Tulsa's Holy Family Cathedral Celebrates Its Centennial

Friday, May 2nd 2014, 9:14 am
By: News On 6

Tulsa's downtown church architecture can rival any city in America. You have the classic art deco of the Boston Avenue Methodist Church, the twin gothic spires of First Presbyterian Church, the green dome of the First Christian Church on Boulder, the red doors of Trinity Episcopal and the oldest building of them all the Holy Family Cathedral.

This Sunday, May 4, 2014, Holy Family Cathedral will celebrate its centennial.

In the spring of 1914, Woodrow Wilson was president, the Boston Braves were World Series Champions and after two years of construction, the Holy Family Cathedral was completed at a cost of $250,000.

The altar was purchased in 1915 for $2,000 dollars. The church recently asked the original construction company to come and make some minor repairs and clean the altar for an estimated $84,000.

"There wasn't a building in the city of Tulsa equal to this, this has always been the Mother Church," said Monsignor Gregory Gier.

On April 1, 1914, 3,500 people marched from the church's old location at 3rd and Frankfort, to its new home at 8th and Boulder.

History would follow, in 1921, Holy Family Cathedral, as well as the First Presbyterian Church, housed and protected hundreds of refugees fleeing the Tulsa Race Riots.

In 1940, just prior to Christmas, a fire broke out in the church's spires, which were made almost entirely of wood.

"We stripped all the wood out of the spires and they're all metal now, including this marvelous metal staircase, you can go all the way to the top now," said Monsignor Gregory Gier.

I've climbed that staircase and the view is spectacular.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta enjoyed a simpler vantage point from the second pew, when she visited Tulsa in 1976.

"She spoke at the Civic Center and she stayed with the sisters in the convent here and I believe she prayed twice in this building," said Monsignor Gregory Gier.

Monsignor Gier has been the rector of this parish since 1997, overseeing a multi-million dollar restoration that is based on the architectural soul of any great church is its windows.

"The windows aren't insured because it is too expensive to insure them," said Monsignor Gregory Gier.

And so, one remains slightly damaged.

"There is a hole in one of the windows on this side and it makes a Little light that moves all the way across the sanctuary each morning and it's just kind of fun to watch it go," said Monsignor Gregory Gier.

It's somewhere up there near the dragon, about to be smitten by the sword of Saint Michael.

"Most of the great stained glass windows in Europe pre-date the printing press and so the Bible was put in the windows," said Monsignor Gregory Gier.

The windows are original, but not the main source of music. The 54 stop pipe organ arrived in 1984. More recent improvements include a fire suppression system and foam insulation that has dramatically lowered energy costs.

"To be completely honest with you, this building at the present time is more secure, more stable, than the day it was built," said Monsignor Gregory Gier.

The Holy Family Cathedral was originally designed by three architects, J.P. Curtin, George Winkler and Dan Eichenfelt. Eichenfelt's grandson will be part of this weekend's gala celebration.

Sunday's 10 a.m. Mass at Holy Family Cathedral will be historic. The church says Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa will be joined by Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City and Archbishop Emeritus Eusebius Beltran of Oklahoma City to celebrate Mass.