Historic Oklahoma City church demolished early last week

Preservationists protest the demolition of the historic Oklahoma City church but were ultimately unsuccessful.

On Monday Sep. 26, an iconic Oklahoma City structure was demolished after standing since 1956. Known as the egg church, First Christian Church was torn down within the same day its permit to be destroyed was approved.

Sitting at Walker Ave. and Northwest 36th St., the place of worship was well-recognized for its avant-garde architecture featuring a dome atop the main entry designed by Conner & Pojezny. Many residents say the dome gave it character and that it made the city special.

Local activist Mark Faulk was interviewed by KOCO 5 News following the demolition. He has been outspoken about this project since the beginning of its demolition threats years prior.

“You get it approved at 8:01, and they’re tearing it down at 8:02,” Faulk said. “There’s not another building like it in the entire world, and as we bulldoze all of our history in Oklahoma City, we’re taking our character away.”

After the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995, First Christian Church was a location of refuge, where numerous families went to be reunited or sought medical and resourceful support. Over the course of 16 days, the American Red Cross worked out of its walls. For a period of time, the church also doubled as a preschool where Oklahoma City residents were educated. It was more than a space meant for those of a specific religion.

In 2016, the church was placed on the market, where it sat dormant for years. The upkeep expenses were massive, forcing the owners to recognize the extent of its overall cost. One of these costs was the asbestos removal effect that had been ongoing.

Crossings Community Church approached the market in 2019 and considered buying the church to turn it into another location. Months later, they declined the purchase, saying “the overall cost was much higher than we anticipated.”

Around the same time, an owner focused on redevelopment considered the purchase, but also it fell through, sparking the conversation on what would ultimately come of the church.

Petitions supporting the church have been flooded in an attempt to prevent its demolition, including getting the church on the National Register of Historic Places. But this does not protect the church when it is under a non-federal owner, such as in this scenario. This is the second landmark in Oklahoma City on the National Register of Historic Places to be demolished, after John M. Johansen’s Mummers Theater.

The Architect’s Newspaper reached out to Chantry Banks, the executive director of Preservation Oklahoma to get a statement.

“We are saddened by the sudden demolition of the First Christian Church here in Oklahoma City,” Banks said. “Several concerned citizens in the community had been assured over the last few months that the structure was safe and nothing was being done, except for asbestos abatement.”

Banks then goes on to describe how actions were being done to make the church look more desirable for a buyer, and within weeks before its demolition, the church was receiving offers. It seemed that the offers would go through, but instead, a demolition permit was obtained, and the church was down within the hour. Banks described how there were no barriers during the demolition, and people were walking freely to view it.

“I hope that looking forward our city council and people in charge in Oklahoma City will stop and think about what makes the city special, and it’s not another condo project, and it’s not another convenience store, and it’s not another Starbucks,” Faulk said.

There are no current public announcements on what will be built in replacement.

Post Author: Myranda New