Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 382

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 382


This is the grave of Bruce Goff.

Goff was born in 1904 in Alton, Kansas to a watch repairman. The family was pretty poor and Goff grew up mostly in Tulsa with a period in Denver. Often, they didn’t have enough food to eat every day. But he learned to draw and showed enormous potential, gaining the attention of his teachers and his family. In 1916, he was apprenticed to a Tulsa architectural firm; while still a teenager he was designing his own houses. He soon wrote to Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan; both encouraged the young architect. He had an opportunity to go to MIT, but both Wright and Sullivan encouraged him to stay in Tulsa and develop his own style than be shaped by others. He became a full partner in the firm in 1930. Finally, in 1934, he broke free of Tulsa and moved to Chicago. There he designed his own buildings, taught at the Academy of Fine Arts, and worked for a sheet glass manufacturer that was developing products for the building market. He joined the military in 1942 and was quickly designing buildings for the military, mostly the very functional buildings the military naturally demands. The same year, he got a position in the new architecture school at the University of Oklahoma. He started teaching there after the war but only lasted for a decade. That was because he was outed as a homosexual, accusing of sleeping with a minor, and was forced to resign in 1955. He moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma and worked out of a studio building designed by Wright. He continued to work pretty close to his death in 1982 in Tyler, Texas.

Goff’s buildings are pretty interesting. As I’ve said before when profiling architects, I’m no expert. But let’s look at some of these buildings:

Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, Tulsa, 1929

Bavinger House, Norman, Oklahoma, 1950 (sadly this was torn down in 2016)

Ledbetter House, Norman, Oklahoma, 1947

Bachman House, Chicago, 1948

Glen Mitchell House, Dodge City, Kansas, 1968

I admit that I had never heard of Goff before I ran across his fascinating gravestone. As I’ve said in the past, sometimes graves find you and not just when you die. The grave itself is meant to be viewed in the bright sunlight and it was a pretty gloomy day when I was there. Here is a picture of it in full effect:

Pretty cool. The piece of colored glass is something salvaged from one of the Wright-designed studio in Bartlesville where he did so much of his later work.

Bruce Goff is buried in Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois.

If you would like this series to profile other architects, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Frank Lloyd Wright is at his Tallesin West home in Arizona while Julia Morgan is in Oakland. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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