By Jeanne LeFlore
The Grand Avenue Methodist Church is for sale with the anticipation that buyers will not destroy the historical building but keep the memory and the culture of the church alive.
“We are asking $250,000,” said Dr. Charles Neff senior pastor.
“The hope is that the church won’t have to be demolished,” Neff said. “My hope is that if there is not a church that wants it, that an individual or group of individuals can use the building to form a museum or cultural heritage center that the community would benefit from.”
The church, with more than 40,000 square feet, is in good repair, according to Neff and will be sold with “some but not all furnishings.” He said church has been properly maintained and there are no structural problems that he is aware of.
The giant pipe organ is for sale with a $25,000 asking price and the stain glass windows will be removed and reinstalled into the congregations new church on 13th and MacArthur across from Mike Deak Field.
The doors are set to close in the next few months but in January of 1924 the people of McAlester waited to enter to see the magnificent building from the inside.
They watched and waited for a year as the church was constructed and finally on Sunday morning, January 6, 1924, the church opened it’s doors “to a warm and royal welcome to all” with special music by the choir as Reverend R.C. Taylor preached to the new congregation, ccording to the News-Capital.
The paper reported that “The church is not only a model of beauty, but it is complete in every detail of modern appointment from basement to auditorium. Built of a dark rough-surfaced terra-cotta brick and trimmed in Carthage stone with massive Doric columns of Carthage stone in front, it embodies in one of the Roman, Grecian and Southern type of architecture.”
The church was not entirely complete when the doors opened as the pipe organ wasn’t yet shipped.
“When it is entirely completed including the installation of the giant pipe organ it will have cost approximately $125,000,” according to a 1924 News-Capital article.
The original congregation was a combination of two churches, when members of the Mary Phillips Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church and the Grand Avenue Methodist church united and moved into the Grand Avenue Sanctuary.
One of the first building campaigns began in 1919, when the Rev. Walter Douglass pastor of the Mary Phillips Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South told his congregation that in order to grow, they would need a new modern church.
“It is impossible to do church work as it was done fifty years ago,” Douglass said. “Business and social life and every phase of life has revolutionized within the last few years. The church is not keeping pace with the business world.”
“I bring you this message, This church will erect an adequate building and train it’s leaders for service or the coming generation will be lost.”
A 1919 advertisement said, “Visualize a $75,000 church and Christian center on the northwest corner of Third and Grand ... don’t think that because you are a non-member or even a non-believer that you will be missed in the canvass.” The newspaper reported that the lot of the old C.B. Stuart home for the church was purchased by the church for $10,000.
Today the church still stands in its original glory with some changes, according to Neff.
“There is an elevator to all four floors a balcony has been removed. He said the opera style seating chairs were replaced with pews in the 1970s. The pianos have been sold or given away to those also in ministry,
Neff said the church began entertaining the idea of a move since Easter of 2008 when as a group they decided to relocate and first phase of the new First Methodist Church of McAlester is expected to open in August with a Grand Opening in September.
To say good bye to the old and to welcome the new is nothing new as members of another church moved to it’s new sanctuary in 1924, according to the News-Capital.
“And though the entire congregation looks forward now to the pleasure and high anticipations to their entrance to the splendid new edifice of Grand Avenue, yet with all the older members there is a golden flood of hallowed recollections to be stored away in memory’s casket as the say ‘Good Bye Phillips Memorial.’”
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Contact Jeanne LeFlore at firstname.lastname@example.org.