Thanks to the adventurous spirit of an Iowa barber, we have a jewel in northeastern Oklahoma that makes the perfect short-distance family fun trip, girls’ getaway or romantic rendezvous: Bartlesville!
I made my first trip to Bartlesville as part of a two-day girls’ getaway with long-time friend, Mickey Haddican. “I’m impressed with Bartlesville,” she said as we started home. I agree, and here’s why:
The discovery of oil in Indian Territory gave ambitious men reason to venture into the Wild West. Frank Phillips was one of those men. Arriving from Iowa in hopes of striking the newly-discovered black gold, the barber found luck on what would have been his fourth and final attempt. Founder of Phillips Petroleum Company, Phillips became one of the richest and most successful oilmen in the country. “Uncle Frank” as he became known in the community, and his wife, Jane, were philanthropists who generously used their fortune to enhance the lives of others. Their legacy continues to be enjoyed by residents and visitors today.
Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve
Frank and Jane Phillips’ country ranch, located 12 miles southwest of Bartlesville, was built in 1925 with the purpose “to preserve the history of the West, educate, and entertain.”
Employees and staff maintain that mission. “As long as we stick to these three things as our measuring stick, we are doing what we are supposed to,” said Bob Fraser, CEO of the Frank Phillips Foundation, the nonprofit organization founded by Phillips in 1937. In 1944, Frank and Jane donated all of their personal interests including the land, buildings, art and animals to the foundation.
“You enter the museum as soon as you enter Woolaroc’s gates” explained Fraser, as the entire ranch is designated as a National Historic Preservation site. “Everything from the museum to the buffalo herds” is part of the museum according to Fraser. Highlights include:
• The Wildlife Preserve. The 3,700 acres of pristine woods, lakes and rocks are home to over 30 varieties of native and exotic wildlife that Phillips brought in to enhance his ranch. Those that remain are descendents of the original animals. The two-mile drive through the preserve is an inviting gateway to the other attractions. Have your camera ready as you will see many unique animals.
• The Museum. The 50,000-square-foot museum features some of the most treasured western art, sculptures and artifacts in the country (most are a part of the Phillips’ personal collection). In addition, children will enjoy the exhibit with shrunken heads, the chuck wagon and the airplane named "WOOLAROC" that won a flight race between California and Hawaii in 1927.
• Families should also not miss a look inside The Lodge, a log cabin built in 1927 and used by the Phillips family to entertain famous guests.
• Mountain Man Camp. This 1840’s-era camp (open April through Labor Day) provides a glimpse into the transient life of men who hunted and traded on the plains. Men in period dress will show you their camp, give you a chance to shoot their period gun-powder rifles and teach you how to throw a tomahawk.
The Price Tower Arts Center and Inn at Price Tower
Local businessman H.C. Price commissioned famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to construct an office building for his growing oil pipe company. Wright’s only skyscraper was completed in 1956. Saved from demolition, the unusual structure has been restored to its original state and is now an arts center and hotel. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building and Wright-designed furniture are part of the art itself.
A stay at the Inn at Price Tower is highly recommended for adult getaways. The uniquely-designed rooms provide skyline views of Bartlesville and the outlying landscape. The Copper Bar and Grill on the 16th floor is the perfect setting for adultbeverages, appetizers and live jazz music most nights.
Family FREE Sundays are held on the third Sunday of the month. Families can enjoy the Family Arts Festival in October.
Frank Phillips Home
A stunning early 20th century Oklahoma mansion, the Phillips’ 10,000-square-foot home is another Bartlesville property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is complete with 90 percent of its original 1909 furnishings. No detail was ignored when designing this custom home for Bartlesville’s wealthiest couple.
A visit to Kiddie Park, a local landmark since 1947, is a must if you’re visiting with youngsters 12 years old and under. Several of the 16 rides are original to the park. Ron Adams, president of the Bartlesville Amusement Park Association, says he has fond memories of the park from his childhood and the park is still popular with kids today.
Other features at Kiddie Park include a clown on Friday evenings. Characters such as Sponge Bob or Minnie Mouse are also known to make appearances. A snack bar is available with affordable treats.
Worth Another Visit
It appears that Frank Phillips’ vision to preserve, educate and entertain prevails. Bartlesville offers something for all and keeps on giving. My friend, Mickey, is already considering a return trip with her petroleum engineer husband who will appreciate the oil history. Maybe we can make that a double date!
Contact the Bartlesville Convention and Visitor’s bureau at 918-336-8708 or visit their website at www.visitbartlesville.com for more information on activities, dining options and overnight accommodations.
• Woolaroc offers a number of annual events including kids’ day camps in July. For more information, call 918-336-0307 ext 10 or visit www.woolaroc.org.
• To learn more about the Price Tower, call 918-336-4949 or visit www.pricetower.org. Gallery/Tower tours are $12 adults, $10 seniors & children ages 5 and up (complimentary to Tower hotel guests).
• For details about the Frank Phillips Home, call 918-336-2491 or visit www.frankphillipshome.org.
• The Kiddie Park has regularly scheduled open hours through the summer: Tuesdays-Thursdays 7:00-9:30pm through August 7; Fridays and Saturdays, 7:00-10:00pm through August 30. For more information, contact Ron Adams at 918-337-3311 or visit www.kiddiepark.net.
Karen Mitchell, a lifelong resident of the Oklahoma City metro area, lives in Edmond with her husband, Mark, teenage son, Ryan, and one spoiled Welsh Corgi. Daughter, Megan, attends OSU in Stillwater.