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DAVID'S DEN                             PRICE TOWER AND WOOLAROC


  • Bartlesville Guide

  • Price Tower – Spend the Night with Frank Lloyd Wright
    by Dave Zuchowski

    "The executive chair has required more attention than the building itself – but it is this infinite patience with details that makes a superior thing superior." – Frank Lloyd Wright to Harold C. Price, Sr. on the subject of the furnishings for the newly commissioned Price Tower. Dec. 28, 1955.

    With a population of only 34,748, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, can make some mighty boasts. For one, the township that claims the state’s first commercial oil well and later became the headquarters of the Phillips Petroleum Company is also home to architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s tallest built skyscraper, the 19-story Price Tower.

    Commissioned in 1956 by oil pipeline baron, Harold C. Price, Sr., the tower was designed as a multi-use high-rise that included office, retail and residential components, with the top floors reserved for the Price Corporate Office Suite, a corporate conference room and an apartment for the Price family.

    After driving the 47 miles from Tulsa due north to Bartlesville along Route 75, Wright fans can see what the famous architect called "the tree that escaped the crowded forest." The world-renowned building, now on the National Register of Historic Places, rises out of the prairie’s rolling hills like a green and tan mirage to dominate the city skyline with its unusual design.

    Like a tree anchored by its taproot, Price Tower is supported by a central core which is held in place by a deep central foundation. The floors of the building are cantilevered from this central core like the branches of a tree, and the lightweight outer walls hang from the floors like leaves hanging from a tree's branches.

    For many years, the building served primarily as an office building, but in April 2003, the tower harkened back to its original concept with the opening of a 21-room, state-of-the-art luxury hotel with a chic 2-story restaurant called Copper, a reference to building’s copper (and concrete) façade.

    New York-based architect, Wendy Evans Joseph, designed the hotel furnishings to compliment Wright’s original copper, aluminum, glass and Philippine mahogany interiors with floors of Cherokee red (one of Wright’s favorite colors). But she also incorporated some of her own innovations into the overall finished product. Open a door to a room or suite and enter a world with oblique walls and windows that extend the breadth of the room, and a color scheme Wright would have approved of.

    The interiors at the Inn at Price Tower were featured in the June 2003 edition of Architectural Digest, and Conde-Nast Traveler recently recognized the hotel as one of the nation’s "Top 100 New Hotels."

    In October 2006, the tower’s top three floors were restored to their original 1956 appearance and are now open for public tours, free to overnight guests. The upper reaches of the building include the Price Company’s corporate apartment, which still features the bright geometric wall mural inscribed by Wright, built-in wall shelving, dining table and banquette sofa.

    On the 19th floor, Mr. Price’s penthouse office retains its partners’ desk, daybed, and painted glass and mirror wall mural, thought to be Bartlesville’s first piece of abstract art. Elsewhere, a fifth floor office showcases a typical professional work space of the 1950s.

    The contemporary tower also includes an arts center with permanent and temporary exhibition galleries and a museum store with the catchy name The Wright Place. Thirty-minute long public tours of the tower are offered Tuesday through Saturday hourly between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. Cost is $8 for adults. Nearby, in eyeshot of the tower, the Bartlesville Community Center (BCC) is designed by Wesley Peters, a student of Wright’s and husband of Svetlana Stalina, Joseph Stalin’s daughter who fled to the United States in 1967. Considered by some to be one of the nation’s finest performing arts centers, the BCC hosts the annual OK Mozart International Festival each June in addition to staging many other cultural events.

    If You’re Going The Inn at Price Tower is currently offering a romantic travel package that includes an overnight stay, champagne and chocolates, dinner for two at the Copper Restaurant and a guided tour of the building. For further information on Price Tower and its inn, phone 918-336-1000 or visit website InnAtPriceTower.com. For information on other Bartlesville area attractions, phone 800-364-8708 or visit website VisitBartlesville.com.

    Place To Dine
    Copper Restaurant, The Inn at Price Tower, 510 Dewey Avenue, Bartlesville, Ok. 74003. Phone 918-336-1000. Open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Saturday, the two-story restaurant offers indoor dining or al fresco service on one of two outdoor patios near the top of the tower. The lunch menu offers appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches. The dinner menu spotlights reasonably-priced fare that ranges from pork and pasta to beef and seafood. The adjacent bar is worth a visit for a cocktail, specialty martini, glass of wine and some interesting décor.

    Woolaroc – Mammoth Nature Preserve Funded by Oil
    "Woolaroc is more than a place. It’s a time in history and spirit from the oil boom era of the 1920s and 30s." – Dick Miller, outgoing general manager of the Phillips Foundation.

    A little less than six months ago, I’d never even heard of Bartlesville, Oklahoma. But after visiting the modest-sized town in September and seeing the Price Tower, I wondered if I’d had my head buried in the sand.

    The tower, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s magnificent skyscraper turned luxury hotel, is reason enough to visit. However, I never expected to find another stellar tourist attraction just twelve miles to the southwest along State Route 123.

    Woolaroc, a 3,700 acre wildlife preserve, museum and country home of oil baron Frank Phillips, is impressive even before you drive through its stately gates. The inviting natural landscape of tall prairie grassland and trees in the rolling Osage Hills is home to horned sheep, a large herd of bison, donkeys, ostriches, emus, even water buffalo - species that Phillips stocked on his preserve, along with even more exotic animals.

    On our drive to the Lodge, several members of our media tour spotted a quartet of aoudads, cute and cuddly Barbary sheep they couldn’t resist capturing on film, and asked the driver to stop for a photo shoot. As exciting as the roughly two mile long drive through the preserve was, I couldn’t help being impressed by my first look at the Lodge, the 10,000 square foot, eight bedroom ranch retreat built by Frank Phillips starting in 1925 and patterned after the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon.

    The Lodge remains furnished as it was in Phillips’ day and boasts a massive foyer with a definite cowboy or southwestern motif. Eye-catching artifacts include the world’s longest set of steer horns measuring nine-foot, ten-inches that’s mounted over the staircase, bark-covered furniture, chandeliers created from deer antlers, the heads of numerous game animals lining the room’s rustic pine walls, and a portrait of Will Rogers, one of Phillips’ best friends.

    Rogers, a frequent guest at Woolaroc along with a host of other folk that included movie stars, wealthy Eastern businessmen and presidents Hoover and Truman, is once quoted as saying that "Of all the places in the United States, Woolaroc is the most unique."

    Phillips was born in Iowa in 1873, the son of a Methodist minister and the third of ten children. Originally a barber, he visited the Batelesville area in 1904 and was amazed by the large number of oil derricks he saw. Soon afterward, he decided to take up wildcatting but encountered a long string of failures before finally hitting pay dirt.

    By 1909, he had amassed enough money from his oil endeavors to build a 26-room Neo-Classical mansion on Cherokee Avenue in Bartlesville. Two decades later, the home underwent an extensive $500,000 renovation in the midst of the Depression, and, has remained virtually intact ever since. Today, visitors can tour the home and enjoy its Waterford crystal chandeliers, handcrafted molded ceilings and Philippine mahogany woodwork while getting a glimpse into the life of the wealthy Oklahoma oil baron.

    An adventurous sort, Phillips witnessed the last years of the Old West and was determined to preserve its romance and spirit at Woolaroc, which takes its name from the WOOds, LAkes and ROCks found in the area. Also an aviation buff, Phillips sponsored a small, single-engine plane named after his ranch in the Dole Race from Oakland, California to Honolulu, Hawaii in 1927. After winning the race, the Woolaroc retired to Phillips’ ranch where it was housed in a small pavilion.

    Soon, the pavilion began holding other artifacts as well, serving as the precursor to the contemporary museum that has grown to over 55,000 pieces, leading one pundit to call the museum the "Little Smithsonian of the West."

    Enter the museum’s large, impressive domed lobby, dedicated on the Phillips’ 50th wedding anniversary in 1957, and be prepared to see two levels of exhibits that include everything from one of the world’s finest collections of Colt firearms to unique displays of artifacts the cowboy era. The museum also houses a large collection of Native American pottery, baskets, beads, blankets and cultural art as well as paintings and sculptures by artists like Frederick Remington, Charles Russell and Albert Bierstadt.

    For more information, phone 800-636-0307 or visit website woolaroc.org. For information on other area attractions, phone 800-364-8708 or visit website VisitBartlesville.com.

    Places to Dine
    Bogart’s Fireside Dining Restaurant, 4049 SE Nowata Rd., Bartlesville, Ok. 74006. Phone 918-331-0020. Stylish eatery with wonderful food, a relaxing atmosphere, specialty martinis, live jazz or blues music the first Saturday evening of each month and an eclectic menu offering a wide variety of choices for lunch or dinner.

    Dink’s, 2929 E. Frank Phillips Blvd. Bartlesville, Ok. 74003. Phone 918-335-0606. Authentic hickory smoked barbecue with choices of beef brisket, pork loin, chicken, turkey breast and smoked sausage along with thirteen sides and ice-cold beer selections to accompany them.

    Dave Zuchowski has been writing about travel for twenty years, and his articles have made the pages of many newspapers aand magazines cross the country, including AAA, Pathfinders, West Virginia Magazine, Southsider, and Westsylvania. Currently, he is the travel correspondent for the New Castle News, a daily in the Pittsburgh area. In his spare time, he also puts his horticultural interests to good use on his fifteen acre farm located near Centerville, Pa.

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