The Jetsons hailed from Orbit City in the year 2062 – but they might have felt right at home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 40 years earlier.
Tulsa hosts a building that looks a lot like George and Jane Jetsons’ home in the cartoon, or perhaps a squat version of Seattle’s Space Needle – shaped like a wheel on its side perched on a stick. It contains an elevator that lifts you up a 44ft tube to a round living area with windows all along the walls, commanding remarkable views of surrounding greenery. A balcony juts out on one side.
The house recently hit the market, with an asking price of $415,000. But unfortunately for any time travelers, it has already been snapped up.
The two-bedroom, three-bath house was completed in 2005 by Joe Damer, a local resident, with the help of Jeremy Perkins, a Tulsa architect.
Damer, who died in 2019 at the age of 78, was German and moved to the area after the second world war through the Displaced Persons Act, which helped resettle refugees. He had a welding business and built the house in his free time, Tulsa World reported.
Damer brought the concept to Perkins “and I kind of laid it out for him scale-wise,” Perkins told the Guardian. Damer “was just very, very hands-on, kind of a master craftsman, and just figured things out,” he said.
Damer told Tulsa World in 2003 that he’d been inspired by a postcard he had kept since 1965. The photo in the postcard, according to the realtor, Angela Barnett of Chinowth & Cohen, shows a similar building in Arizona. The postcard is still on display in the home, she said.
Though The Jetsons may not have been at the top of Damer’s mind, it’s possible that he and the animators drew inspiration from the same source. The architecture in The Jetsons – which debuted in 1962, three years before Damer’s postcard – is in the Googie style, which emerged in the mid-20th century space age in southern California. Named for a West Hollywood coffee shop that opened in 1949, it features the futuristic flourishes we associate with the TV show.
Damer also had another inspiration, Barnett said: his wife. “It was his and his wife’s dream to build this replica [of the postcard’s image] one day. And they finally found the property on the hill; they bought it; they were going to start – she died of cancer suddenly. And so as a tribute to her, he went ahead and built it,” Barnett said. “So it’s a tribute to her.”
A structural engineer approved the design, and Damer might have gotten some help from his son, but he largely worked alone, Perkins said. “It was DIY before DIY was popular, way back in the early 2000s.”
What Damer was focused on, Perkins added, was the view: “It really was all about this form he thought was very interesting and could provide 360-degree views of the landscape at the time.” Indeed, the listing for the property tells would-be buyers: “The first thing your guests will see is the breathtaking view of the Tulsa skyline.”
Damer lived in the house from 2005 to 2012, when he sold it to a friend – “the only person he trusted to sell it to”, Barnett said. That friend is her client, the current seller. “He said the elevator took a little getting used to but he loved it.”
The response to the sale has been “overwhelming”, she said. In addition to prospective buyers, people have been driving by just to get a look at the thing. “A lot of people never even knew it existed,” Barnett said. A TikTok video helped change that.
Now a sale is pending – and the new owner plans to rent the place out on Airbnb, according to Barnett. If this person really wants to draw crowds, they could get a few decorating tips from Florence Fang, owner of another home straight out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon: northern California’s “Flintstone house”, a Technicolor dwelling peppered with likenesses of Fred, Dino and the gang.