By Nancy Peevy | Photos by Chadwick Turner

The Ultimate in Lake Living

This Tulsa couple hosts family and friends for gatherings and celebrations at their historic house on Beaver Lake
Exterior 01.jpg

It’s rare for Gina and Clayton Hughes to be at their lake house without inviting a bunch of company.


“The lake, for us, is a place to gather — gather friends, gather family and have a great time,” Gina said.


“Whether it’s our family or our very close friends, or it’s celebrating my friends’ children with wedding or baby showers, it’s what we do out there,” Gina said, adding the house plus the deck can hold 60 people without feeling too crowded. “We have a lot of friends in Fayetteville that we went to school with, and it’s nice to have six to eight couples over and grill and enjoy a nice dinner. We’ve been friends for 40-plus years, and it’s a great way to stay together.”


Gina and Clayton both grew up in Fayetteville and attended the University of Arkansas. They married in 1985 after graduation and both eventually moved to Tulsa where Clayton is an owner of InServ, an industrial construction company.


Their children, Kathleen and twins Carmen and Cliff, grew up in Tulsa, but since Clayton and Gina’s extended families were still in Fayetteville, the Hugheses were back and forth a lot. For a while they had a house at War Eagle but wanted a lakefront home and loved the serenity of Beaver Lake.

Living Room 08.jpg
Entry way 13.jpg

“We were always boating around, looking for a place,” Gina said. “We probably looked at this house three times and would pull up in the boat with the realtor and walk up. It was just so out of date and had been vacant for several years, and all I could see was the work it was going to take to get it in shape. But we just couldn’t find another place that was waterfront with a boat house, and so I said to Clayton, we could totally re-do it. So, we bought it.”


The house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has an interesting history. Willis Shaw, founder of Willis Shaw Logistics and an original member of the Beaver Dam Association Board of Directors, bought the land before Beaver Lake was built, knowing it would be lakefront property one day.


In 1967 he commissioned his son’s friend Robert E. Herndon, then a U of A architecture student, to design the house to be used as a weekend retreat. At the time, it was common for architecture students to receive commissions to design local houses.


Herndon studied under John G. Williams and E. Fay Jones, both influenced by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who believed buildings should blend in with their natural surroundings. Herndon designed the home in Wright’s Prairie style architecture, which had a major influence on Mid-Century Modern designs. Typical of the style, the house sits below the crest of the hill and the driveway, allowing visitors to see over it to enjoy the lake view. Wood, stone and glass throughout the house make it appear as part of the landscape, and windows cover the back for scenic views of the lake.

Kitchen 05.jpg

A year after moving in, the Shaws commissioned Herndon to create an addition that included a recreation room and indoor pool. Herndon connected the main house to the new area with a fully enclosed, all-glass walkway, including a glass roof.


In 1979, Jim and Diane Blair purchased the house. Their friends Bill and Hillary Clinton frequently vacationed at the home while Bill Clinton was governor and president. During his stay as president, Clinton used the desk in one of the bedrooms to send the first email to outer space as John Glenn was orbiting the earth. A signed photo of Clinton sending the email is on the bedroom desk.


Jim Blair sold the house to the Tyson Corporation in 2005. In 2010, the Hugheses bought the 4,700-square-foot home on 19 acres.


Wanting to maintain the integrity of the house, Gina kept the character of it, not changing the architecture at all. “Mostly we re-did floors, countertops, light fixtures, and brought it up to date,” she said.

Ktichen Nook 07.jpg
Dining room 09.jpg

The Hugheses also covered the pool over with slate tiles and added a half wall, creating an additional main suite, sitting area and main bath. In the kitchen, they replaced a planter overlooking the den with an eating bar complete with decorative ironwork in a tree motif, created by Layne McCutcheon with McCutcheon Custom Iron Works. The same design is found on the stairs, deck railing and gated entrance to the property.


Cookouts, ski lessons on the lake, sunset boat rides and evening cocktails on the deck are all part of lake life for the Hughes family. Early mornings find Gina sipping coffee on the deck while Clayton fishes.


“It’s a fun place to gather and have a good time, relax, communicate, enjoy nature and enjoy life,” Gina said. “When we’re on Beaver Lake or Hickory Creek, it takes me back to when I was a teenager hanging out there. It’s just quiet and peaceful, and the people are so friendly. It’s an easy place to be.”

Master bedroom 02.jpg
Sitting area in Master 03.jpg

This July, the Hugheses will host their 13th annual Fourth of July celebration at the house with about 40 family members and close friends. Boating, fishing, paddle boarding, and water slides for the kids will fill up the day, capped off with fireworks over the lake.


Now there are three grandchildren under the age of three to enjoy the lake with the close-knit family. “Hopefully, we will instill the love of the lake in them,” Gina said, laughing.


Pointing out the “Circle H,” the family logo, on the entrance to the long drive leading to the house, Gina said, “When I pull up and see that gate, everything melts away. You’re entering this long drive into what you know is going to be very relaxing time.”

Kids room 14.jpg
Bathroom 16.jpg
Master Bathroom 04.jpg
Exterior view 11.jpg

Special thanks to these home pros:
Renovation builder Gary Striegler of Craftsman Builders, designer Cheri Sitton of Double Eagle Design, Cathy Arnold for the specialty wall finishes, Ferguson Plumbing, and Layne McCutcheon of McCutcheon Custom Iron Works.