What Art Deco is at Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church?

Boston Avenue Methodist Church

Boston Avenue Methodist Church is a landmark with significant national reputation as one of the world’s top Art Deco Masterpieces. It was the first church in the country designed in a strictly American style of architecture

Boston Avenue Methodist Church
Address
:              1301 South Boston Avenue
Built:                     1929
Deco Style:         Zigzag
Motif:                 Gothic / Ecclesiastical
Architects:          Bruce Goff, Adah Robinson 
Artists:               Adah Robinson,  
                        Robert Garrison,
                        Angelo Gherardi, 
                        Richard Bohm
NRIS:                     78002270 , 1978
Web:                  http://www.bostonavenue.org/
Wiki:              
Boston Avenue Methodist Church – Wikipedia
Other:                 National Historic Landmark, 1999







Boston Avenue Methodist Church on Route 66 in Tulsa Oklahoma

The church design was the collaboration of Adah Robinson, a Tulsa Central High School art teacher, and her former student, architect Bruce Goff.  Robinson studied the history and traditions of the Methodist faith for a year in advance of developing the church design.  Her initial design sketches expanded by Goff into working, structural sound plans.

The church has a 250-foot center with west and east wing attachments.  On the east side is the Education Wing and on the west side is the semi-circle shaped sanctuary.   The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places (1978) and is Tulsa’s only National Historic Landmark (1999). The Church is a Zigzag Art Deco style building with strong vertical accents.  From distance gothic features seem prevalent but on closer inspection, it is clearly art deco.

Exterior Design

The Tower

Zigzag Vertical Emphasis
The most dominant feature of the church’s exterior is the 15 storied tower that houses office space.  Straight, vertical lines are emphasized by concrete columns.  This design suggests the church’s reaching up to God. 

Hands in Prayer
At the top of the tower, are finials representing hands raised upward in prayer.

Sixty – six pairs of praying hands are found in the ornamentation around the church exterior. 

The hands are open in prayer signifying the openness to receive God’s blessing.  At the top of the tower, is a steel and glass enclosure of windowpanes in a chevron pattern.
 
 



Art Deco Tower at Tulsa’s Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church.


Art Deco styled lanterns illuminate the property boundaries, steps and entry ways to the church.


















 

Buildings West Facade

West exterior at Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist.
Art Deco terracotta on the west exterior of Tulsa’s Boston Avenue Methodist Church.

Buildings South Entrance and Facade

Robert Garrison Statues
Above both the north and south doors are terra-cotta statues created by sculptor, Robert Garrison, a former student of Adah Robinson.

The south face of the building displays The Methodist Circuit Riders and a series of Worshipers in Prayer

Worshipers in Prayer
Three angled arched doorways are covered by the “Worshipers in Prayer” statues.  The architectural
elements such as the doors, porticos and pilasters
emphasize a vertical ascent to the heavens.  This implies  a connection with God as the tower transcends to the
heavens. 













 


The Circuit Riders
The “Circuit Riders” over the south doors are the representations of early Methodist evangelists spreading the word of God by horse back through Europe and America. The statue figures on each end represent two prominent early American Methodist ministers, Bishop William McKendrie, and Bishop Francis Asbury (America’s first Methodist Bishop). The rider in the center is symbolic of all the others who spread God’s word and is represented by a depiction of Reverend T.L. Darnell, an early American circuit rider, who was the father-in-Law of the church minister.









 

Buildings North Entrance and Facade

Above the north doors to the church sanctuary are two sets of terracotta figures of historical significance to Methodists. The upper terracotta statues are duplicates of the “Circuit Riders” statues found also on the north side of the church.

The Wesley’s
Above the north doors to the church sanctuary are two sets of terracotta figures of historical significance to Methodists. Above the triangular arched doors are the Portrait Sculptures of the Wesley’s.  In the center is John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church.  His mother, Susana Wesley is to the left and to the right is his brother, Charles Wesley who wrote over 1000 Methodist hymns.  The triangular elements in the columns suggest a blessing from God to all who enter these doors.
The terracotta “Wesley’s Sculpture” at Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church

West Face / Sanctuary

West exterior at Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist.
Art Deco terracotta on the west exterior of Tulsa’s Boston Avenue Methodist Church.
The terracotta topped west facade around the sanctuary at Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church The terracotta topped West facade at Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist ChurchGod’s Light
The golden terracotta with flowing downward lines represents the outpouring of God’s love, a theme that is echoed in the stained glass and interior of the church.
 
Seven-point Stars
Seven pointed stars used throughout the church represent the seven virtues of man. (faith, hope, charity, fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence).











 

Children’s   Building

The east side attached building at Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church
The east side attached Childrens Building at Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church
East of the original building is a new annex called the Children’s Building”.  It was built to match the decor and the art deco architecture of the original building. 
 
Notice the angular shape of the windows and doors.
 
Built:                  2002
Deco Style:       Zigzag
Architect:          Roger Coffee
Artists:               Richard Bohm
                          Phyllis Mantik
 














Interior   Design

Columbarium
Located in the “Children’s Building”, just off the main entry hall, the columbarium is a burial place for members selecting cremation as a burial choice.  
 
As you enter the doors, you pass a marble statue of a woman in prayer.  On either side are large brass engravings depicting the shared mourning of God with humans. 

The stained-glass windows and doors were designed and created by Tulsan, Richard Bohm. 

Above the columbarium a 10-foot-wide skylight provides a view of the church tower.    
 
Columbarium  Stain-glass doors inside the Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church
Columbarium Stain-glass doors inside the Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church

Great Hall


On the east side of the sanctuary is a long hallway called the “Great Hall”. It has high walls with a series of pilasters topped by triangular arches. 

Between these units are skylights above and deco styled lanterns along the walls to decorate and light the hall.  The hall is said to have exceptional acoustics.

The shade of pink, used throughout the church, is highly accentuated by this long hall. 

At each end of the Great Hall hang large mosaics designed by Chicago artist, Angelo Gheradi in 1993 to celebrate the church’s 100th anniversary.  Each mosaic is constructed of about 250,000 venetian tiles and weights over 3000 pounds.

The theme of the two murals is how God was revealed to us in both the Old Testament and New Testament scriptures.




The Great Hall in the Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church.
The Great Hall in the Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church

The South Mosaic represents the Christian
scriptures depicting the cave where Christ was born, the sacraments of the Protestant faith and
crucifixion cross.  The radiating triangles
represent the power of the trinity.
The North Mosaic represents the Hebrew scriptures and depicts the Torah Scroll, the prophet staff and the burning bush.  At the top of the mosaic is the representation that from nothing God
created everything.

 Great hall North Mosaic Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church Great hall North Mosaic Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church

 The South Mosaic represents the Hebrew scriptures and depicts the Torah Scroll, the prophet staff and the burning bush.  At the top of the mosaic is the representation that from nothing God created everything.Great Hall South Mosaic Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church








Church Sanctuary

The Sanctuary is a combination of all the Adah Robinson artistic themes represented in an art deco style.  The entrances are through doors on the north and south. The west side is semicircular and holds tall, narrow, leaded, stained glass windows. On the east side is a rectangular area containing the organ and choir stalls.

The seating is located in center of the room, which is divided into five triangular sections of pews and aisles leading to the altar.  The orientation of the aisles along with wall pilasters focuses one’s attention to the altar.  Finely carved woodwork includes tall, narrow, chevron-like tritoma spears adorning the choir stalls, heater vents, altar and screen. beneath the cross.

Tulsa Boston Avenue Methodist Church Sanctuary
Boston Avenue Methodist Church Sanctuary

Behind the altar is a huge 750,000-piece mosaic glass mural.  The seats and benches around the altar are upholstered with art deco designed cushions. Decorative organ pipes are located on each side of the tabernacle mirroring the design of the doorway arches. 

The seats and benches around the altar are upholstered with art deco designed cushions.

Stained Glass Windows

Light is a major symbol emphasized in the design throughout the church. Eleven black-metal framed colored stained glass windows encircle the west end of the sanctuary. 

Each window is configured in a “W” like configuration to  project maximum light regardless of the sun’s position.  The downward-flowing lines in the window design symbolize the outpouring of God’s love. 

Two flowers indigenous to Oklahoma are displayed in the window design to signify vital, growing Christianity. The coreopsis, which grows in the driest soil, symbolizes the hardiness and joy of the Christian faith. The tritoma, or torch lily, with its unusual downward blossoms,

represents the generosity of the faith. Its strong stem is indicative of the strength of the church.

Adah Robinson designed stain-glass windows the Boston Avenue Methodist Church sanctuary.

Sanctuary Ceiling Dome

The ceiling is domed, with a massive circular elaboration of chevrons radiating from the center.  A leaded-glass skylight is in the center of the dome.  The dome was designed to symbolize the infinite nature of God hovering over the congregation below. 

Summary

When making plans for the church

Dr. Rice had clear ideas about what the building should be and repeatedly said; as I parphrase “We must have a creation, not just the building. I’m not sure I’ll know it when, I see it on paper. But we must be assured we haven’t yet. I want a church before which, I can stand in the rain and let it talk to me. It will have an interior that would impel me to worship whether I want to or not.”

Boston Avenue Methodist Church certainly met all of his stated goals.