Boston Avenue United Methodist church was founded in 1893 as a brush arbor, organized by Rev. E.B. Chenoweth as the Methodist Episcopal Church. The brush arbor was latter replaced by a small building later that year. A few years later in 1906, a new site was chosen on 5th and Boston, leading to the name Boston Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, South. The church soon outgrew this building, in the 1920’s the church started looking for a new design for a new church building, which leads to a fairly well known controversy which is still being debated.
Mr. C.C. Cole was appointed as the chairman of building committee in 1925, spent time traveling to great churches looking for the right design, according to an article in the Tulsa World Newspaper. After rejecting many designs, Mrs. Cole confided in her friend, Adah Robinson. Robinson returned a few days later with a sketch for the new church. As an art instructor, she had an art deco design that was very forward at the time, including the unique round sanctuary. In 1927, a campaign to raise funds to build a new church on the corner of 13th and Boston began. Dr. John Rice, the minister at the time, had strongly desired this new triangular piece of land, where the church would remain to this day. Dr. Rice gave Robinson books on Methodism, the Wesley’s, and the early circuit riders of the church. She studied this information for months and with this knowledge, she began to understand the church’s purpose. She then created sculptures of the Wesley’s that are above the north and south entrances.
Robinson selected some of her students to assist with the creation of her designs, among them Bruce Goff who was an employee of the architectural firm commissioned for the project, Rush, Endecott and Rush. They had a close relationship, being known to address her as “mother.” Their relationship was soon damaged because Goff had taken some of her unsigned designs and put his name to them, of which she forgave him. Later, Robinson returned from a hospital stay during the construction to find many of her designs had been changed and she lost her temper. This led to her taking on a much larger role in the project. This begins the ongoing controversy. Two years after the church was dedicated, Goff went to Chicago, only to return and claim credit for the design.
The Tulsa Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to Goff dated July 3, 1941. The letter read “Study of certain church records and a direct conversation with Miss Robinson and Mr. Cole reveal that unquestionably you were active in this enterprise. However, there is no evidence pointing to your being either the original or the exclusive designer.” The church and Robinson refused to engage in the controversy that Goff and his followers made over the credit for the design. Cole later wrote, “I doubt that Goff, at the time, had any idea what it all meant, or knew anything about the Wesley’s or any other early church leaders.”
The cathedral was finished in 1929. The Great Depression of the 1930’s took its toll on the church and it was only due to the generosity of its members during unspeakably difficult times that they were able to hold on to the church. The church was officially dedicated as debt free in 1946 and remains so to this day. Many changes have been made as the church has grown over the years, while maintaining the original design and unique character of the building. During the 1960’s elevators, new offices, and children’s buildings were added, making it the largest cantilevered building west of the Mississippi. The church was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1978. The 1990’s was another time of growth for the church, purchasing the surrounding land for parking. In 1993, murals were added in thee art deco style to commemorate the 100th anniversary. 1999 Boston Avenue was officially designated as a National Historic Landmark.
In 2000, a somewhat lost tradition was revived in the finished columbarium. The vault for cremains has the beautiful stained glass design that can be found throughout the church. A tribute to the origins of the church can be found in the arbor that is centered in the room. The same design and theme can be found throughout the church. The rose colors in the glass, the praying hands which are open to receive God’s love, the angled arches that suggest the blessing of God upon those who pass beneath, are a few of the unique attributes in the church. Many of the original features of the church, such as the floors, were once covered with carpet, but have since been restored to their original beauty. Boston Avenue also has their own archives as well as historical artifacts from the church leaders of times past on display.
The church building has many unique features and much history to offer its members and visitors. The leadership and congregation of Boston Avenue also have much to offer the community. The church offers interfaith events to bring together different religions to have respectful and open dialogue. Breaking down racial tensions in the community is another goal of the church by sponsoring events and facilitating an open dialogue. The church also works to combat poverty in the community by offering meals, services and other community based services. They also provide a music program that provides instruments, instruction and transportation to students in the community. More information can be found on the church’s website http://www.bostonavenue.org/.