Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Abundant Life Building,1957

1720 South Boulder Avenue

The Abundant Life Building was built in 1957 to house the Oral Roberts Ministries. It is very striking in its appearance because it has no windows. To make sense of the building requires at least a brief understanding of Oral Roberts.

Oral Roberts is an pentecostal minister and faith healer. He started his ministry as a pastor in the Pentecostal Holiness Church. He came to believe he had a special gift for spiritual healing. In April 1947, he began holding healing services in his church on Sunday afternoons. His reputation as a faith healer spread quickly and by May, the crowds were so large that he had to rent larger facilities. In June, he announced to his congregation that he had received invitations to conduct healing services in eight states and had decided to resign his pastorate. In 1949, he began a series of radio programs. By 1950, he was traveling the country with an 18,000-seat tent simultaneous broadcast on 63 stations. Within two years, his radio and television programs were being broadcast on 400 stations in the United States, Canada, Alaska and by short-wave to listeners around the world.

At the time the Abundant Life building was built Oral Roberts was raising literally millions of dollars through his traveling tent meetings and from radio and television solicitations. The name "Abundant Life" is a reference to the passage from the Gospel of John 10:10, "... I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly". This and other scriptural references are the basis of what is called "the gospel of prosperity" His life and ministry have been the subject of considerable controversy. He is regarded by some as a prophet and by others a fraud. Nevertheless, he and his ministry have prospered.

The Abundant Life building was the headquarters of this ministry and contained a large television sound stage which could simulate the tent meeting and film the opening and closing segments of the weekly broadcasts. This was also the destination for the large donations which supported the ministry. Much of this money was sent in the form of cash donations and the security considerations of handling and accounting for this money were implemented within this building.

The scale of donations provided for the establishment of a a Christian university which Roberts named for himself. In 1964 Oral Roberts University was opened on South Lewis. By the mid-70s the activities of the Abundant Life Building were transferred to the university and the original building was closed.

Southwestern Bell telephone used it for a time then but since the early 1980s it has been empty. It has changed hands several times but attempts to convert it into a multi-use facility have not gone anywhere. It remains empty at this time. For more on this see this post in Lost Tulsa.

The windowless facade looked very striking when illuminated at night.

This photo taken in July 2009 shows it looking rather shabby with several missing exterior tiles. I know of no one who has seen the inside. It is something of a mystery.

A fairly concise biography of Oral Roberts and his ministry is HERE.
A Wikipedia article on Roberts is HERE.


  1. I've always enjoyed the air of mystery about the building and the rumors of the security precautions to make sure the employees run off with the cash. I've always enjoyed the drama surrounding the Oral Roberts and some of his family.
    The University looks like it is back on track and I wish it well.

  2. Before ORU received a donation of land on S. Lewis, they planned to build a campus around the Abundant Life Building. I'm not sure how direct the connection is, but there seemed to have been some link with University Club Tower and Mansion House.

  3. This probably isn't what you had in mind for interior pictures but the website is interesting nonetheless.

    1. It would be interesting to see photos from when the interior was new. It appears the building is beyond repair now. Thank you for the link.

  4. The elevator shaft in that building claimed the life of a homeless man who ventured into the building to escape the cold. Filled with fear from asbestos Contamination firefighters were reluctant to enter. I'd say abundant death is the legacy that Oral Roberts left behind. Now we have to clean up after him. Faith killing.

  5. Oh my my grandmother who was Billy Graham's no. 1 fan did NOT like Oral Roberts not one bit. She had good reason not for public eyes. She ran the Tulsa Y residence

  6. For most of the 60s and helped many of his followers during her time.