What can Tulsa learn from this terrible loss?
A request for a demolition permit was filed on Friday, the 23rd of September 2022. Without legal power to deny the request, the City of Oklahoma City approved the permit first thing on Monday morning, the 26th of September. Apparently just minutes later, the destruction began. People stopped and gathered to watch in shock and disbelief as the world-famous “Church of Tomorrow”, also known as the “Egg Church”, was reduced to rubble.
The Tulsa Skyride narrowly avoided a similar surprise demolition just months ago. However, the skyride remains under threat while a call for it soon to be put up for sale on auction could derail any process for finding and implementing a solution for returning the skyride to service.
Oklahoma City’s Church of Tomorrow was completed in 1956. Right away it became a major landmark. In 1995, the church served as an important refuge during rescue and recovery operations following the bombing of the Oklahoma City Murrah Building.
For a long time, people in Oklahoma City had sought protection for this cherished landmark. Despite all their hard work over the years, the unique building was suddenly gone without any notice. This happened despite the city government favoring the preservation of this architectural treasure. But the city was not the owner of the property and it was the owner’s right to demolish the building under the law.
In contrast, the Tulsa Skyride is owned by the people of Tulsa County, with the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority charged with oversight of assets such as the skyride. There is no private owner of the Tulsa Skyride to assert any right to demolish it like what happened to the First Christian Church of Tomorrow in Oklahoma City. This is why it is critically important for you to contact the Tulsa County Commissioners and urge them to save your skyride. It’s equally important that you get all of your friends and family to do the same. We don’t want to see a demolished Tulsa Skyride all over the news like the Oklahoma City First Christian Church of Tomorrow has been this week.
What really struck me about the news coverage of the destruction of the beloved “Egg Church” was the emphasis on the grief expressed by city officials along with the people of Oklahoma City.
Our landmarks are important to us and our communities. They are a common reference point for all of us, part of our shared experiences and treasured memories. When they are taken from us, the feeling of loss is real. It leaves wounds that don’t easily or quickly heal, like the case of San Antonio after the city lost its skyride.
Although the chances are slim, the Oklahoma City “Church of Tomorrow” at least has the possibility to be rebuilt. The plans and drawings still exist. Tulsa’s Von Roll skyride, however, cannot be rebuilt and cannot operate anywhere else in the United States but where it currently stands.
Tulsa, save your skyride. Contact your County Commissioners today. And make sure that all your friends and family do the same. The historic Tulsa Skyride should be saved for all of us.
Special thanks go to Charles Hathaway for the use of his photos of the Oklahoma City First Christian Church of Tomorrow.
For more information on the history of Oklahoma City’s First Christian Church of Tomorrow, go to https://www.oklahomamodern.us/2010/02/okcs-unique-first-christian-church.html .