Sights, Sounds, Adventures Await in Bartlesville

Out & About in Greater Tulsa By EMILY RAMSEY
Managing Editor

ORCHESTRAL SOUNDS: The Amici New York Orchestra, OK Mozart’s resident orchestra, performs at the Bartlesville Community Center during last year’s festival.

Courtesy OK Mozart

I am making it a goal to focus less on booking trips to faraway destinations and more on exploring what immediately surrounds me. One place on my list is Bartlesville, less than an hour’s drive from Tulsa.

With the lazy summer months upon us and the OK Mozart Festival looming, I think June will be the perfect time to make that short trip.

Here are some of my planned excursions:
OK Mozart runs June 6-13. I hope to drop in on opening day, which will feature free activities all day long. A fun run will start off the morning, followed by live music by the Corky Davis Country Swing Band and family activities, and an evening performance by the Tulsa Youth Orchestra at the Bartlesville Community Center.

I have always been drawn to Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs, particularly his prairie homes that endeavor to be one with nature. Though, Wright’s designs did not stop with homes. One example of that is the Price Tower, 510 Dewey Avenue. While Wright designed a number of skyscrapers, the 19-story Price Tower is the only one that was ever built. Price Tower received the American Institute of Architects 25-year Award and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Price Tower Arts Center offers a variety of traveling art exhibitions and permanent exhibitions on Wright, Bruce Goff, and the Price Company and Tower. The building also features a 21-room boutique inn called the Inn at Price Tower and the Copper Restaurant and Bar. Future plans for the Price Tower Arts Center include an expansion of its educational program. The Price Tower Arts Center has currently commissioned world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid to create the new complex that will adjoin the Price Tower, complementing the symmetrical design of Frank Lloyd Wright. The building would include a new museum, library and exhibition hall.

Another architectural landmark is found on the campus of Oklahoma Wesleyan University: La Quinta Foster Mansion, 2201 Silverlake Road. The Foster Mansion was built for oilman H.V. Foster, once known as the wealthiest man west of the Mississippi. The mansion was designed by Kansas City architect Edward Buehler Delk, who also designed Tulsa’s Philtower and the Philbrook Museum of Art. The mansion was completed in 1932 on 152 acres. It is a 32-room, Spanish-style home, with 14 bathrooms and seven fireplaces. Upon Foster’s death in 1939, the mansion operated as various schools before being purchased by the Wesleyan Church. La Quinta now serves as the focal point of the campus and holds the school’s library and administrative offices. La Quinta Foster Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion includes hand-painted ceilings, a four-story tower offering sweeping countryside views, a fireplace surrounded by mosaic tiles that tell the story of Don Quixote, and an outdoor fountain and rose garden.

The Sooner Park Play Tower, 200-400 Madison Blvd., features a spiral staircase to an observation deck that offers a sprawling view of the city. For families, this will surely be a highlight for the kids. The tower was originally a gift from Mrs. Harold C. Price (wife of founder of the H.C. Price Company) to the children of Bartlesville. The structure was designed by architect Bruce Goff and constructed in 1963. By the 1990s, however, the tower was closed due to deterioration. In 2014, to commemorate the tower’s 50-year anniversary, the city of Bartlesville determined to restore the tower, which took place in fall 2014, and children have been enjoying it ever since. The play tower reminds one of the space-age era and is one of Goff’s few public works of sculpture and embodies his legacy of architectural expressionism.

Take a stroll around downtown Bartlesville, which offers that quaint, nostalgic appeal that so many downtown areas create mixed with the feeling that you’re in a sizeable city center, as opposed to a one-horse town. Downtown Bartlesville is larger than many city’s single-road Main Streets and boasts a number of long-time family-owned restaurants and shops.

Even if I don’t choose to make an extended visit to Woolaroc museum and wildlife preserve, I always enjoy taking a driving around the grounds. Woolaroc was the country estate of oil baron Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum Company and brother to Tulsa’s Waite Phillips. The area affords visitors the opportunity for a peaceful scenic drive to re-commune with nature. From early spring to late fall, the North Road Tour features a five-mile drive through some of the most beautiful portions of the Woolaroc preserve. The tour includes a stop at an authentic restoration of an 1840s Trader’s Camp where true-to-life mountain men offer a glimpse of early settler living. For those looking for more history, they can visit Woolaroc’s museum, which displays more than 55,000 pieces of Southwest art and other exhibits that depict the story of the American West. Other nature opportunities include Osage Hills State Park, an area that was once an Osage Indian settlement; the 18,000-acre Prairie National Wild Horse Refuge, established in 1989; and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, a 38,000-acre home to bison, deer, coyotes and other wildlife.

Updated 06-21-2015

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