Not long ago my friend and I were driving home from an event downtown and started chatting about the beautiful old church buildings in Oklahoma City. The next day I stumbled on a post about a Historic Oklahoma City Church Tour that would be a fundraiser for Good Shepherd Ministries. It was fate, we had to go!
We were invited to tour eight Oklahoma City Churches; First Presbyterian, City Pres, St. Joseph Old Cathedral, First Church, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Frontline, First Lutheran, and First Baptist. While it was a self-guided tour, there was a schedule to follow if we wanted to hear a presentation at each Oklahoma City church. We took advantage of that when we could. Here’s a snippet of what we learned at each stop;
First Presbyterian Church at 1001 NW 25th Street was our first stop. As soon as we entered the church we were in awe of the majestic stained glass windows. During the presentation we learned that the glass windows were made by the Willet Stained Glass Studio. We also learned that the congregation established right after the land run with their first building near Main Street and Robinson. The move to the current location came in the 1950’s as it was the exact center of all congregation members.
City Presbyterian Church (City Pres) at 829 NW 13th Street was our next stop and we had a hard time finding it, I bet we drove right past it twice because it just doesn’t look like a church from the street. The property has had an interesting evolution. The building was built in 1920 as home to Park Congregational Church which became Pilgrim Congregational Church. Then in the 70’s it was purchased by a local architect who used part of the building as office space and rented out the worship space. Before selling it in the late 80’s they tried to convert it to residential space which didn’t take off. In 2000, doctors purchased the property intent on renovating it into a health spa. They even added an indoor pool (it’s behind the stage and has never held water), sauna and steam room! The spa was unsuccessful and was auctioned. City Pres bought and renovated the building in 2013 holding their first service in 2014.
St. Joseph Old Cathedral at 307 NW 4th Street is a parish church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The congregation was also established soon after the land run of 1889. Construction of the first building began a year later. A larger church was then built in 1904. The building neighbors the site of the April 19th bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. We were told that the explosion raised the roof several inches and shattered most of the stained glass on the east side of the building which has been replaced. So, the glass on the west side is still original and the glass on the east side is new.
First Church at 131 NW 4th Street began soon after the Land Run as the First Methodist Church of Oklahoma City. We started our tour of the church in their recently dedicated worship hall. The new facility has a capacity of almost 1000 people and has hosted many weddings and graduation ceremonies for the community. We were told that the aisles were actually designed with brides in mind. The new worship hall became necessary on April 19th when they were also affected by the blast of the Murrah Federal Building which made their building uninhabitable.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at 127 NW 7th Street has served the community since 1904 in the same place. After the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, it was a triage site and place where responders could take a break and have a meal. We loved how intimate this church felt. Maybe it was the chorus singling softly in the background as they got ready for the upcoming meditative service or the light filtering in through the stained glass; it was simply warm and inviting.
Frontline at 1104 N. Robinson Avenue was designed by the same architect who designed the State Capitol, Andrew Solomon Layton; it had a dome before the State Capitol did! The building was built in 1911 for the First Christian Church who held their first service there in December of that year. After a brief run as City Church, the building sat vacant and in disrepair for several years. Frontline then purchased and renovated the building holding their first service in 2011.
First Lutheran Church at 1300 N. Robinson Avenue was built in 1913 as First English Lutheran Church. Not long after congregation members buried a Century Chest in the building’s basement that contained items from 1913 Oklahoma. It was a fundraiser to buy the church’s pipe organ that is still used today. The Century Chest was opened during a ceremony in April 2013. Many of the contents are now on exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center. During the tour, we were able to see where the chest was buried and some of the contents including books and packages addressed to descendents of 1913 Oklahoma City residents, very cool to see.
First Baptist Church at 1201 N. Robinson Avenue was built in 1912. The original site was near 3rd and Broadway. We were invited to tour their archives room where we saw pictures taken at the church over the years including the funerals of Wiley Post and Senator Robert S. Kerr which was attended by President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson.
We had a great time touring the Oklahoma City church tour. I highly recommend going next time.