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Sapulpa’s iconic Burnett Mansion is now home to the Make Sense Foundation

Editor’s note: in addition to the photos (most of which come from BurnettMansion.info), there’s an informative video at the end of the story detailing even more about the history of this iconic Sapulpa gem.

Sapulpa’s beloved Burnett Mansion has been sold! The previous owners ran Miss Scarlett’s Tea Room (and gift shop), the hot-spot for lively and genteel lunches in Sapulpa for several years. Owner John Firey gave tours of the place and excited his listeners with stories of the Bates Burnett family who called the mansion home when it was built.

Many Sapulpans were concerned that the pricey digs would fall into disrepair, or worse, be bought by a Philistine who would chop it up into apartments.

Rest easy, history buffs! One of Sapulpa’s more recent benefactors has bought the building, and best of all honors its unbelievable workmanship and integral history.

Joni Rogers-Kante, founder and CEO of SeneGence International has taken ownership, and workers are in the process of renovating (gently) some of the ragged edges at the manse. It will eventually become the home of The Make Sense Foundation, directed by Vickie Beyer, a Sapulpa-born-and-bred civic leader.

Make Sense Foundation is a great liquid make-up, but the focus for “The Foundation” is “funding agencies in their communities” that assist women and children in domestic crises and promote health, wellness, and healing. The agencies assisted are the United Way, American Heart Association, and Caring Community Friends, among others. The Make Sense Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 by Rogers-Kante.

Vickie Beyer, director of The Make Sense Foundation

Ms. Beyer said that she had that day written forty checks to charities in sixteen different states. So far, the foundation had given $600,000 in scholarships. This is truly an international charity, as it has given grants in Canada, New Zealand, Mexico, Australia, and the U.S. As Joni became “Million Dollar Lips,” her commitment to helping other women grew. Beyer proudly stated that as a single mother, Joni had known privation and struggle, but “as her business grew, so did her heart.”

On Monday afternoon, Sapulpa Times was given a private tour of the facility and the inside scoop of the future plans for the home and of The Foundation itself.

The outside of the three-story, plantation-style home (reminiscent of the owner’s Tennessee roots) has been recently re-roofed and painted. Some tornado damage can be seen in the front railings and some missing shrubbery and tree limbs. The wide, inviting white-washed porch is still intact.

The house was built in 1911, which is actually the era past Victorian, the Edwardian. Inside, the foyer displays the original, elaborate, hand-carved mahogany (now an endangered tree) columns and tall Victorian-style doorways. There are several paintings throughout the home from Rogers-Kante’s “personal collection.” A giant pastoral painting in the foyer in a gilded frame is in the exact right spot.

Moving into the living room, there is a baby grand piano and modern seating. The brightly-colored, cut-glass and stained-glass windows are original throughout. Tiffany lighting hangs overhead, and the fireplace sconces (one fitted for gas, and the other, electric) speak of a time when electricity was considered a passing fad. The pièces de résistance are the canvas walls, hand-painted with pastel flowers and ribbons, by European hand-craftsmen, and still bringing with them a timeless calm and beauty seen only in magnificent homes of the era.

Further back, tall pocket doors separate the living room from the “Card Room,” where Mr. Bates entertained his oil-men friends, drinking, smoking, and playing cards. Embedded in the paintings are images of cards and coats-of-arm, along with beribboned flowers. There remains a 14-carat gold “B” in the side door, which matched the one missing from the front door.

The dining room boasts more Tiffany lamps, built-in cabinetry, a Tiffany glass pass-through to the kitchen, and perfect wooden floors. Now, it is outfitted with several modern tables and chairs to accommodate meetings.

On through to the kitchen, which previously delivered excellent luncheon fare to the lucky ones who ate at “Miss Scarlett’s Tea Room.” Now, it is a shambles, gutted in expectation of a commercial kitchen. Still, the large, high windows, the vintage “ice-box” for back-door delivery and front-door retrieval of blocks of ice, the beautiful woodwork, speak of an era long past. There is a decorative, radiator-like “food warmer.” Of course, the radiators no longer function, since the building has been updated with central heat and air for modern ideals of comfort.

Speaking of comfort, the home hosted many parties in the 15 years Mr. Burnett lived there. It was an important “watering hole” among the rich, influential, and famous men of the area. Mr. Burnett was particularly active in wresting the Creek County seat from Bristow to Sapulpa.

Back to the stairs, which lead to the bedrooms and ballroom, the lady of the house, Dannie Ross Burnett, insisted that the magnificent stairway be rebuilt no less than eight times to finally pass her rigorous specifications.

Upstairs large, dark paintings grace the walls, and each bedroom holds vintage furniture, although most are not original to the house. There are claw-footed tubs, wooden floors with hand-cut designs, and large closets (for the period). There are narrow, private stairs from which the staff gained access to the rooms upstairs. Private balconies overlook downtown Sapulpa and the rear gardens.

Continuing up to the third floor, Mrs. Beyer showed off the ballroom with its numerous storage cubbies, and built-in benches. She said it was a “floating” ballroom with spring-loaded floors perfect for dancing. The Burnett’s only daughter, Katherine, practiced ballet there, in between her parents’ elaborate parties.

There is also a full basement used for storage and storm survival.

This lovely home is a place to savor, to relax in, and imagine a more peaceful life. As the headquarters of The Make Sense Foundation, the upstairs will be used for offices, perhaps, for staff when there is one, perhaps an executive officer for Mr. Kante.

The first floor will eventually be rented out for occasions, perhaps weddings, fund-raisers, and Christmas events. The stairway is naturally inviting for wedding photographs, possibly graduations, or promotion photographs for the SeneGence “Ladies.”

It was an honor to be able to get acquainted up close with this gem of architecture and craftsmanship and the Sapulpa Times looks forward to covering events there in the future, as SeneGence International and The Make Sense Foundation continue to give back to the community.