History becomes spiritual experience at Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve
BY BRANDI BALL World Scene Writer
Saturday, May 14, 2011
6/08/11 at 1:09 PM
BARTLESVILLE - Excited laughter mixed with wonderment is bountiful upon the grounds of Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve.
Children, in awe of the extensive exhibits once owned by Oklahoma oilman Frank Phillips (1873–1950), get a glimpse of days gone by, things they have only read about in history books.
But no books are needed here because the Osage Hills tell the stories. And boy, are there stories - they bounce off the trees and rest in every crevice of the landscape.
Over the years, hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma students have taken a field trip to Woolaroc.
But if you last visited as a fourth-grader, you will find a renewed appreciation if you return as an adult. Guaranteed.
Around 2 p.m., from fall to spring, most buses have loaded and left the premises, and the atmosphere shifts. Gone are the precious sounds of elementary kids. Instead there is the quiet reverence of adults poring over artifacts and filing away tales of their heritage.
At Woolaroc, you can't help but become a child again. It's that sense of rediscovery of Oklahoma that can deepen the pride of all the state's inhabitants.
Earlier this week, Gov. Mary Fallin urged Oklahomans to take trips throughout the state. A "staycation," she said, can boost the state's economy.
Woolaroc, which was the 3,600-acre country estate of the Phillips family, is a perfect place to begin exploring.
Before you are finished driving the two miles from the grounds' entrance to the parking lot, you will already be transported to a time when buffalo roamed the land. Lining the pathway that winds its way to the museum and Phillips' ranch home, you're likely to see elk, deer, longhorn cattle, zebras and buffalo grazing along the water's edge.
By establishing a foundation before his death in 1950, Phillips' intent was to ensure there would be a place for Oklahomans to pay homage to the trio of founders who gave Osage County the rich legacy it has today.
Upon entering the museum, guests see a powerful display of statues - The Indian, The Plainsman and The Oilman.
The great care taken to preserve and showcase those three figures of our state's history stretches more than 50,000 square feet. Many of the collections housed are from Phillips' personal travels and hobbies - which included aviation and archaeology.
Walk a few hundred feet to the Lodge, and peek into the lives of oil royalty.
The 10,000-square-foot log home was originally built so the Phillips could entertain guests from all over the country and abroad. It holds all the original decor, just as it was left upon their death.
In the upstairs living quarters, the bedrooms of both Frank and his wife, Jane, are lined, floor to ceiling, with personal photos of the more than 200,000 businessmen, cattlemen and American Indians they hosted.
The main living area is flanked by two large sandstone fireplaces, lighted by lofty chandeliers hanging overhead and lined with upwards of 100 mounted animal heads. They aren't stuffed trophies - most were brought to the land by Phillips to graze in protected pastures until they died of natural causes. Phillips' affection for nature and wildlife is apparent throughout the whole estate.
The front porch of the Lodge looks out upon the rolling hills and down on the sparkling waters of Clyde Lake, which sits just below cascading rock ridges. The serenity is unmistakable.
Sitting on a rocker on the porch, it was easy to become ingrained in the surroundings and clear that the Phillips' were blessed to have one of the state's most majestic views as their own front yard.
Then the skies darkened, and the thunder rolled. It was an instant reminder of the statue sitting near the entrance, in the museum's courtyard.
"Thanks For The Rain," - a cowboy kneeling beside his horse to pray - has an inscription that reads, "A reminder to us that the earth and the grass are not man-made."
From the shelter of the porch, the thunder continued to boom, the skies opened and it began to pour a hard, cleansing rain.
It was a fitting bookend to a day of perusing and connecting to the treasure inherent in the Osage Hills.
Not only does it neighbor state-of-the-art Woolaroc, but also the Bartlesville area is rich in culture - from art galleries, museums and historical spots to ballet and theater. It boasts a big-city feel while maintaining its "Main Street, Oklahoma" charm.
Stir in local culinary delights, shopping and recreation for all ages, and you have plenty to stay busy for an extended weekend.
Here are some unique gems to help make your visit to Woolaroc a sweet spot in your memory.
Where to eat
Here are must-stop places for breakfast, lunch, supper and late-night drinks.
Weeze's Café, 328 S. Dewey Ave., 918-337-0881
Traditional American breakfast and brunch food in a diner that is a throwback to the '50s. You'll have trouble choosing from omelettes, pancakes, steak and eggs at this down-home, locally owned gem with affordable, Waffle House–like prices.
Dink's BBQ, 2929 SE Frank Phillips Blvd., 918-335-0606
Fill up on pork ribs, brisket, chicken, pork loin, turkey and sausage that are slow-cooked over pecan and hickory in the pit. From $5 sandwiches to a $17.95 loin-back rib dinner, this is a must stop for all barbecue lovers. The casual, rustic atmosphere is a nod to the area's ranching heritage.
Frank and Lola's, 200 SE Second St., 918-396-5658
Made-from-scratch soups, plus pork green chili, calamari and steaks. Weekend specials often include fresh fish caught just off the Hawaiian Coast within 48 hours before it arrives on your plate. Casual atmosphere with sidewalk dining and live local music every Saturday night.
Copper Bar at Price Tower
510 Dewey Ave., 918-336-1000
Cocktails: Contemporary food and bar. For late-night drinks or appetizers, you must take in the sights atop the historic Price Tower. Copper is on the 15th floor of the renovated building, which is famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright's only realized skyscraper. Outdoor dining/drinks available, weather permitting.
Where to relax
Depending on your needs, here are two unique spots on each end of the spectrum:
Osage Hills State Park
2131 Osage Hills State Park Road, 918-337-2176
About nine miles from downtown Bartlesville. Spectacular beauty on 1,100 acres in the heart of Osage County. Picnic tables and shelters, RV campsites, tent sites and cabins. Extensive hiking trails, and abundant fishing for bass, crappie, catfish and perch can be found in Lookout Lake or in Sand Creek. RV sites have electric/water, and the facility has modern bath houses. Rowboat rentals are available.
Inn at Price Tower
510 Dewey Ave., 877-424-2424
For an elegant experience, stay in one of the 19 guest rooms in the historic Frank Lloyd Wright skyscraper. The rooms, encased glass and rich in luxury, showcase Wright's cantilevered architecture. Amenities include the Copper Bar and the Price Center's art gallery.
Where to explore
Don't leave Bartlesville without seeing:
Frank Phillips' Home, 1107 Cherokee Ave., 918-336-2491
The former primary residence of oilman Frank and wife Jane Phillips, still with their personal belongings intact, is now operated by the Oklahoma Historical Society. About 200 tours a month are conducted at the 1909 neo-Classical mansion.
Keepsake Candle Factory
263 County Road 3022, 918-336-0351
Founded by Ed and Alice Ririe in 1969, this candle factory has a gift shop and tours to see how the hand-dipped candles are made. Hint: During OK Mozart Fest in June, you can dine (by reservation) on the porch of the building, once a U.S. Air Force Radar Station.
One of the most breathtaking views in the state can be seen from your car window. Wind through the Osage Hills among old ranches, barns and lots of rolling green.
From U.S. 75 near Skiatook, turn west on Oklahoma 11, and if the mood strikes you, take it all the way to Oklahoma 99. And the next time someone tells you Oklahoma is just a bunch of flat farm land, you'll have photos to prove them wrong. It's an amateur photographer's fantasy.
Shop until you drop
Dewey is about five miles north of Bartlesville. In the quaint small town, you can find a bundle of antiques. Here are two must-browse boutiques:
Linger-Longer Antiques and Soda Shoppe, 814 North Shawnee Ave.
Make your way through more than 40 booths. After you finish shopping, you can enjoy a treat from the old-fashioned soda fountain and lunch counter.
418 E. Don Tyler St.
Specializes in huge stock of vintage lighting but is loaded with collectibles - valuable and kitschy.
Don Tyler, home to several other antique shops, is a one-stop street for visitors.
1925 Woolaroc Ranch Road, Bartlesville
Admission: Adults $8, Seniors $6, 11 and younger free.
Lodge, walking trails, wildlife, petting barn, museum, event facilities.
Original Print Headline: A day trip back in time
Brandi Ball 918-581-8369
Chance Victory looks at a mineral display in the Woolaroc Museum on Wednesday. The case holds items like bold cobaltazurite from Arizona and mounds of sparkling emerald malachite from Siberia. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
The history of the Osage Hills is on display at Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve in Bartlesville. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
As soon as you enter the property, you are transported to a time when buffalo roamed the land. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Sage Carroll, 10, tries on a fur hat at Woolaroc. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Shawn Bradley of WrightElementary School throws atomahawk under the watchfuleye of Wes Butcher. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Ryan Simmons of Claremore views “The Indian” at Woolaroc Museum and Wildlife Preserve. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World