King Hall was the first Oklahoma Episcopal ministry outreach dedicated to Oklahoma higher education and a pioneer in university women's housing. During the early 1900s, the University of Oklahoma had no campus dormitories, nor did they provide any housing options for students. Men had organized fraternities on campus but provided no fraternity building. Fraternity brothers rented rooms in homes as a group. Sororities were not yet part of the university system, and women were left to secure their housing in city boarding houses.
Bishop Brooke wished to establish a dedicated woman's rooming house or 'club' just for Episcopal women students. He believed this would allow women to supplement their secular education with church history and Bible classes. He may have been influenced by his daughter, Louisa "Becky" Brooke, who was a teacher at the University of Oklahoma at the time. After King Hall was established, Louise spent her winters at King Hall and assisted in leading Bible studies.
Although Bishop Brooke had the idea of providing housing for women in 1908, it wasn't until February 1910 that he was able to purchase a large residence on the corner of Asp Avenue and Linn Street. The house was owned by a local dentist, Dr. Goodrich, who lived there with his wife, and at least three of his seven children. The family lived downstairs while the upstairs rooms were rented to Kappa Sigma fraternity men.
The house was bought for $10,000 and financed by the American Church Building Fund Commission, Miss Mary Rhinelander King of Brooklyn, New York, and other donors. Miss Mary King was a communicant of the same Episcopal Church in New York City as the current rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Norman, Oklahoma. Possibly, Reverend Vincent Coyler Griffith, rector at St. John's, was instrumental in helping to procure money for Bishop Brooke's dream of a woman's dormitory.Nineteen women from various church guilds were appointed to the Committee of the Women's Hall to oversee the house's operation. Managing the daily care of the women was a live-in housemother and cook with Reverend Griffith as Chaplain.
After the hall's opening in September 1910, sororities began to be established at the university, which lured away some of the boarders from residing at the hall. King hall was usually filled in the first semester of the year, but students were moving into sorority houses by the second semester. This caused a decline in income, leading to King Hall supplementing its revenue in 1913 through "table borders." Table borders didn't rent rooms but paid for meals at King Hall. The increased income encouraged Bishop Brooke to consider expanding the building to increase the number of first-semester boarders and table borders. Income from table borders would allow the hall to compensate for second-semester income losses.
Luckily, Bishop Brooke had an accomplished architect and contractor available in Reverend Griffith. Before becoming an Episcopal priest, Mr. Griffith was an architect in New York City and associate architect of Brooklyn City Hall's tower and dome extension. Reverend Griffith, along with University of Oklahoma engineering professor and St. John's churchman, James Tucker, designed a four-story brick structure. The addition included twelve bedrooms, sleeping porches, practice rooms, a roof terrace, two bathrooms, a new parlor, and a basement. The community and St. John's events and meetings used the parlor. A second-story hallway tied the two buildings together.
When the additional "East Wing" was completed, Reverend Griffith moved into the basement, leaving his single rented room located two blocks away from the church.From King Hall's inception and through its expansion, Miss Roscoe was King Hall's beloved house mother in charge of overseeing the borders and management of the house. She acted as a mother and confidant to her women students and was well loved by the district's priests and bishops. She was also King Hall's longest-serving house mother, leaving in 1925 after suffering an extreme illness. Her salary was never a burden for the district since she was paid by the National Woman's Auxiliary United Thank Offering.During the summer of 1917, fifty girls lived in King Hall, which usually had an annual waiting list of applicants, but the loss of income throughout the district led to increasing concern. With Bishop Brooke leaving the community, Bishop Thurston enthusiastically took over the diocese overseeing the Norman mission, Reverend Griffith and King Hall. Reverend Griffith and Bishop Brooke had always planned to add a men's house, parish house, and new St. John's church building, but they could never fulfill the dream due to the district being so new. Although only fifty-four years old, Reverend Griffith's health was declining even though St. John's and King Hall's finances were the best they had ever been. Reverend Griffith died in September 1920 from sleeping sickness, a pandemic of encephalitis that was prevalent from 1915 to 1921.Three weeks after Reverend Griffith left St. John's Church in July 1920, a fire badly damaged the original wooden residence of King Hall. No women were hurt, but many possessions were lost.With Reverend Griffith gone from St. John's and King Hall, Bishop Thurston appointed the Venerable John Ashley Chapin, archdeacon of central Oklahoma, to oversee the church and hall. Chapin managed seventeen to twenty other missions during this time, so he had little time to turn his attention to Norman's mission and university work. With the arrival of Reverend Bernard Nathaniel Lovgren a year after Reverend Griffith's passing, the church began to gain its place in the community. Miss Roscoe continued as the house mother, and Reverend Lovgren lived in Griffith's basement apartment until his marriage in August 1922.
Reverend Lovgren was very active within the university but did not seem to be as involved with King Hall as Reverend Griffith. He used King Hall for meetings of the "Thurston Association of Young People and community meetings. Miss Roscoe left King Hall before Reverend Lovgren left Norman in 1927 and was replaced by another house mother.When Bishop Casady arrived in 1927, King Hall declined in revenue due to a lack of women boarders. All the changes within the Norman vicarage and Bishop turnover caused King Hall to lose some of its support throughout the district. Bishop Casady's vision for King Hall was to use it as a conference and retreat house instead of a dormitory. King Hall's last year of operating as a dormitory was 1928.In 1930, Reverend Marious John Lindloff came to Norman as the Chaplain to the University and Priest-in-Charge of the small mission of St. John's. In his first two years at Norman, he began to search for monies to build a larger church. In 1932, Bishop Casady appealed to the National Council for money to build a church that would serve not only Norman but the University of Oklahoma. He did receive the grant for a new chapel with the intent to be dedicated to college work. King Hall was demolished for the building of the new church, and St. John's current church was built on the foundation of King Hall. The only known remnant of the hall is the wooden beams salvaged as St. John's nave beams. King Hall was built as a higher education Episcopal ministry which in the 1930s became St. John's ministry. Today, we have not only St. John's Episcopal Church ministering to the university community but also St. Anselm of Canterbury.
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