Oklahoma Oil Tycoon’s Estate Attracts Visitors From Across Country
BARTLESVILLE, Oklahoma - The estate of Oklahoma's oil tycoon Frank Phillips is drawing in more than 100,000 every year. The founder of Phillips Gas is often described as the “Great Gatsby of the Midwest,” and Woolaroc and the Frank Phillips Home in Bartlesville continue to see increases in visitors from across the country.
“He and Jane Phillips hosted thousands and thousands of people that came here to his ranch. They were the who's who of business, sports, entertainment. Anybody who was anybody was a guest here at Woolaroc,” said Bob Fraser, CEO of Frank Phillips Foundation.
With more than 3,700 acres, there’s something for everyone at Woolaroc; the name is derived from woods, lakes, and rocks in the Osage Hills where it’s located.
Kids can learn how to build a teepee, throw a tomahawk, and shoot a powder rifle, learning about what life was like back in the 1830s at Mountain Man Camp.
“Woolaroc truly is a wild west experience,” said Fraser. “People came from the West Coast, and the East Coast, some came from Europe and they were seeing things and experiencing things that they've never seen before."
On the drive in to the museum, families can see ostriches, longhorns, zebras, and water buffalo roaming the ranch. There are also three hiking trails.
The museum itself is home to one of the most unique collections of Western artifacts in the world, all things the oil businessman was passionate about, including aviation.
“Frank sponsored a small plane named ‘Woolaroc’ in a race from California to Hawaii. Nine planes take off, only two planes finish. Several crashed at sea. It was a very dangerous flight, but the Woolaroc won the race.”
Philips needed to store the plane, so he asked his crew to build a hangar on the hillside, which became the first room of the museum.
"I'm an old pilot, so I appreciated that - 21 years in the Air Force,” said John Justice, a visitor from Bellavista, Arkansas. “So much history in this area that I didn't know anything about.”
Neither did his wife, who appreciated the beauty of the landscape, nor did a couple visiting from Louisville, Kentucky.
“I thought oh, this is one of those drive-thru museums. And then we parked, and got out, and there's a lot here,” said Joe Pliska. “I’ve really loved all the paintings.”
Artwork throughout the museum is valued at half-a-billion-dollars. There’s also one of the most complete Colt firearms collections in the world, famous shrunken heads, and room of random items Phillips collected.
“The weirdest thing in here, I would say, probably the wreath made out of human hair,” said Fraser. “That's pretty strange."
Many people enjoy taking pictures in front of the prototype for the first-ever Phillips Gas Station. It used to be at the Bartlesville Airport, and famous names like Amelia Earhart were inside the building. Five years ago, the protype was hauled to Woolaroc.
"I think it's really neat to see what he did with his oil money,” said Justice. “I really love the lodge. It’s gorgeous,” said his wife, Jean Justice.
The Phillips’ rustic 9-bedroom, 9-bath lodge looks just like it did the last time Frank and Jane were here.
"The thing I love about the lodge home is it's like a time capsule,” said Fraser. The couple had separate bedrooms, and while the second floor is not open to the public, News On 6 got a tour. Jane’s room is decorated with hundreds of pictures of famous men who visited Woolaroc.
The couple’s neo-classic 26-room, three-story mansion in Bartlesville is also like a time capsule. Built in 1909, the original furnishings are untouched, including the barber chair in the bathroom.
“Woolaroc is where thousands of people came for parties, but here at their Bartlesville mansion, it was more community friends, it was more company people that Frank would be meeting with, Board of Directors of Phillips Petroleum Company.”
Combined, the two estates are driving more visitors to Northeast Oklahoma to experience what life was like for the oil tycoon.
"Bartlesville used to be a place where people would spend a couple of hours and then head out of town, and now people need to spend a coupe of days,” said Fraser. "Shame on you! If you haven't been to Woolaroc or the Frank Phillips Home, you are missing out on two of the most unique pieces of history.
And to have those two rich pieces of history, within this community, is a real blessing."
Hours, directions, and tour information is listed on Woolaroc’s website. (https://www.woolaroc.org/pages/hours-and-directions)