Frank Lloyd Wright in Oklahoma!
We did it! Don and I finally spent a night in Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper! It's kind of embarrassing that Don and I never knew about this iconic building, that was constructed in 1956.
In the 1990's, our family lived in Tulsa, less than an hour away from Wright's 19-story tower. We didn't know about it. We also didn't know that Phillips Petroleum bought it, in 1981.
Interesting. Don turned down a job at Phillips, in 1977. Could he have ended up, with an office in Price Tower? I guess not. Phillips had some issues with the building and used it mostly for storage. Thankfully, they donated the building to Price Tower Arts Center, in 2000. Today it houses hotel rooms and much more.
Bartlesville & The Tower 2019
Don and I rolled into town on a Monday afternoon, in November. It was easy to spot the skyscraper. Oh, how I love that retro word!
FLW was never all about vertical buildings, but then the H.C. Price Company commissioned him in the fifties, to design a corporate office building... way out in Oklahoma! I have a feeling that this very view of the tower (with the street and shops) hasn't changed a whole lot, in 60+ years.
"The Tree That Escaped the Crowded Forest"
The sight of the lone tower was pretty dramatic as we approached. What an unusual design, even for Frank Lloyd Wright! In 1929, Wright created this tower idea, with hopes of building a 4-tower complex in NYC. When the Depression hit, he put his plans aside, until the 1950's
I'm no expert on the famous architect, but I know Frank loved his prairies. He must have been pretty enthused about adapting his plans and creating this building, in Oklahoma's prairie land.
Wright nicknamed the tower, the tree that escaped the crowded forest. The skyscraper wouldn't have looked nearly so tall and unusual, in a crowded city.
Cantilevered Reinforced Concrete Tower
We parked in the nearby lot and headed to the lobby. The asymmetrical building looked like it was balanced at the end of a diving board. I was ready to get a huge lesson in architecture and construction.
I recently learned about reinforced concrete at our hotel in Berkeley. (Previous post) Now I was ready to see what this "cantilevered" design was all about.
Nature and architecture! The tower was the tree trunk, with some kind of anchoring structure acting as roots. The floors, "cantilevered" from the core, like branches. The outer walls were actually hanging from the floors. All mind boggling to me!
The lobby was quiet and colorful! We passed some curious built-in chairs, before stepping into a stunning space, now called the Taliesin Room. Josue greeted us from behind the desk.
After checking us in, he kindly gave us a bit of a mini tour. It was Monday, which meant no regular tours and no restaurant. He was pretty delightful with his enthusiasm.
He sent us upstairs to see the their permanent museum. He pointed out the crazy angles in the stairs and the aluminum hand rail.
In the museum, we spotted a copper panel, like the greenish ones on the exterior. It was crazy to see the bright copper as it looked, before being treated to hurry the weathering effect.
What a treat to have this complimentary museum all to ourselves. Both of us loved the P-Tower model. Don studied it like an engineer. I looked at it with my dollhouse-maker-eyes. I love miniature things and how they're made.
Originally, most of floors in Price Tower were used for office space. I wonder what kinds of things cluttered that particular desk, 60 years ago?
"Willows and Reflections" Added in 1979
Josue insisted we needed a photo of the two of us, with the 25-ft long, cloisone mural.
We were happy to pose with the fabulous copper & enamel, willow scene. The branches hung behind us... their shapes and colors, "reflected" in the table! So gorgeous! But, now I sort of cringe to see our silly selves in our drab colors, invading that colorful scene!
Heading up to our room was an adventure! The oddly shaped core of the building, held 3 elevator shafts... or were there 4? I just remember standing in the hall center, surrounded by doors.
We grinned as we entered the tiny elevator, ready to ride to the 13th floor.
We stepped out to see a porcelain water fountain, a shiny, brass floor design and 4 guest room doors.
Our "Glass-Wrapped" Room!
The hefty door let us into our 430 sq-ft room. Today, there are 19 hotel rooms, but none in 1956. The upper floors had been office space and the Price Family penthouse. There had been apartments and shops and businesses below.
What a great office this would have been, back in the day. I wouldn't have minded a desk job, with all those windows to distract me. Lots of sunshine too! The sheer curtains kept us from being blinded by sunlight.
Once inside the confusing structure, we started to make connections with what we'd seen of the exterior. Those long, horizontal windows weren't so visible from the outside.
Once inside, we could actually open the windows to let in air. Some of the exterior copper panels worked like sun shades... just like leaves on tree branches! This was all pretty fun and curious!
Don and I were both giddy, absorbing every nook and cranny. The shape of the room, was playfully geometric. No right angles.
There were non-parallel lines everywhere, in the furniture, wallpaper and on the fabrics and carpet.
I counted 10 triangle-lights on the ceiling. There were triangle shapes on the wallpaper.
There was even a triangular waste basket, tucked into the mod desk. And look at all the electrical sockets. This 64 year old office space was built for today's technology!
Copper & Concrete
The dressing/bath end of our room was a fun mix of concrete, wood and copper. It was fun to see the exposed concrete floor with Wright's favorite, Cherokee Red.
I spotted lots of copper in the furniture, hanging light fixtures and towel rack, in the sink and vanity area.
Love a Quirky Bathroom!
I'm all about the memories. I'm happy to put up with some inconvenience, to have a memorable experience. I won't forget our bathroom, with its tiny green tile.
The toilet was mounted from the wall. A cantilevered toilet? Maybe not. But it amused me. Don't jails have toilets like that? And copper pipes, holding our toilet paper and towels! Love it! All was clean and fine with me!
Our oddly-shaped shower couldn't have been cuter, with its triangle shelf and seat! I was too impatient to wait for the hot water, so took a cold one... kind of like I was in jail. Don showered next and said it was wonderfully hot. And how about that great corner window?
We had a fabulous view from the bathroom window. Later when outside, I spotted our corner windows, surrounded by those greenish copper panels! The "patinated" copper represented the "leaves" of Wright's escaped tree!
I can't say enough about the windows. All 18 were trimmed in aluminum, with handles that reminded me of my grade school. We opened some up at 4:00 pm and heard church bells and a train whistle.
Having open windows and good weather, was a huge treat. Having window views from the 13th floor, was even better.
It was fun to see the buildings in Bartlesville and to wonder which were there, when Price Tower was built.
It seemed pretty peaceful for a small city.
Sunset and Nighttime
Since the bar was closed, we made our own drinks and toasted to the sunset, over the distant prairie landscape. Were those Osage Hills, far off?
The prairie view would have been a little more dramatic 60+ years ago, but we could see the horizon! It was dark before we headed out for dinner. The town was quiet, but we found the lively Painted Horse Bar/Cafe, within walking distance.
We slept well with our windows open and woke to the sound of church bells. 8 chimes... at 7:00. Funny.
We headed to floor 16, for the complimentary breakfast. The door to the hotel bar was locked, so I couldn't get a peek. But we at least got to experience the dining space.
I think we were the only hotel guests. We had the pick of all tables in two rooms. The soft jazz music was lovely.
The outdoor areas looked pleasant. We sipped our coffee and enjoyed the view. The breakfast options were not a bit exciting, but from everything I've heard, the restaurant itself, is worth a trip to Bartlesville. Next time!
Don and I had to take off before the first tour at 11. It seemed sinful to leave without seeing the upper floors, with Harold Price's penthouse and the corporate offices. But we did a little more exploring on our own. I was so tempted to go out the emergency exit and use the exterior stairs, inside the triangular enclosure. I've always loved climbing stairs in interesting places. When I was a kid I had a notebook filled with the stairs I'd counted in various towers, domes and parks...
But these stairs were off limits. They were considered unsafe, back when Phillips Petroleum bought Price Tower in 1981.
I'm a little confused about the timing, but Phillips basically did not end up using the building for much more than storage. These unsafe stairs were evidently one of the reasons.
One Last Look
We checked out at 10, knowing we'd have to come back another time, for a tour and a meal and a visit to the art gallery. But we took one last look from the outside.
Maybe we can return in the spring of 2020 when the nearby park is completed. We can do all we missed, plus have a picnic with a view of the 221-foot tree!
The obvious, is that we stayed in a masterpiece, created by Frank Lloyd Wright. I don't believe you have to be a fan of the famous architect to enjoy the adventure of staying at this unique hotel.
It helps to have an open mind and to let your imagination enjoy! Imagine the past and visualize the Madmen era, when men in suits smoked at their desks... push aside the claustrophobic worries and enjoy the elevator and showering adventures......be open to observing and exploring and learning about all that was created by a man in his 80's!
This was a pretty amazing stay for about $145. in 2019! You don't have to be rich either!
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My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!