So many photographs, books and movies portray Oklahoma’s early days as a sea of muddy streets, raw clapboard houses and a generally hardscrabble existence.
Yet you could also find elaborate homes and the finer things in life out on the prairie, and one of the greatest examples of early-day genteel living is right here in Cleveland County. Specifically, we’re talking about one of Norman’s hidden gems—the Victorian-style Moore-Lindsay Historical House and Museum. Constructed in 1899, only 10 years after the Oklahoma Land Run, it was considered a mansion at its time.
Known to many as “the big yellow house on Peters,” today it’s a hands-on museum displaying artifacts and images showcasing life in Cleveland County and Oklahoma Territory from the turn of the 20th century. It’s home to a collection of approximately 9,000 rare books, documents, clothing and artifacts, notes Amy Pence, museum director. Its unique appeal even led to its being named the “Best Historic House Museum in Oklahoma” by Lux Life magazine in 2019.
Each room in the museum features hundreds of items, but among the fan favorites are the family members’ height markings on the wall in the informal parlor, a handmade quilt, kitchen items, clothing, personal accessories and an 1840s rope bed.
Most items aren’t encased in glass but are easily accessible. Visitors are also welcome to take photographs. “Both of these factors make a big difference in a visitor’s experience,” Amy said.
The museum will soon acquire several additional items, thanks to a donation by Bill Wantland, a great-grandson of the house’s second owners, Daisy and Harry Lindsay. They include the home’s original dining room furniture (with seat cushions needlepointed by Daisy), along with a china cabinet and cuckoo clock.
The Moore-Lindsay Historic House was owned by two prominent early-day Norman families. In 1899, Realtor/investor William Moore and his wife, Agnes, originally built the spacious home for $5,000, at a time when most houses in Norman cost about $500. It contains formal and informal parlors, plus a butler’s pantry, kitchen, bathroom, cellar, dining room, turret room and four bedrooms, two of which have been converted into an interactive room and an archive room. There’s also a carriage house that’s been remodeled to use for children’s classes.
Seven years after building the home, the Moores sold it to Mrs. Moore’s niece, Daisy Lindsay, and her husband, Harry. The Lindsays were also prominent Norman citizens; he was the founder of Norman Grain & Milling Co. and served on the school board, while Mrs. Lindsay was active in many local women’s groups. After multiple generations, the home was sold in the early 1960s, fell into a state of disrepair, and was actually condemned in 1966. It was saved, however, when the City of Norman purchased it in 1973 to convert it into a museum. The museum is now operated by the Cleveland County Historical Society and funded through private donations and the City of Norman.
A Heritage Continues
For Bill, the house may be a museum now, but growing up it was simply the place where he and his siblings spent their childhood making frequent visits to their beloved great-grandmother, Daisy. He cherishes those memories and continues to make occasional visits to the museum, where he especially enjoys playing the family piano.
Bill’s daughter, Malia Bennett, is equally passionate about preserving the family legacy and has even performed there with her and her daughter Rachel’s Celtic band, Flowers of Edinburgh.
“I’m cognizant of the fact that (the house) has a shared history with the community, because of the role the owners played in Norman, but how cool is it to have a bit of your own family history as part of the history of the community?” Malia said. “For me, I’ve always loved hearing stories about the house, and to be able to still go to it is lovely.”
In addition to Bill’s donation, members of the Central Oklahoma Woodturners Association are volunteering their time to recreate three panels of “carpenter’s lace” (technically known as fretwork spandrels). These elaborately carved spandrels were featured in the home’s doorways when it was constructed, but the original panels disappeared years ago. COWA volunteers are in the process of installing the redone panels, Amy said.
Stop In Sometime
Like many Norman residents, Tammie Richard had driven by the house for years, wondered about it, but never stopped in.
“Finally, a few years ago on Mother’s Day, my girls came up with the idea of taking me to see what the Moore-Lindsay house was all about,” Tammie said. “I enjoyed seeing the rooms and hearing the stories.”
She was so charmed, in fact, that she would end up joining the museum’s board of directors.
“I am very happy to help preserve the history of our area, which includes the Moore-Lindsay home,” Tammie said. “I love meeting with the people who visit and enjoy hearing their stories about the history of Norman.”
Amy, meanwhile, said she also savors her role in preserving local history and that becoming close friends with Bill and Malia has only intensified her commitment.
“The Moore-Lindsay House is my favorite place in Norman,” she said. “While it’s difficult, challenging and even sometimes overwhelming, it is truly my dream job. It is wonderful to feel that the work I’m doing makes a difference, has lasting value, and the work itself is fascinating. I get to meet the most interesting people and share my favorite place with them, teach them about our history and watch them fall in love with the house as well.”
Moore-Lindsay Historic House Visitors Information
The museum is located at 508 N. Peters Ave. and is open to the public Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Guided tours are offered at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Guests are welcome to conduct self-guided tours and to take photographs. Admission is free, although donations are encouraged.
The museum hosts several special exhibits throughout the year, plus ongoing children’s classes and an annual Victorian Christmas open house. It also contains a small gift shop with books about local history and other memorabilia.
Due to staffing limitations, hours are subject to change at short notice. It is recommended that would-be visitors verify the current day’s schedule ahead of time.
Virtual tours, photos and additional information are available on the museum’s website, normanmuseum.org, or its Facebook page, @moorelindsayhouse. You can also contact the museum directly at 405.321.0156, email email@example.com, or follow it on Instagram at instagram.com/moorelindsayhouse.