Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

These Walls: Tulsa's GAST Center

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

These Walls: Tulsa's GAST Center

Article excerpt

With the First Church of Christ, Scientist enjoying steady growth during Tulsa's golden age, paying off its mortgage in just three years, the church leadership decided to plant a second footprint in the city outskirts, a budding area now known as the Gillette Historical District.

Their vision broke from the Greek and Roman elements dominating downtown's First Church. For 15th Street's forested setting just east of Lewis Avenue, the Christian Scientists chose a stout Gothic style, with massive blocks of Carthage, Mo., limestone supporting a vaulted ceiling of thick wood ribs. Polished walnut rooms provided entryway coat and crying areas, while the basement offered a broad community room.

Starting construction in 1927, just four years after downtown's stone dome debut, the Christian Scientists raised the beautiful red- roofed sanctuary in two years. Although Teapot Dome and the Wall Street crash foretold the nation's economic peril, worshippers at the 6,200-square-foot shrine succeeded at paying off this $150,000 project and burning the mortgage in their first year.

For 60 years the Christian Scientists kept up the warm stone structure. But as their fortunes ebbed and membership dwindled, the congregation decided to sell that 1.5 acres at 1429 Terrace Dr. and merge with Tulsa's Sixth Church of Christ, Scientist.

That's when the German American Society of Tulsa came to the rescue. The growing 11-year-old organization wanted to buy a permanent home just as the Second Church came on the market, listed in 1991 at $740,000.

"We'd made quite a bit of money just selling sausages at Octoberfest and Mayfest," said Lois Voeller, who with her husband, Albinus, helped found the GAST. "But we didn't pay that much."

While some businesses craved the corner lot for its high traffic counts, the Voellers appreciated the architectural splendor of that Christian Scientist structure, its Lutheran-like shadows seeming right at home to the German community. Seeking to preserve the striking stonework, the society landed the property for $365,000 cash. …

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