Two of Oklahoma City’s African American historic sites, the Lyons Mansion and Brockway Center, will receive funding from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, provided through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The funding will be used for a local planning process that includes a reuse feasibility study and business plan for each property.
Over the past two years, the National Trust funded 65 historic African American places and invested more than $4.3 million to help preserve landscapes and buildings imbued with Black life, humanity and cultural heritage.
The Lyons Mansion in the Deep Deuce District was finished in 1926 by S.D. Lyons who started the East India toiletries company and whose real estate holdings were among the most prominent in Oklahoma City’s Black community. Deep Deuce was a roaming place of Ralph Ellison, Charlie Christian and many more and served as a cultural and entertainment hub for Black Oklahoma City residents. A demolition intervention success story, the 1915 Brockway Center was the headquarters of the Oklahoma City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs for almost 50 years. Both sites are vacant, in need of restoration and are two of only a few historically significant African American landmarks still standing in Oklahoma City’s urban core. Lyons Mansion was purchased in the last few years by Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority with the goal of preservation and Brockway Center was acquired last year and saved from demolition by the Oklahoma City Redevelopment Authority.
Through the Action Fund, OCURA will receive a $75,000 planning grant to develop a community-driven plan for preserving and reusing the Lyons Mansion and Brockway Center. In support of the Action Fund, Oklahoma City preservationists and community activists Leslie and Clifford Hudson donated $100,000 to the National Trust. This funding will scale up the Action Fund’s impact to help preserve Oklahoma City’s African American history and culture.
These efforts recognize the historic and contemporary cultural disruptions and economic loss our Black communities experienced as a result of federal and local policy decisions. The physical and psychological effects disproportionately impacted generations of African Americans. As an institution, OCURA is committed to the rebirth and activation of these historic jewels of Oklahoma City’s past and look forward to working with the community to preserve, celebrate and reinvest in these assets, their namesakes and their stories.
Cathy O’Connor is president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.
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