Friday, July 24, 2009

The Reinhart Legacy Part III — Churches

This is part 3 of the 4 part Reinhart Legacy series of articles. Part 1 was introductory and showed something of the family and its history — where it came from and when, the family tree, and with focus upon Martin John Reinhart, whom the Oklahoman dubbed the "Quiet Builder," and a younger sister, Theresa Reinhart Dolan, who is featured in Part 4.  Part 2 largely focused upon the commercial buildings built by Reinhart & Donovan, particularly those in Oklahoma City. As well, Part 2 alluded to some of the churches constructed by the Reinhart company, but, in this article, more is presented about them, particularly a pair located in Oklahoma City. I also note that Reinhart & Donovan built the 1912 two-story and basement parish house of downtown's St. Joseph's Cathedral, now "Old" Cathedral, in Oklahoma City, but I've included no photographs of that.

Click on the links below to move directly to one of the three sections; click on any image shown below for a larger view.
  1. Texas & Louisiana. The company constructed the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1913, not then a cathedral church, which was added to the National Register in 1994. On at least one occasion the Reinhart company tipped its construction toe into the Protestant realm, also: the 1914 First Christian Church, Ft. Worth, Texas (added to the National Register of Historic Sites in 1983).

  2. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Oklahoma City. Construction of the parish church at N.W. 37th & Lake began in 1923 and was completed in 1924. It became the cathedral of the Diocese of Oklahoma City in 1931.

  3. Church of the Little Flower and Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Oklahoma City. This quiet and out of the way facility was dedicated on March 24, 1927, and within its walls is arguably the most dazzling beauty of any church in Oklahoma City.
In these edifices, the most beautiful buildings constructed by Reinhart & Donovan are to be found, in my opinion. Let's have a long look.

TEXAS & LOUISIANA. I'll begin with the out-of-state churches mentioned above since they are the oldest.

          Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 935 Bilbo Street, Lake Charles, Louisiana. The photos below are contained in the Waymark Gallery for this church.

          First Christian Church, Ft. Worth, Texas. The church is located at 6th and Throckmorton at downtown Ft. Worth's Sundance Square. According to its website,
First Christian Church (1915 - 2007) First Christian Church was founded in 1855, making it the oldest continuously operating church established in Fort Worth. The present building at 6th and Throckmorton dates from 1915.
The images below are from the church's website:

OKLAHOMA CITY CHURCHES. As fine as the above structures are, it appears to me that Reinhart & Donovan's Oklahoma City churches represent its best work, but in different ways. Our Lady's Cathedral is the Oklahoma City Archdiocese's large church on a grand scale with stunning stained glass windows including the rose window facing Lake Avenue. Little Flower, an externally simpler church, is different — its beauty largely emanates from its ornate altar, reredos, and side votive and devotional areas.

          Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Oklahoma City. It was formally dedicated in October 1924 by the Rt. Rev. Francis Clement Kelley as his 1st official act as the Oklahoma Diocese's new and second bishop. Our Lady's became the diocese's cathedral church in 1931, replacing the downtown St. Joseph's. The first photo below was taken during construction and was supplied to me by Norman Thompson. I took the others on October 7 and 10, 2007.

Zooming In (click for high resolution image)

          Church of the Little Flower and Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Located at 1125 S. Walker, the facility was formally dedicated on March 24, 1927, and I'm going to give it a good bit of attention. Not only is it important in this article that Reinhart & Donovan was the contractor for this facility, of greater importance is that this church and facility presents one of if not the most stunningly beautiful and historic icons in all of Oklahoma City. It is, by analogy of when a guy relates to a stunningly beautiful gal, drop-dead gorgeous.

I'll begin with a bit of history before presenting the contemporary interior photographs. First, an excellent and well-documented 1981 article, Mission to the Immigrants: Establishment of the Order of Discalced Carmelites in Oklahoma, 1914 - 1929 by Michael M. Smith can be read in its entirety at The article traces the establishment meanderings of the Order of Discalced Carmelites and its coming to Oklahoma City. The first paragraph of the article gives its context:
For nearly seventy years, the Order of Discalced Carmelites has maintained a close and enduring relationship with the Mexican and Mexican American people of Oklahoma. That relationship grew largely out of a common response to the violence, destruction, and social and economic dislocation of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, which caused approximately one million Mexicans to seek refuge in the United States. Between 1910 and 1930, thousands of Mexicans came to Oklahoma seeking security and employment. The Carmelites, also driven from Mexico by the revolution, were in a unique position -- by virtue of their experience and their linguistic and cultural background -- to minister to the spiritual needs of the Mexicans for whom the Oklahoma Catholic clergy were insufficiently equipped to care. This paper will briefly examine the initial fifteen years of the order's work here -- from 1914, when the Carmelites first entered Oklahoma, to 1929, which witnessed the onset of the Great Depression and the subsequent exodus of the vast majority of Mexican immigrants from the state.
For a much shorter and less complete historic snapshot, see this February 15, 1942, Oklahoman article.

Second, and recalling again that Norman Thompson is the principal benefactor of the Reinhart Legacy series here, one of the items that he furnished and allowed me to reproduce was a 33-page souvenir booklet commemorating the opening of Little Flower in 1927. This document, in and of itself, is a jewel of Oklahoma City history, and all Oklahoma Citians are in Norman's debt for another of his contributions. I won't overly elongate this article by showing each of those pages in this article, but for all that want to see it I have converted the booklet into a PDF file for your reading and enjoyment. Click here or on the following image to open and/or save that historic booklet to your computer.

In the PDF file, I particularly call your attention to pages 29-32 which give the history of the Discalced (barefoot) Carmelite Fathers who established and maintained Little Flower as well as the sisters, the Third Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, who worked with them. The work of the religious orders focused on the Latino (then referred to as Mexican) community. I've not yet determined with certainty whether either of these religious orders still have a connection with the present-day Little Flower operations, but, judging by the plate outside the church doors it appears that the ladies have been left in charge.

In addition to the PDF file, several of the historic images in the souvenir booklet are shown below. Click on any image for a larger view.

Bishop Francis Kelley
Fr. Raymond Gomez
Fr. Edward Soler
Fr. Dominic Pitarch
Fr. Anselm Valero
Fr. Jerome Castellet
Bros. Louis & Peter
Carmelite Sisters
Panoramic View: The Church, School, Little Flower Press
Unfinished Interior of the Church
Inside The Press
Library & Living Room
Little Flower Club
The Sisters' Convent
Community House

LITTLE FLOWER TODAY. If you've never ventured inside the present-day Little Flower Church just north of Capitol Hill on Walker, you are in for a surprise and one that will knock your socks off. Even though the exterior is not at all unpleasant to see, it does not prepare you for what your eyes behold inside the church. I took the following exterior photographs on October 7, 2007, and obtained permission to take the interior photos a few days later, on October 10. Click an image for a larger view.

A Walk Around The Exterior

Inside The Church

Compare the 1927 Unfinished Interior Photo ...

... with this (and PLEASE click images to see what you deserve to see)

Looking Down The Nave Toward The Altar

Looking Down The Nave From The Choir Loft

Zooming In On The Altar From The Choir Loft

On Ground Level Looking At The Altar

Votive Area and Altar South of the Main Altar

Votive Area and Altar North of the Main Altar

Stepping Back From the Alter

Sure, I understand that Reinhart & Donovan wasn't/weren't the subcontractor(s) who did all that gorgeous stuff — but they were the general contractors who were responsible for seeing that it got done. And the buck stops there.

This ends my tour of churches constructed by Reinhart & Donovan. Perhaps you can see why I earlier said that "the most beautiful buildings constructed by Reinhart & Donovan are to be found" in the churches that it built, especially Little Flower.

Next in the series:  Part 4 — Theresa Reinhart Donovan growing up in Oklahoma City as a teenager in the 1910s.

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Jennifer Chronicles ( said...

Stunning photos. Your blog is like a gift to the city, Doug.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks so much, Jen. Comments like yours make me smile ... of course, I'll be glad to have any comments just to know someone is reading! But, yours is the sweetest to receive!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in this church and am so glad to find this link to Little Flower. It's just as beautiful as I remember it.

Doug Dawg said...

Thanks, Celeste. I don't know how long you've been away, but it is very well cared for and is in good hands.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm 56 now so that should give you some idea. ;D

Ed said...

Nice job. The archive photographs and the Souvenir Booklet are absolutely priceless. Hats off to you.

Thomas Pedrosa said...

WOW! I grew up going to Little Flower. I completed all my classes there and was an alter boy. I love this church, when I tried to go to other Churches I always keep coming home to Little Flower. No Church except maybe University of Notre Dame Basilica of the Sacred Heart can even come close to the BEAUTY of Little Flower. I am actually getting renewing my wedding vows there in the next few years. My grandparents and aunt was all married there. Thank you for this beautiful artical.

Doug Dawg said...

Thank you, Thomas. Getting to take the interior series of photos of Little Flower has been one of my personal favorite things since starting this blog in July 2006.