Piece of Okla. history in danger of being lost

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OKLAHOMA CITY — A piece of Oklahoma City’s history is in danger of being lost. Tuesday the city council declared the Jewel Theatre dilapidated. The building, just east of downtown, is one of the city’s first all-black movie theatres.

Still, the city has put the building’s owner on notice. 

It’s time to fix up the building or tear it down.

“It was nice to see movies down here,” owner Arthur Hurst said.

From Frankenstein to the Wolfman, Arthur Hurst fondly remembers the films he watched as a kid at the Jewel.

“I used to love to see scary movies,” Hurst said.

That’s why Arthur bought the building more than 30 years ago.

The Jewel, once an all-black movie house, predates the Civil Rights Movement and racial integration.

“It’s quite a treasure for the east side of town,” Hurst said.

Still, with trees spouting from its roof and piles of falling bricks, the building has fallen into serious disrepair.

“You know, it is endangering the neighborhood,” OKC code enforcement director Charles Locke said.

The Jewel is on the National Register of Historic Places but that won’t save it from being demolished.

“We have no interest in demolishing that building,” OKC councilman Skip Kelly said.

Kelly, the lone black city councilman, doesn’t want to see the Jewel torn down but everyone agrees changes need to be made soon or the sun will set on the Jewel.

“It’s at the point now the owner has to make a decision to improve it, to save it,” Locke said.

“I’ve held onto the building for years with hopes to renovate it,” Hurst said. “It needs to be repaired soon.”

The theatre opened in 1931 before closing in the 1970s.

Hurst now has 30 days to come up with a plan to rehab the building or to sell it.

Link: More information on Jewel Theatre

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