OKC Council to Consider Demolition of Jewel Theater

By Bailey, Brianna | THE JOURNAL RECORD, March 8, 2012 | Go to article overview

OKC Council to Consider Demolition of Jewel Theater


Bailey, Brianna, THE JOURNAL RECORD


City officials are considering bulldozing a historic but long shuttered movie theater and beauty salon that are two of the last remaining relics of segregation here.

A few small trees are growing out of the barrel-vaulted roof of the Jewel Theater at 904 NE Fourth St. and its brick facade is crumbling, but a red neon sign still hangs over the sidewalk.

The Oklahoma City Council is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to declare the Jewel a dilapidated structure, as well as the old Ora's Beauty Salon building next door at 830 NE Fourth St. Both buildings would be slated for eventual demolition should the City Council approve.

"It's one of those situation where the council has to make the determination if there is anybody out there who can rectify the situation or they will have to make a decision for the safety of the public," said Russell Claus, Oklahoma City planning director.

A property owner can ask the city for more time to repair a dilapidated building, but they have to be able to prove they are willing and have the means to fix up the property, Claus said.

The theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. It is the only one of three black movie theaters in the city that are still standing. The area along NE Fourth was once a thriving black commercial district.

"It's the very last thing there that represents that legacy of segregation," Bob Blackburn, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, said of the theater. "We have to remember that racism was a part of our culture then as it is now and to remember what one part of the community was doing to another is important."

A vintage 1930s film project that was once used in the Jewel Theater is now on display at the Oklahoma History Center.

Anchorage, Alaska, resident Jewel Jones' grandparents Hathyel and Percy James built the theater in July 1931. …

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