A new welcome center under construction at the Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve is just one of the reasons a quick getaway trip up U.S. 75 to Bartlesville is well worth a thought, as spring beckons and the COVID-19 threat (hopefully) wanes.
The city of an estimated 35,000-plus people has several other attractions that complement Woolaroc, the 3,700-acre working ranch and museum that was once the country retreat of Phillips Petroleum Company founder Frank Phillips.
Located about 12 miles southwest of Bartlesville off State Highway 123, Woolaroc is undergoing big changes, says Kaci Fouts, the operation’s strategic planning director. Most notable of these changes is a new welcome center in the revamped former heritage center, which will offer indoor dining for the first time, along with a new playground for youngsters.
Fouts said Woolaroc’s spring and summer schedule hasn’t been finalized, but that the indoor dining facility is something visitors have asked for. The center replaces an area that has become outdated and wasn’t handicap-accessible. In addition to indoor dining, the welcome center will serve as a venue for weddings and other events.
“We’re pretty excited about it,” she says.
But Woolaroc is only one of the attractions that make Bartlesville an ideal destination for a weekend getaway or extended stay.
Start with downtown’s 19-story, copper-and-concrete Price Tower – a skyscraper designed by world renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Originally planned for New York City, it was built instead in downtown Bartlesville for the A.C. Price Pipeline Company. Price Tower includes an art gallery, restaurant that offers a “chef in residence” program, and a 19-room boutique hotel.
Throw in the city’s 20th century, neo-classical Frank Phillips home, add the Phillips Petroleum Company Museum and the Bartlesville Area History Museum, and you’ve got a steady line-up of attractions.
Visit Bartlesville’s executive director Maria S. Gus says it isn’t hard to find accommodations to suit nearly every budget.
“We have about 600 hotel rooms, downtown and on U.S. 75 – midrange and budget,” she says. In addition to the Price Tower, downtown accommodations include the 100-room Hilton Garden Inn.
Downtown, the Price Tower Art Center was originally designed for Manhattan in 1929 as one of a cluster of three apartment towers, according to the Price Tower website. It wasn’t built due to the Great Depression’s economic effects. Wright built it instead in Bartlesville and nicknamed it “The Tree that Escaped the Crowded Forest” of Manhattan.
New to Bartlesville’s downtown area is Tower Center at Unity Square that opened in May, says Gus, which hosts a variety of public events plus a summer concert series.
“It’s our version of urban green space, and the community has really embraced it,” she says.
The opulent, 26-room Frank Phillips mansion, managed by the Frank Phillips Foundation, was built in 1909 and remains almost entirely unchanged since Phillips and his family lived there. It offers visitors a fascinating look at how one of Oklahoma’s most prominent families lived in the early years of Oklahoma statehood.
Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve:
Frank Phillips Home: