Frank Phillips put Bartlesville on the map.
First established as a trading post in 1874, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, was still a small settlement in Indian country at the start of the 20th century. Prospector Frank Phillips arrived in 1905 and found oil, which led to his establishing the Phillips Petroleum Company and building an oil empire in Bartlesville.
Today, groups visiting Bartlesville can enjoy the fruits of Phillips’ labor. As he found incredible wealth in oil, Phillips built incredible homes — both inside and outside the city — that are now some of its chief attractions. For groups visiting Bartlesville, a tour of the city is a journey through Phillips’ life and success.
The best place for groups to start is at the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum. Exhibits detail Phillips’ early life and entrepreneurial endeavors and chronicle the growth of iconic American roadside brand Phillips 66. Visitors will see plenty of historic artifacts, including an early airplane and Route 66 memorabilia.
Next on many itineraries is a visit to the Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve, a 3,600-acre site 12 miles outside of town.
“It was Frank Phillips’ country home,” said Maria Swindell Gus, executive director of the Bartlesville Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s a working ranch. There’s a huge herd of buffalo that are roaming free and a lot of other wild animals, like water buffalo, goats and prairie dogs.”
Groups can see some of the wildlife on a drive through the ranch before touring the home, which was built as a country lodge with local limestone. Next is the on-site museum.
“It has a fantastic collection of Western and Native American art,” Gus said. “Phillips amassed a collection of artwork, and the museum has continued to collect and maintain the art. There are some incredible pieces, with lots of Remingtons and Russells, and a lot of beautiful statues and sculptures.”
The Frank Phillips Foundation, which runs Woolaroc, recently acquired the Frank Phillips Home in Bartlesville. The home is preserved as it was when Phillips lived there in the 1920s, complete with original furniture.
In addition to discovering the Frank Phillips story, groups visiting Bartlesville should also take time to visit these other memorable attractions.
Frank Lloyd Wright was the greatest American architect of the 20th century, and travelers can find homes throughout the country designed in his signature style. Bartlesville, though, has a unique Wright building — Price Tower, the only skyscraper that Wright ever designed.
The 19-story structure was built in 1956 and is still a working office building. Groups can meet docents for introductions to the tower’s history and explore it on their own. Several floors have been preserved as they were originally designed by Wright, and visitors can sit in some of the chairs he created to furnish them.