After suffering through years of unrepaired ceilings and crumbling sidewalks, the 90-year-old former Calvary Baptist Church is getting a full makeover by its new owner, the Dan Davis Law Firm.
Davis' wife, Joy, admits the project was a bit daunting at first. The law firm sold its old home at NW 13 and Dewey Avenue in 2011, and the couple quickly realized finding a new home in or near downtown wouldn't be easy.
“It's harder than one might think when you need parking spaces,” Joy Davis said. “We looked at a list online of downtown properties for sale, and I wondered why hadn't we looked at this?”
It was then that Dan Davis, following on his wife's discovery, visited the church and instantly realized he had found a new home for his firm. They bought the property last March for $700,000.
“He said, ‘You've got to see this — This is it,'” Joy Davis said. “All of his advisers were saying you've got to be kidding. You're crazy.”
The church, built in 1923, was the center of the city's civil rights movement. An estimated 1,500 people attended a rally at the church in 1960 to hear a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. — and that was a few years after the congregation passed on his application to become the church's full-time pastor.
The church also was the birthplace of the sit-in movement led by Clara Luper. The teacher led youths from the church to lunch counters downtown that discriminated against black customers.
The church survived the destruction of the surrounding Deep Deuce neighborhood in the 1970s and lived to see the area's revival as downtown's leading mixed-use neighborhood.
The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building devastated the church, blasting out windows, and the city allocated $1.4 million in federal disaster funds to assist in repairs. That work is being credited with making the current makeover possible, said J.W. Peters, Titus Construction president.