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Experience oil-rich history, art, and architectureExperience oil-rich history, art, and architecture

Explore Bartlesville, OklahomaExplore Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Editor's note: Stop by Bartlesville on your way to or from the AOPA Fly-In at Norman, Oklahoma, Sept. 8 and 9.

About 110 nautical miles northeast of Oklahoma City/Norman, Oklahoma, and 36 nm north of Tulsa, Bartlesville is the little town with the big skyline that oil built. A century ago, Bartlesville citizens, made wealthy by oil, invested in architecture and supported the arts. Today, you can tour, and even sleep in, the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed and built skyscraper. Explore the opulent estate of oilman Frank Phillips, visit local museums, and discover uniquely Oklahoman surprises.

  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower, seen here through its accompanying Sundial sculpture, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site nominee and the only realized skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo courtesy VisitBartlesville.com.
  • Downtown Bartlesville, viewed from the Price Tower. Photo by Justin Cozart via Wikipedia.
  • The Frank Phillips home was completed in 1909; Frank and his wife lived there until their deaths in 1950 and 1948. Their granddaughter and her family, who lived in the house for 25 years, made no significant changes to the interior and then donated the 26-room neoclassical mansion and the Phillips’ personal belongings to the State of Oklahoma as a historical site. During the holidays, the home is decorated for Christmas. Photo by Phil Baker via Flickr.
  • The Inn at Price Tower is a boutique hotel experience with 19 rooms on seven of the upper floors of the historic skyscraper. Photo by Christian Korab, courtesy Price Tower.
  • The Bartlesville Community Center includes a 1,700-seat performance hall that hosts music, theatre, and national Broadway touring productions as well as symphony, choral, and ballet events. Photo courtesy OKMozart.com.
  • Cap your evening with a scrumptious dessert at Frank & Lola’s. Photo courtesy Frank & Lola’s.
  • Hideaway Pizza, an Oklahoma original since 1957. Photo courtesy Hideaway Pizza.
  • Visit the Woolaroc ranch house, the country estate of oil baron Frank Phillips, constructed from 1925–27. This bongo, and the other exotic animals displayed in the house, lived on the estate and was preserved after it died. Photo by Randy Lane via Flickr.
  • The Woolaroc Museum displays a massive collection of Western art, artifacts, and sculptures, including a large number of sculptures that depict pioneer women as they endured numerous hardships while struggling to create better lives for themselves and their families. Photo by Kepperson3 via Wikipedia.
  • A concert takes place by the Woolaroc lake during the OK Mozart Festival. Woolaroc, named for the woods, lakes, and rocks indigenous to the Osage area, is open year-round and hosts many special events. Photo courtesy OKMozart.com.
  • A monarch butterfly visits the milkweed garden at Woolaroc, planted specifically to attract numerous types of the colorful insects. Photo by Carolyn via Flickr.
  • You’ll make a 2-mile drive through an animal preserve to get to Woolaroc’s main grounds, passing native bluegrass, rock work, rugged terrain, and free-roaming animals like these bison. Photo by Bland Bridenstine, courtesy Woolaroc.
  • Many exotic animals at Woolaroc roam free, while others occupy pens. This unique animal appears to be a cross between a zebra and a horse. Photo by Mike Petrucci via Flickr.
  • Woolaroc is home to a number of unusual cattle. Photo by Mike Petrucci via Flickr.
  • The grounds at Woolaroc are home to many sculptures, including Native Americans, pioneer women, outlaws, and cowboys. This one depicts a man fishing with a spear. Photo by Randy Lane via Flickr.

Once on the ground at Bartlesville Municipal Airport you can borrow a courtesy car from Phillips Aviation Services for short trips, or just rent one. Bartlesville takes its name from Jacob Bartles, and it was two of his employees who unlocked the door to the city’s future with the first commercial oil well in the state of Oklahoma. In 1904, Iowa farm boys Frank and L.E. Phillips hit a gusher north of Bartlesville, the first of 81 straight producers. Today the 19-story, 292-foot Phillips Petroleum Building rises high above this city of about 37,000 and ConocoPhillips is the largest employer. The city is still centered around its downtown Central Business District, listed as a National Register Historic District. In 2006, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Bartlesville to its list of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations as an example of unique and lovingly preserved communities in the United States.

The 19-story Price Tower was originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for a New York project. Instead, it was built in Bartlesville in 1956 as the world headquarters of the H.C. Price Company. Wright’s cantilevered design was inspired by a tree, and Price Tower has been called the tree that escaped the crowded forest. Photo by Lane Pearman via Flickr.

Start at the visitor’s information center, housed in the century-old Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Rail Depot, and check out the two rare steam locomotives. Next, visit the Bartlesville Area History Museum and the Phillips Petroleum Co. Museum, which includes an original 1914 Pusher airplane. A mile south is the Frank Phillips Home, built in 1909 and preserved by the family with possessions intact. There’s plenty of shopping to be had, but don’t miss the guided tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower, the only realized skyscraper by the legendary architect. The top floors have been restored to 1956, complete with original Wright mid-century modern interiors. You can eat, drink, and enjoy live music at the Copper Bar and even sleep here in one of 19 distinctive, high-design rooms on the tower's upper floors—continental breakfast and tower tour included. Next door, the Bartlesville Community Center is home to the Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra, ballet troupe, choral society, and other performances. The OK Mozart International Music Festival takes place in Bartlesville each June and features live performances of classical music, jazz, light opera, and more. Past performers have included André Watts, Joshua Bell, and Itzhak Perlman.

This sculpture of President Abraham Lincoln, now on display at Woolaroc, was one of three used as models for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo by Matt Howry via Flickr.

Downtown is abuzz with energy; young professionals occupy remodeled historic lofts, and Hilton has opened a Garden Inn. Eateries like Frank & Lola’s Neighborhood Restaurant & Bar have spurred additional redevelopment. Another local favorite is the famed Hideaway Pizza, an Oklahoma original since 1957. Play roulette or catch a game on one of the big screens while they prepare your Hideaway Special, which presents a different topping on each slice of pizza. Follow with a slice of frozen lemonade pie, just the thing on a warm summer day.

Twelve miles southwest of town is the don’t-miss Woolaroc Ranch, Museum, and Wildlife Preserve. Named for the woods, lakes, and rocks indigenous to the Osage area, Woolaroc is the 3,700-acre country estate of oil baron Frank Phillips. As you drive in, look for more than 700 animals, including zebra, bison, elk, ostriches, and longhorn cattle. Check out the famous Woolaroc Travel Air 5000 monoplane that won the Dole Air Race. You’ll find a welcome center, walking trails, petting barn, and a museum with a huge collection of art, Colt firearms, and American Indian cultural items. Nearby Osage Hills State Park offers 1,100 acres of hiking, biking, fishing, and camping. Or, stay in a native-stone cabin constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The park is near Oklahoma’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the world’s largest remaining intact tallgrass prairie, managed by The Nature Conservancy and home to 2,500 bison.

Art, history, architecture, and exotic animals—all this and festivals throughout the year make Bartlesville a great place to visit any time!

 The Woolaroc Museum opened in 1929 as a one-room stone hangar for the famous Woolaroc airplane. In 1927, Frank Phillips, president of Phillips Petroleum Company, loaned barnstormer and stunt pilot Art Goebel $4,500 to take delivery of a new Travel Air 5000 monoplane. Goebel promised to use a new aviation fuel developed by Phillips Petroleum for the 2,439-mile flight over the Pacific (the Dole Air Race) and named the airplane Woolaroc, after Phillips’ ranch near Bartlesville. Goebel won the race. Photo by Rex Brown via Flickr.

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Crista Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy

Crista Videriksen Worthy has been flying around the United States with her pilot-husband Fred and their children since 1995, and writing about fun places to fly since 2006. Her favorite places to explore are the backcountry strips of Idaho and Utah's red rock country. She currently lives in Idaho and serves as both the managing editor of Pilot Getaways magazine and editor of The Flyline, the monthly publication of the Idaho Aviation Association.
Topics: US Travel

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