Historic preservation – it’s about timeBy: Cathy O'Connor Guest Columnist June 15, 2021 0
This week, we marked a preservation milestone for Oklahoma City. Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice accepted a certificate from Lynda Ozan with the State Historic Preservation Office, placing the Brockway Center on the National Register of Historic Places.
Vacant and in need of renovation, the Brockway Center was considered for demolition in 2019 by the owner of the building. Historians, community activists and the Oklahoma City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs rallied, called on elected officials and staged protests on the lawn of this 1915 structure at 1440 N. Everest Ave. The Oklahoma City Redevelopment Authority purchased the building to avoid demolition and historians began the preservation application process.
To appreciate the significance of the Brockway, you have to understand its nearly 50 years of history as the headquarters of the Oklahoma City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs. A gathering place for the community, the center hosted holiday gatherings and social events, served as a place of support for young Black women and children and provided meeting space to protest lynching, endorse women’s right to vote and advocate for employment of African American teachers.
The designation on the National Register of Historic Places ensures that we preserve one of only a few historically significant African American landmarks still standing in Oklahoma City’s urban core and embrace the history of our people and places.
Skip forward in time to envision what the Brockway Center could become next. How can it continue its legacy as a place of support and gathering for the community? How will it best serve the people who live in northeast Oklahoma City? How will it preserve part of Oklahoma City’s Black history?
We plan to answer these and other questions through a reuse feasibility study. The Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority will soon hire a consulting team to gather stakeholder and community input and explore innovative concepts for the culturally sensitive and financially sustainable redevelopment and reuse of this significant African American landmark. The local planning process is made possible with funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, provided through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. To learn more about the RFP, visit the Alliance website.
This next step looks forward – to what the future could look like for this important landmark as we preserve, celebrate and reinvest in the Brockway Center.