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Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Forgotten Loop of Route 66

Historic Route 66 - where you can get your 'kicks' according to an old pop song, is commonly known for the major points along its route from Chicago to Los Angeles. Usually those points are known because of that popular song and just as it says, Oklahoma City is very pretty and in the days of the major use of Route  66 (pre Interstate) travelers would have passed by Wesley United Methodist Church.  The light shining through its stained glass windows in the evening just might have been what was in mind when the city was declared to be pretty.  This small loop in and around the area of NW 23rd and Classen Blvd. is a largely overlooked source of history in relation to the "Mother Road." (A previous entry looked at some of the other interesting sights at )

Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the home of Mrs. A.H. Tyler, 1220 NW 29th, on November 10, 1910. In the meeting were the first 28 charter members of the nascent church.  The first pastor was the Rev. F.A. Colwell appointed by Bishop Quayle of the Oklahoma Methodist Episcopal Conference.

The first church location was a simple structure with a sawdust covered floor.  The "Tabernacle", as it was then called, was located at 32nd and Military (32′ x 70′ ). The 1910 Journal of Methodist Episcopal Church, newspapers, and other documents indicate the Conference held at Alva, Oklahoma assigned the first pastor.  In October of 1910,  Frank A. Colwell as appointed pastor and  D. G. Murray was District Superintendent of this district.

In 1911, the congregation moved to NW 25th and Classen and in 1928 dedicated the lovely Gothic sanctuary with its large organ and many stained glass windows. A triangle of land in front of the church was deeded and developed by early Oklahoma pioneer business leader, Anton H. Classen and his wife.  In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal, South and the Methodist Protest Church formed a union to become the Methodist Church.  In 1968, the Methodist Church allied with the Evangelical and United Brethern churches to form the new United Methodist Church.

Today, the church is nestled in an area poised to experience a rennaissance in business, residences, and community.  A newly identified "Asian District" highlights the presence and contributions of Asians in Oklahoma City and the Paseo Art District.  Nearby are several historic residential areas: Edgemere and Crown Heights, Gatewood, Military Park, Mesta Park, Heritage Hills.  

Just a block west of Wesley is Oklahoma City University and the two have enjoyed a close relationship since the school relocated to Oklahoma City in 1919 from Guthrie.  The music department at OCU and the music program at Wesley have enjoined a special relationship as Deans of that department and faculty there have frequently served as Music director for Wesley.  The worship arts of music, choir, organ, drama, and speech have been enriched by this tie and Wesley was often viewed as a 'university church.'

Anyone traveling the old road in the heyday of the route would have passed this church, seen it's windows, and probably heard its organ or choir singing.  Yes, Oklahoma City was indeed very pretty....on Route 66.

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Become a Friend of Wesley

A special "Friends of Wesley" group is made of individuals, organizations, and businesses who wish to support the historic preservation of the century old and historically significant Wesley Methodist Church (Wesley United Methodist Church) founded in 1910.

The inspiring windows dating to 1928 honored people significant to local Oklahoma City history but also to the history of Oklahoma Methodism.

The church founding and development was guided by lay people who were leaders in Oklahoma City development in real estate, banking, business, and education.

It stands as a rare remaining example of Methodist Churches in the English Gothic style and as work by a significant early architectural firm.

Donations may be sent to:

Church Treasurer
Wesley United Methodist Church
1401 NW 25th
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma