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Christian Church, Enid, OK—times two

August 7, 2018

Though half of them have been replaced by newer and larger churches, Enid was once rich with A-A churches—or very good candidates for that status, but the documentation that would confirm my suspicions is sketchy. The “Foursquare” character of the city’s Christian church [Disciples of Christ] invites speculation about its interior organization. The two street facades aren’t quite book-matched, but the element that is most intriguing is on the far left side: barely peeking around that corner is the eave of a slightly sloped roof that could connote a Sunday school extension.

A short note—saying that plans were under consideration but not naming an architect—appeared in the 16 February 1916 issue of the Western Contractor, adding that it “will incl large Sunday school room”.

Now, having crafted a story based on this postcard image, I’m going to cast doubt on the entirety of it. Look at this image for Calvary Baptist church in Oklahoma City:

There are two answers: #1) the Enid postcard was incorrectly identified, or #2) an architect sold the same design to two different denominational clients in two cities. The OKC church was converted into law offices in 2013. The Waymarking site has this to say about the OKC church:

It was designed and built in 1922-1923 by Russell Benton Bingham (1880-1966), a graduate of the Tuskegee Institute in Architecture, and a member of the congregation, for a cost of $50,000. The style is Gothic Revival, with dark brick and lavishly decorated stone trim. It is primarily a square building, with a two-story sanctuary. Bi-level seating extends on three sides of the large room. All classrooms and offices are on the basement level. Beautiful stained glass windows are the focal point of the exterior. Many of the stained glass windows were destroyed during the Murrah Bombing in April of 1995, but have been replaced.

The building is also closely connected with the Civil Rights Movement.

So, now I’ll answer my own question. These are indeed two separate buildings and I say that for several reasons:

  1. Each building is situated on a street corner, but one of them is a “left hand” version, that is, it is on the left of the principle facade. The other is “right hand”; it is on the right of the main street elevation.
  2. Unless I’m misreading the lighting in each of this photographs, the facade of the OKC building is flatter, that is there is very little relief or three-dimensionality. Whereas, the Enid church appears to be more layered.
  3. A factor in that three-dimensionality at Enid is the contrasting white trim, which I’m guessing is glazed terra cotta. Oklahoma City, on the other hand, appears flat, that is, matt surfaced, less reflective (as glazed terra cotta would be) and the trim differs in detail. Notice, for example, the chevron or pennant-like elements in the small towers of the corner bays. Look also at the small niches between those chevrons: one is framed with trim; the other has only a stone sill.

My second suspicion appears to be correct: one design was built at two locations for two different denominational clients. Are they likely to have known about the replication: absolutely! One commission often begets another, as church building committees share their experiences with one another.

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