Photo courtesy of Justin Miers Photography

Photo courtesy of Justin Miers Photography

Captained by JB Schuelein Home History researched and written by Kimberly Carlson

The Johnston home was built in 1910, just three years after statehood. It is an early American Foursquare, characterized by its classic box shape. The home is unique because it has a front gabled roof, rather than the hipped roof typical of foursquare houses. This is probably due to its early build date. A 1922 map shows that the house originally had a wraparound porch. Few of the houses in Mesta Park were built without a substantial front porch, which was an important part of living in a hot climate without air conditioning. It is unclear when the porch was removed.

The lots upon which 521 NW 16th sits were originally sold by the University Development Company to Mabel A. Stert in 1903, and the property changed ownership several times between 1903 and 1910. A 1908 deed included an interesting note: the seller agreed to sell the property as long as the buyer agreed “that no residence shall be built on these lots costing less than $2500.00, which shall be a full two story residence.” The seller presumably wanted to preserve a certain level of nobility that would suit the surrounding homeowners.

The home was purchased in 1910 by its first owner, Frank J. Best, for $2,700.00. Best was born in Winchester, Virginia in 1867. He came to Oklahoma from Topeka, Kansas in 1889 and participated in the Land Run. Frank and his wife Mary had one daughter, also named Mary, who later married, became Mrs. Otis C. Thompson, and gave Mr. and Mrs. Best four grandchildren. Frank Best was loyal to his work. He was recognized in 1936 for holding the record for longest continuous employment with one employer. At the time, he had completed 49 years as a clerk and telegraph operator for the Santa Fe Railway and had not missed one single day of work. Frank was also devoted to his family. Mr. and Mrs. Best celebrated their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries, on Christmas day, in the home (Mrs. Best was quoted as saying, “Christmas was the only time he could get off from work long enough to get married.”). An article in the Oklahoman describing their 50th anniversary celebration noted, “As the guests were about to be seated, Mr. Best met, at the foot of the stairs, Miss Marylyn Ann Thompson, who was wearing her grandmother’s wedding dress as a surprise to the bride of 50 years.” Clearly, many happy moments took place in the home’s early years.

After the Bests, several different owners occupied the home until Lisa and Wes Johnston purchased it in 1999. The house was a “fixer-upper” by the time the Johnstons moved in. The original oak wood floors were covered with linoleum tile squares. To the Johnstons’ pleasant surprise, however, the wood floors had been perfectly preserved by the linoleum and were in pristine condition. They were also able to expose and restore the original fireplace façade. The Johnstons’ favorite feature of the home is the original stained-glass windows in the living room and entryway.

The Johnstons were careful to preserve much of the home’s original character and charm, but they also rehabilitated the house to make it useful and functional for contemporary living. They remodeled the master suite and completed other modern renovations upstairs, such as moving the washer and dryer from the basement to the second floor and renovating the upstairs second bathroom. The kitchen has been updated with granite countertops and new flooring and much of the painting throughout the home was done by Lisa. What an undertaking! We are lucky to have a house on the tour so perfectly demonstrating the delicate balance between preservation and modernization.