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The Black Gold Burg

With Bartlesville’s significant role in our state history and plenty of money having been invested in its landscape, this former oil capital offers a thriving cultural community and attractions.

Michele Chiappetta
Rob Harmon
October 28, 2019

One of the larger cities in Oklahoma, Bartlesville has a rich history in two senses of the word.

First of all, it’s home to some striking historic spots, places that tie into our state’s history and are worth seeing at least once. Settled by namesake Jacob Bartles in 1873, Bartles Town as it was called, was incorporated in 1897 and became a bustling stop in the Indian Territory.

Second, Bartlesville has been home to some wealthy oil industrialists who have made a strong impact in Oklahoma. The state’s first commercially productive oil well, the Nellie Johnstone No. 1, was drilled in Bartlesville in 1897. The area became home to oilman Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum, whose ranch retreat eventually became home to Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve.

With Bartlesville’s significant role in our history and plenty of money having been invested in its landscape, it’s no surprise that when you drive into the city limits, you’ll be seeing well-manicured lawns, clean streets, and attractive parks and buildings that speak of wealth and achievement. The winding roads lined with trees, the beautiful and unique houses… It’s all inviting and appealing to the eyes.

Of course, like many parts of Oklahoma, the shifting trends in the energy industry have had an impact on Bartlesville. Two of the city’s largest companies, ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66, have shifted much of their chief operations to Houston. It remains to be seen how the city will weather the changing economic tides. In the meantime, when you’re in the mood for a day trip, Bartlesville is a great location to visit.

Frank Phillips Home
1107 Cherokee Ave. | Bartlesville

Worth a stop on your tour of Bartlesville, the home of Phillips is an intriguing place to explore. Sign up for a tour of the beautiful neo-classical home and its lovely manicured grounds. Or visit the free museum and gift shop, which features a wonderful collection of the Phillips family’s items, photographs, and other treasures from Oklahoma’s oil boom. The grounds are also available to rent for parties and fundraising events.

Price Tower
510 Dewey Ave. | Bartlesville

This 19-story, 221-foot-high building is architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s only realized skyscraper. Commissioned by CEO Harold Price, who owned an oil pipeline company in Bartlesville, Price Tower has been open to the public since 1956. Once office space, it’s now home to a museum, art gallery, and available for tours. And the tour is well worth your time because seeing Wright’s unique take on architecture is stunning. His artistic vision and dedication to a theme are evident in every 60-degree angle, every fabric shaded turquoise and Cherokee red, and every touch of copper detail and decoration.

Hillcrest Country Club
1901 Price Road | Bartlesville

Like many parts of Bartlesville, the Hillcrest Country Club was started by Phillips and several other local businesspeople. Famed designer Perry Maxwell designed its golf course. Recently upgraded, the course is a lot of fun to play. But if you want to play golf virtually for training purposes or variety, you can do that too, with over 76 virtual courses to choose from. The club also has FlightScope X2, which helps analyze a golfer’s swing. Not into golf? No problem. Hillcrest also offers tennis, aquatics, weight training, cardio exercise, fine dining, and more.

Johnstone Park
200 N. Cherokee Ave. | Bartlesville

The oldest park in Bartlesville, historic Johnstone Park has been in existence since 1903. With nearly 79 acres to explore, you’re unlikely to see it all in one day. But make time to hike the nature trail, do some bird watching, visit the playground, have a picnic, or bask in the sun somewhere. Be sure to visit the replica of the Nellie Johnstone No. 1, our state’s first commercial oil well. Nearby is the restored Hulah Train Depot, a small historic building relocated to the park. It once served an early steam locomotive that transported oil. At the holidays, the park is decorated for a Festival of Lights.

Kiddie Park
205 N. Cherokee Ave. | Bartlesville

Inside Johnstone Park is a location worth visiting if you have young children — the Kiddie Park. Established in 1947, this amusement park has tot-sized rides that cater to young ones up to 4 feet tall. Open throughout the summer, and for special occasions like Halloween, the park is fun and reasonably priced. There’s a small carousel, a mini Ferris wheel, a little roller coaster, bumper cars, airplanes, boats, a pirate ship, a train, and more. Hit the concessions stand for hot dogs and ice cream.  

Woolaroc Museum & Wildlife Preserve
1925 Woolaroc Ranch Road | Bartlesville

Created as the ranch retreat of Phillips and his family in 1925, Woolaroc is home to a 3,700-acre wildlife preserve just southwest of the center of Bartlesville. Drive through the wildlife park to see both native and exotic animals such as bison, elk, longhorn cattle, llamas, ostriches, and more — over 30 species in all. Then stop by the museum to enjoy its impressive collection of Western and Native American art and artifacts. The lodge is partially open to the public for viewing and special events. There are also hiking trails, playgrounds, concessions, and more to explore.