioned to look like.”
Many of the home’s original elements are still intact: original hardwood floors, called “fireman’s floors,” curved archways, wooden beams and many of the home’s early windows remain.
Though the home had undergone significant improvements to make it livable, the Kobels still had work cut out for them. The couple did extensive work on the home’s landscaping, electrical and plumbing systems to bring it up to code, Dave Kobel said.
“When we were getting our inspection done for approval, the home inspector said, ‘Please take care of this house — they don’t make them like her anymore,’” Dave Kobel said. “There are those times when you think, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of stuff to fix up,’ and you get tired. But then, you think, ‘Well, someone’s got to take care of and preserve these kinds of places.’”
Originally from southern Texas, near the border of Mexico, the Kobels said they took great care to maintain the home’s historic charm while incorporating their own interior design style. The home is full of artwork and decor reminiscent of the American Southwest, adding a friendly charm to the place.
“The home was extremely formal before — there were two fancy pink couches in the living room,” Heather Kobel said. “I think we’ve brought it down a few notches and made it much more approachable and warmer.”
The Kobels said their favorite part of the home is the front porch, which allows them a great view of The Heights neighborhood.
“That was another big draw for us — having a big front porch where everyone can hang out,” Heather Kobel said.
“We can open the door and watch people walk by and sit out in the rain and watch a storm roll in,” Dave Kobel said.
Since its nascence over 100 years ago, The Heights neighborhood has developed and changed significantly. The area has experienced commercial growth, with businesses such as Prism Cafe and Fulton Street Books & Coffee opening within walking distance of the Kobels’ home.
“The diversity of the neighborhood now is one of the things that drew us in,” Dave Kobel said. “If you look at the history of this neighborhood, there’s names tied to it that are associated with some ugly things in Tulsa’s history. Seeing how much it’s changed and that it’s such an integrated area of Tulsa now — it’s kind of a hit back to those people who did such awful things.”
The Kobels said they plan to stay in their home in The Heights for a long time. With a big front porch, a large outdoor living area, guest quarters and plenty of yard space, the house has been a great place to host family and friends, Heather Kobel said.
To the Kobels, the home feels beautiful and special, and they see themselves as stewards of the historic dwelling.
“If I had to pick one word to describe this home, it would be ‘graceful,’” Heather Kobel said. “The people who lived here before us, and many others, have referred to it as ‘her.’ This beautiful home is ‘her.’”
For more information or to register for the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture’s tour of the Kobels home, visit tulsaarchitecture.org/programs.