|City/Town: • Edmond|
|Location Class: • Church|
|Year Built: • 1951 | Year Abandoned: • 1989|
|Status: • Under Renovation|
|Photojournalist: • Cody Cooper • Justin Tyler Moore • Billy Dixon|
This modern church on the prairie is an architectural icon, a tribute to the ingenuity of architect Bruce Goff, and to the congregation that brought his design to life. This place matters to its community, to Oklahoma, and to modern architecture lovers.
This unique treasure, designed by Bruce Goff while Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, was completed in 1951, and listed on the NRHP in 2002. Goff’s renowned ability to utilize locally collected scrap material, in this case fragments of old drill pipe, native fieldstone, and even an aluminum cake pan that was transformed into a chandelier, was ideal for a small community church in need of a new place of worship. Goff was able to design a structure that reflected the community which he served: the teepee shape of the conical sanctuary is a tribute to the Native American roots, while the old oilfield equipment is a testament to the rich history of oil and gas exploration within Oklahoma.
One of the fascinating facts about this church is that while designed by a famous and highly skilled architect, construction of the church was completed entirely by volunteers from the church congregation. Led by Chairman of the Board of Deacons (and a foreman for a local oil company), J.R. “Ike” Thomas, this church was a labor of love, with the job lasting 4 years before completion. This iconic church was featured in TIME magazine in 1955, and was named 1959’s “Rural Church of the Year” by the Oklahoma Baptist General Convention.
The church has stood empty since 1989, with the congregation using a neighboring structure for worship. While extensive study of the condition, history, and design of the building has been completed, physical deterioration will continue until funds can be secured to begin restoration work. The longer it remains empty and unattended, the worse the need for repairs grows. It would truly be a tragedy for this rare and fascinating structure by an architect of such prestige to be lost. Until it is restored, objects like the reception chairs will sit empty, accumulating dust and wear. The ceilings, roof and structure will continue to erode creating more debris on chairs, floors and other artistic pieces of the once grand architecture.