|City/Town: • Oklahoma City|
|Location Class: • Commercial|
|Year Built: • 1960 | Year Abandoned: • 1986|
|Historic Designation: • African American Heritage Site|
|Status: • Abandoned|
|Photojournalist: • Cody Cooper • Billy Dixon • Michael Schwarz|
The Bryant Center was an idea thought up by two businessmen, H.T. Greenhaw and Ferrill Martin. Opening as Bryant Recreational Center which would become a place of entertainment for the mostly African American community in the Northeast side of Oklahoma City. Including a modern bowling alley, a huge auditorium with a capacity of 2,500 guests, restaurant and snack bar, and a private dining club. The grand opening was held on September 18, 1960, with a crowd of a few hundred enthusiastic patrons. It was the first building to be erected on the site of what was supposed to be a multi-million dollar shopping center. The part of the center that housed the bowling alley was called Bryant Bowl, it flaunted vibrant colors and 16 lanes with automatic pin-setters. The second floor was a more sophisticated vibe where the private club, club room, and lounge located up the ebony-suspended staircase.
The Bryant Recreational Center was not just a hub for entertainment, it became the epicenter of life for the long-suppressed African American community. This wonderful addition was the epicenter of Black events on the Eastside, allegedly holding “Miss Black Oklahoma” there and a speech by Martin Luther King Sr. who spoke for the candidacy of Clara Luper, a local Civil Rights activist, for Congress. Despite its success in the beginning the recreation center was closed and soon after the YMCA took it over running the property until 1986. It was then sold off to a holding company in 1989 where it has continued to sit for almost three decades deteriorating more and more. A new and improved Bryant Center was relocated a few streets over.