Sunday, March 20, 2011


Bartlesville-Architecture, Oil, Opera and Good Living


By Doc Lawrence

Headed into Bartlesville from the Tulsa, Oklahoma airport, I could see it on the horizon. I knew all about Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece but seeing is believing. As soon as I detected the absence of right angles and the Cherokee red floors that I knew I had entered hallowed ground. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Inn at Price Tower is one of only three Wright structures in the world that offer architectural fans like me the opportunity to overnight.
When he completed it in 1956, Wright called his masterpiece-his only built skyscraper-the “tree that escaped the crowded forest.” On the National Register of Historic Places, the architectural jewel attracts visitors from around the world but is also known for its world-class exhibitions. 
My room was a Wright creation in every detail and the view was a panorama of the entire city. I changed clothes and headed over to the OK Mozart, part of the annual festival in Bartlesville that attracts national audiences and international acclaim. The fact that I could walk from Price Tower to the performing arts center said much about the quality of life in this city of around 35,000. The evening of classical music was a reminder that Oklahoma has contributed mightily to America’s landscape and regarding popular culture claims as its own Jim Thorpe, Gene Autry, Brad Pitt, Will Rogers, Reba McEntire and Ron Howard.
Ponca City is vintage Americana.  Here is the original home-a museum today-of oil baron Ernest Whitworth Marland, the tenth Governor of Oklahoma and founder and of Marland Oil Company. The displays of Native American and frontier artifacts, paintings and photographs are impressive. The other home, the spectacular E.W. Marland Estate was modeled after the Davanzati Palace in Florence, Italy. Marland, one of the mighty forces in the development of America’s oil industry and called this his “Palace on the Prairie” a castle detailed with carved wood, sculptured stone, wrought iron arched doorways, Waterford crystal chandeliers and hand-painted and gold-leaf ceilings. Complete with a leather-lined elevator, seven fireplaces, twelve bathrooms, it was designed and constructed as a showplace for fine art, and one-of-a-kind craftsmanship.
This magnificent mansion reflects the elegance of the affluent days of the oilman, who lived lavishly and entertained in the same style. Marland’s story and lifestyle stirs images of “The Great Gatsby,” and includes the tragic story of his financial ruin and his widow’s amazing journey.
E.W. Marland commissioned Ponca City’s Pioneer Woman Museum and the accompanying Pioneer Woman Statue "in appreciation of the heroic character of the women who braved the dangers and endured the hardships incident to the daily life of the pioneer and homesteader in this country." Local historical landmarks include Ponca City’s downtown district Grand Avenue and the theatrical palace, the Poncan Theatre.
The Conoco Museum showcases the accomplishments that expanded Marland Oil and Continental Oil Company into the global energy colossus, Conoco, and is a worthy stop before visiting Standing Bear Native American Park and Museum, featuring a dramatic 22-foot bronze statue of Ponca Chief Standing Bear.  A colorful 60-foot diameter circular viewing court is located at the feet of Standing Bear and contains large sandstone boulders around its parameter affixed with the official brass seals of the six area tribes, Osage, Pawnee, Otoe-Missouria, Kaw, Tonkawa and Ponca.
 Oil baron Frank Phillips was the founder of Phillips Petroleum Company. His Bartlesville home was built in 1909 and occupied by the Phillips until their deaths. Preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society, this National Register Historic Site reflects the family life of one of the legends of the Oklahoma oil industry. But, his home in the Osage Hills country, Woolaroc, is a place for the ages.
Will Rogers said, "Of all the places in the United States, Woolaroc is the most unique." Once the country estate of oil baron Frank Phillips, it is now Woolaroc Ranch, Museum and 3,700 acre Wildlife Preserve where Phillips hosted U.S. Presidents, wealthy Eastern investors, dignitaries, Indians, tycoons, movie stars, lawmen and outlaws on this sprawling ranch southwest of Bartlesville. The museum comfortably fitted into nature’s beauty houses over 55,000 pieces including some of the greatest collections of western art, relics and exhibits that tell the story of the American West.
Prairie Song, Indian Territory, has the look and feel of an 1800’s prairie village set on an authentic turn-of-the-century working ranch, which features more than 20 buildings including a two story saloon, a post office, trading post, rock jail house, chapel, covered bridge and train depot and is a brief distance from Dewey, the home of cowboy movie star Tom Mix
The Tom Mix Museum houses items from the local sheriff-turned-movie star’s personal collection providing a glimpse into the life of one of Oklahoma’s most colorful figures.  Numerous costumes, memorabilia and photographs of Mix, the first “King of the Cowboys,” are displayed at the museum. The Dewey Hotel Museum – A restored Victorian hotel, built in 1900, offers an array of period furnishings, rare photographs, clothing, and glassware depicting the early lifestyles of the area and the Cherokee Trading Post is a reminder that this area of Oklahoma is Native American heartland.


This annual festival takes place each summer in Bartlesville and continues to be one of Oklahoma’s most unique cultural assets, celebrating music, culture, and the arts by bringing the highest quality concert artists to perform at the Bartlesville Community Center, a visually- and acoustically-stunning masterpiece by W.W. Peters, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. Past festivals have featured artists such as Andre Watts, Joshua Bell, Branford Marsalis, Leontyne Price, Itzhak Perlman and Sir James Galway. This year, patrons enjoyed the talents of some familiar artists like Mark O’Connor, Barry Douglas, Anne-Marie McDermott and Ani and Ida Kavafian.
The finale was the performance of acclaimed mezzo-soprano, Frederica von Stade. The Woolaroc Outdoor Concert is part of the OK Mozart Festival and quite comparable to music venues like Wolf Trap near Washington, D.C. and Atlanta’s Chastain Amphitheatre. Food and wine all enjoyed in a family friendly environment. You sit on lawn chairs or blankets in the mini valley listening to the orchestra play selections from Broadway, movies and Americana while the brilliant Oklahoma sun sets over this magnificent fresh air facility.
Oklahoma is best described by music, whether the songs from the Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway classic of the same name or the cowboy classics of Gene Autry. And what other place on earth celebrates Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Jimi Hendrix in one music festival?

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