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Refinishing Church Chairs and Preserving Our Heritage: The Story of Calvary Baptist Church

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The repurposing of a 90-year-old former Calvary Baptist Church in the historic neighborhood of Deep Deuce in Downtown Oklahoma City has been getting mixed reactions from the public. Soon to be transformed into the law offices of a prestigious law firm, Calvary Baptist Church was built in the early 1920s, and was an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement. Case in point: civil rights pioneer Clara Luper and her students began their desegregation activities in this church in 1958.

Two years later, 1,500 people flocked to the church to hear a speech given by Martin Luther King, Jr. Most buildings in Deep Deuce—which was an African American cultural center in the 1940′s—were razed to make way for Interstate 235 in the 1960s. Dan Davis, the new owner of the property aims to keep the original pews, pulpit, and stage intact; they will likely get some much needed refinishing work. This ambitious restoration project should inspire churches that need similar work to have their wooden church chairs restored.
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Indeed, by keeping the wood flooring, restoring the stained glass windows, and recreating the balconies and sanctuary, Davis’ project is almost a complete restoration job. Even after the Exodus of the black community from Deep Deuce into other parts of Oklahoma City, Calvary Baptist Church retained its prominence in the neighborhood. By 1978, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

However, the tragic Oklahoma City bombing, which targeted the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, severely damaged the church. A grant of $1.4 million in federal disaster funds was needed to prevent the church’s complete deterioration. According to Davis, once current repurposing work is complete, some areas of the former church will be open to the public for special events.

Calvary Baptist Church is indeed fortunate, as it is one of the handful of historic buildings
across America that is being given an opportunity to sustain its heritage. Unfortunately, many
buildings of historic and architectural importance have been demolished, and many more are awaiting their demise after decades of neglect.

In other places of worship, much of the original church furniture would have undergone considerable wear and tear. Thankfully, it is now possible for churches to have their original wood furniture—from pews and pulpits, to baptistries and communion tables—refinished and restored to like-new condition. Furniture restoration specialists from companies like Covenant Church Furniture can certainly assist in this endeavor.

Such companies also offer fully customized church seating and furniture, which can be created with the aid of computerized design technology. A number of former Cavalry Baptist Church members have paid visits to the site, and were elated since much of the church’s heritage has been preserved. This project will ensure that the former church will remain a vibrant part of Oklahoma City for years to come.

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