Culturally and historically-significant Jewel Theatre could be the jewel in Oklahoma City district’s regeneration

Historic Jewel Theatre as seen in recent video

Occasionally I like to bring you things that you may not have come across in your reading about the arts and culture.

This is the Jewel Theatre, built in July 1931 for Hathyel L. James and Percy H. James as an African American Theatre, with Art Deco stylings, in the Black business district of Oklahoma City, once the hub of a thriving Main Street.

Today, all the other surrounding buildings have gone. Except the Jewel. With vacant ground all around, the Jewel could easily have gone the way of the others. Closed by the late-1970’s, the Jewel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. Thankfully, current owner Arthur Hurst (who grew up in the neighbourhood) is partnering with local initiatives, creating the Jewel Foundation, in an attempt to raise funding of around $2million to completely renovate the structurally-sound but otherwise fading Jewel. All its interior decoration has gone, leaving a bare shell.

As a very rare survivor of a Black cultural heritage building, there is much passion behind the revival project, and the aim is for the Jewel to become a catalyst to reignite local business development, and when open to celebrate black filmmakers and talent by screening movies and staging shows.

As a culturally-significant survivor I am sure we all wish them well. Those wishing to help the project financially may have to hold off – I have investigated the links attached to advertising material and sadly none of them are live or current. I will let you know when I find a way for you to donate should you wish to.

Meanwhile, I’d strongly recommend that you enjoy this short video about the Jewel, its history and aspirations.

You can find the video here

And read more about the project here

Jewel Theatre and other buildings circa 1939

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