Mark D. Roberts

Recently I was out and about in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I visited this fine city for the first time in order to preach in the chapel of the First Presbyterian Church of Tulsa and give a luncheon lecture. I was most impressed by this church. The people I met were friendly. Their facility is vast and aesthetically pleasing. I loved the classic sanctuary with its marvelous stained glass window (see photo). I enjoyed meeting several members of the First Church staff, including the Senior Pastor, Dr. Jim Miller. When I visit a vibrant, visionary church like this, I am encouraged about the state of the church in America, including, I might add, my denomination, the PC(USA), in which First Pres Tulsa is a leading congregation.
I stayed overnight in the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Tulsa. It was convenient and comfortable. But it had two features that made me smile. First, there is a Starbucks in the hotel. No need to trek all over town to find a decent latté in the morning! Second, and more significant, the Crowne Plaza includes a Daily Grill restaurant. This was one of my favorite restaurants when I lived in Orange County, California. There are a couple of Daily Grills in Texas (Austin, Houston), but I haven’t been able to check them out yet. There are two items on the Daily Grill menu that I enjoy: meatloaf and Cobb Salad. I should not that neither is inexpensive. But both are worth a few extra bucks on a special occasion.
My favorite restaurant in Tulsa, however, is the Blue Dome Diner (photo to right). Jim Miller and his staff took me to breakfast there. What a treat! This classic diner has exactly the sort of food you’d expect in such a place, only better. I had oatmeal, Grandma’s Oats, to be exact. It was fantastic. The more youthful members of the First Pres staff had delicious egg dishes, with fried potatoes, French toast, and you name it. Whew!
The Blue Dome Diner does not have a blue dome, by the way. It is across the street from one of Tulsa’s landmarks, which does, in fact, have a blue dome. I asked Jim Miller if the building had once been an Eastern Orthodox Church, because it looks quite a bit like the small sanctuaries you see all over in places like Santorini. But, alas, the blue dome was built for more terrestrial functions. In fact, it was once the Blue Dome Service Station. It opened in 1925 as a Tidal Oil Gas Station (later, Gulf Oil). Given its location right on Route 66, a highly-traveled east-west highway in those days, the Blue Dome Station thrived. But with the building of the interstate highway system, the gas station turned into a bar sometime in the 1940s or 1950s. The building was neglected until 2000, when a Tulsa businessman purchased the property in order to preserve and use it. The Blue Dome Station is now the home of Arnie’s Bar, though the space under the dome is used as an artist’s studio.
A recent article in The Journal Record of Oklahoma City tells the story of the Blue Dome Station. Here’s what it says about the building’s origins: “A June 1925 advertisement in The Architectural Record supports that, with Acme Brick touting its product used in designs patterned off the grand Hagia Sophia dome by architects Lawrence Blue and Fred Knoblock.” The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey,  is the “mother church” of Eastern Orthodoxy. Its dome is similar in shape to that of the Blue Dome Station. However, it is not blue. You will find blue domed Eastern Orthodox churches in places like Santorini, an island off the coast of Greece. (Photo: Some blue domed churches in Oia, a city in northern Santorini)
All in all, I was impressed by Tulsa. A smaller city, it is clean, attractive, and growing. If you’re ever in town, I highly recommend the First Presbyterian Church and the Blue Dome Diner.

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