To the east, the two-lane road is still known as Edmond Road until it turns into W. 2nd St. in Edmond.
To the west, the old Edmond Road is officially named N.W. 178th, a well-maintained, paved road that runs from Edmond into the Deer Creek Public Schools district in unincorporated Oklahoma County. The road is paved going further west into Canadian County.
A landmark in the area, for anyone lost over the last 68 years, has been an odd, football-shaped building jutting from the earth — a landscape that flattens and has fewer trees on the northwest side of Oklahoma County than those found in eastern parts of the county. Most people who have seen the structure know the building simply as the tepee church.
About five miles west of the end of Edmond’s city limits, at N. MacArthur Blvd. and N.W. 178th, the road is still called Edmond Road by locals, and it is here that restoration continues and community spirit is alive, though the church has been closed in recent decades.
The former Hopewell Baptist Church, designed by famed University of Oklahoma architect Bruce Goff in the late 1940s, is an historic link to the oilfields and farms of the past where it rose on the mixed-grass prairie, built from surplus oilfield pipe and church members’ labor.
Hopewell Baptist Church stood tall with 12 steel trusses, one named for each of the Apostles. The one the workers named Judas was said to be hard to set in place, said Terry Ward, who has spent the last several decades coming up with ideas to keep the whole building from decay. A mural of the River Jordan painted in the 1950s remains behind a Baptismal dunk tank.
The tepee church project is not the only development at the intersection this year either. The entire intersection has evolved and it is changing with suburban sprawl.
MacArthur Blvd. remains the main road and connection to Oklahoma City from the Deer Creek High School and administration office at N.W. 206th and N. MacArthur Blvd. A new bridge built over Deer Creek has alleviated flooding south of the school and north of the tepee church corner.
Rising near the tepee these days are two new buildings for commercial use. Across from the tepee church is a place called Deer Creek Township where a Country Snow Cone stand draws crowds in the summer with an occasional music act performing on a stage near a community garden.
Ward tells the story of the intersection’s genesis. He knows about what has gone on here dating back to the late 1800s
“There has been a church at this intersection since 1898,” said Ward, who is president of the Hopewell Heritage Foundation, and is working to make sure the old building is preserved and used by the community.
Development in the area, from new homes, to apartments and soon-to-open retail stores on the southeast side of the intersection, has at times been a bit threatening to the tepee church vision, Ward said.
There was a developer who came through with the idea to turn the tepee church into a Dunkin’ Donuts. It hasn’t come to that yet, Ward said, joking, but there is still a lot of work to go.
But with more population comes other opportunities, too, he hopes.
On the northwest corner of the intersection, on land developed by farm and ranch realtor David Sasser, there is a gravel parking lot that has been called Deer Creek Township in recent years. Sasser is also a board member of the Hopewell Heritage Foundation, and has ideas and visions or the future of the intersection.
Sasser said in 1907, the spot was declared Deer Creek Township when Oklahoma became a state. The land now it lies in is unincorporated Oklahoma County, just a mile north of the Oklahoma City limits that stop at N.W. 164th.
Several events have already taken place at Deer Creek Township, and Ward hopes the tepee church across the road is a venue for more events. In fact, Ward said the building has been renamed the Deer Creek Events Center. The tepee church, he said is not affiliated with any religious denomination, and is not used as a church, he said.
On the day after Labor Day, the chisels clinked and hammers swung as the mortar and rock rose on the new retail buildings now being leased for the spaces on the southeast corner of the intersection.
Brick and rock covered corrugated steel siding compose the retail space’s facade as the workers’ radio station carries music and news across N. MacArthur Blvd. from D.C. Feeds — a feed store also located next to Jim’s RR Tie Co., the only other of the business that has been at the intersection over the past several decades.
At D.C. Feeds, owner Bobby Young has seen traffic steadily increase over the past three decades. But now he imagines there will be thousands of new residents within five years.
“Traffic increases every year out here with more houses and more apartments, more traffic,” Young said.
A few hundred feet north of the feed store stands the old tepee church, with its red shingles and the repainted silver trusses shining in the afternoon heat. Inside, the wooden flooring is in disrepair, but the view of the ceiling above is nothing short of angelic, as light comes through an opening at its peak. So can water when it rains.
Growth in the area has made changes for those in business, but not always the types of changes one might think.
Lifetime Fence Co. and Jim’s Railroad Ties, under the ownership of Guy Townley, has been located since 1998 at the southwest corner of the intersection at 17795 N. MacArthur Blvd. Townley said the work for the two new strip mall buildings across the road from him started a couple of years ago.
“They are doing a nice job on it,” Townley said
He said traffic has increased noticeably, but not as many people now stop at his business
“We’re getting traffic because of the growth of the Deer Creek Schools,” Townley said.
Townley said he used to have more people stop in who came from Piedmont or Cashion and the surrounding rural parts of the county.
“We have lots more cars driving by, but a lot fewer people stopping in to ask about fencing,” he said, adding that his business is mostly done by telephone these days.
“It’s hard to sell fencing online,” Townley said.
Sasser said as more nearby housing additions are being built and population increases, he hopes to preserve the history of the area. Sasser is the fifth generation of Deer Creek area families. His parents were married in the Hopewell Baptist Church and his grandfather David Richardson helped build it.
Ward said he thinks the tepee church will continue to be a gateway to the area.
“I think with its history it really belongs to the community,” Ward said.
(Editor’s Note — To learn more about the Hopewell Heritage Foundation visit their website at goff-hopewell.com.)