No Kokopelli in this home

Tucson couple lives and breathes Old West in 1930s ranch
2013-02-17T00:00:00Z 2014-08-20T09:59:58Z No Kokopelli in this homeDan Sorenson Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Just as sure as "You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger" there will be no flute-playing Kokopellis, neckerchiefed coyotes nor stick ladders-to-nowhere in Julie and Jeff Albiniak's midtown home.

"No, Kokopelli and coyotes are not Western," says Julie, about the total lack of turquoise paint and Santa Fe feel. Don't even get her started on that.

Their 2,600-square-foot Cecil Moore-designed brick ranch house, with white plaster walls and dark exposed beams and lintels, is comforting and a tribute to cowboy culture. The 1930s midtown home is done wall-to-wall in mostly old - much of it antique and nearly all authentic - Western furniture, art, crafts and paraphernalia. Some of it is from the 1800s Old West, and much of the rest from the 1920s-, '30s- and '40s-era Hollywood version of those times.

"My wife is a huge fan of the Western and cowgirl lifestyle and has taken that enthusiasm to a high degree," says Jeff. He adds, with a laugh, that that might be an understatement.

Some of the pieces could be in a museum, some are just whimsical.

They don't have Roy Rogers' horse, Trigger, stuffed and lurking in any of the home's dimly lit rooms. But in the living room, there is a Wenzel Friedrich cow-horn (longhorn, of course) chair and ottoman - all cow horn, except for the tan-and-white cowhide cushions. The work of Texan Friedrich, a German immigrant who turned cow-component furniture into art in the late 1800s and early 1900s, is now studied by academics. The Albiniaks have a brochure about Friedrich's work published by a university scholar who studies such things.

On a stand in the living room, there's a beautiful Western saddle made by the Bohlin Co., which, Julie said, made nearly all the saddles and silverwork for the Hollywood cowboys of the '20s and '30s. "Edward Bohlin, he was the saddle maker to the stars. He made most of the silvered saddles for Roy Rogers and Gene Autry."

But nearby is a ghoulish mannequin they call Black Bart, a red-eyed zombie-looking cowboy in a black duster, vest and red tie and hat.

Some of the Albiniaks' Western furniture - plain, deep brown leather and simple, dark-stained wood, could co-exist with Craftsman/Arts & Crafts decor. There are some Victorian-style pieces, such as a tasseled lampshade in the living room - fitting, since that period coincided with the move West.

The living room also features a large coffee table with a glass top over a hand-tooled leather and brass tack scene by Silvertip of Glorieta, N.M.

One piece more and some rooms would be cluttered, but the effect is comforting to someone who grew up in the days of movie and television "horse operas." And it is definitely of one era and style, not a hodgepodge. Anything not from the Western period of the early to mid-1900s blends well.

The interest in all-things-Western evolved from childhood but is facilitated by their careers. Julie moved to Tucson from Minnesota when she was 4 years old and says she's always been fascinated with the West. She is now a property manager but is the former owner of Running Horse, a Southwest and Indian arts store that was in Crossroads Center for 10 years.

Jeff, who moved to Tucson from Chicago in 1974, is "an antiques dealer specializing in militaria, all things military," with space inside Copper Country Antique Mall, 5055 E. Speedway. He says he was also "allowed" a a corner of the family room where he displays some of his favorite military pieces, mostly Civil War-era items in a old glass display cabinet.

The mostly Western theme goes beyond the furniture and art. All the doors are plank-style with wrought-iron thumb latches, not a door knob in sight.

The floors are either dark stained concrete, scored to look like tile, or painted Mexican hard-glazed tile, typical of early to mid-1900s Tucson. They appear to be the original flooring materials, having survived most of a century intact. The couple said the house appeared to have been well-cared for since it was built, and virtually none of the original features was remodeled, except for the kitchen and bathrooms.

A guest bedroom is a tribute to the cowgirl life, says Julie. There's a hand-tooled, deep-relief headboard, also by Silvertip. The framed art and documents on the bedroom's walls include some movie posters and other Hollywood documents - "Tim Holt 2/3 The Rider from Tucson," a Barbara (of "The Big Valley") Stanwyck poster from when she played the lead in "Annie Oakley," and Dale Evans' (she was Roy Rogers' wife, pilgrim) framed multipage contract with the William Morris Agency.

The finishing touch is the adjoining bathroom, with an authentic, late-1800s nickel-clad, clawfoot tub from a Texas ranch house. "I was told some rich man in Texas had it sent out for his wife, and she ran off with somebody and it was never used," says Julie. No carrying buckets of steaming water from the cook stove needed, however, as the tub is equipped with an old faucet a plumber was able to connect to the home's pipes.

Outside is a modest-size pool, but it's done up Western style, too, with a flat-topped hitching post (read "bar") at one end. Nearby is a pair of 4-foot-tall cowboy boots, modeled after a pair of Julie's, one of which is tipped on its side and used to return water to the pool from the filter.

A wall at the bar end of the pool has "Happy Trails" written in rope script.

And that, they say, is what the place is all about - a great place to entertain and share their interests with friends.

"My wife is a huge fan of the Western and cowgirl lifestyle and has taken that enthusiasm to a high degree."

Jeff Albiniak,

speaking of Julie

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