John Duncan Forsyth was born in 1886 in Florence, Italy. He received his training at Edinburgh College, Scotland, and at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France. He practiced in Tulsa and the surrounding areas from 1925 until his death in 1963.
Forsyth designed several homes in Tulsa including his own residence at 29th and Birmingham. In addition, he designed Southern Hills Country Club (1936 with D. McCormick) at the corner of 61st and Lewis, All Souls Unitarian Church (1957) at the corner of 30th and Peoria and Daniel Webster High School (1938 with W. Wolaver and R. Kerr) at 1919 West 40th. He is perhaps best known as the designer of the Marland Mansion in Ponca City (1926) and the Will Rogers Memorial in Claremore (1938).
During the 1930s the city of Bartlesville was trying to solve a crowding problem at its junior-senior high school and also provide work for at least 100 men through Franklin Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. City leaders approved a plan to construct new buildings for a senior high school and junior college on more than 20 acres at 17th and Hillcrest. They hired John Duncan Forsyth to design the structure.
Forsyth used the Streamline Art Deco style, as he did for the Daniel Webster High School in Tulsa. The two schools share many of the same interior architectural elements.
The high school’s main building contained classrooms and an auditorium. A field house contained classrooms for physical education, band, orchestra and industrial arts. The Frank Phillips Foundation contributed $55,000 to pay for the field house, which served for a while as the home court for the Phillips 66ers basketball team.
The buildings exterior surfaces were constructed of reinforced monolithic concrete. Inside the main building, the floors were marbleized asphalt tile with terrazzo stairwells and glazed tile wainscoting along the corridors. Each classroom was unique and suited to a specific purpose.
Many additions and renovations have been made to the original structure. In 2002 Bartlesville voters approved a $30 million school bond issue for construction of a new fine arts building, science wing, athletic fields and parking.