Frank Lloyd Wright in Oklahoma!
We did it! Don and I finally spent a night in Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper!
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!
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!
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.
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 was, 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. There are 19 hotel rooms now, 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 room shape itself 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.
The sink and vanity area had lots of copper, in the furniture accents, hanging light fixtures and towel rack.
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.
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 visit to the art gallery that we had also missed. 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.
...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!
A Curious and Luxurious Overnight in Oklahoma
In recent years, The Dominion has been a venue for weddings. In 2018, one of the brick federal-style buildings was renovated to hold 6 guest rooms.
The main house looked very quiet and grand, when we arrived on a Sunday afternoon. If we'd come the night before, we would have taken in a different scene, with wedding guests on the veranda.
The Masonic Children's Home
I found this internet photo of the main house, when it was vacant between 1978 and 2000. The Children's Home was built in 1923, by the the Mason's, to house orphans and children whose parents could no longer care of them.
Originally, the children were related to members of the fraternal organization. In the fifties the home opened its doors to other children. In the seventies, changes were made in the Oklahoma foster care program and the home closed. It must have been an eerie sight for many years, to the neighbors living nearby.
Besides the main house, there were a number of other buildings on the property.
Years ago, the city of Guthrie offered up 28 acres to the Masons for their children's home. The city also gave the children access to the public schools. Today, the buildings are surrounded by gorgeous lawns and gardens.
The West Wing
This is the building that now houses the 6 guest rooms. I'm still unclear about what this building was originally used for. I know that at least one dormitory building was torn down.
Approaching from The Rear
To enter the property, we came through gates at the rear. The huge parking lot was empty, except for one car. We hoped we had booked correctly and they were expecting us.
Our gracious host was expecting us. She checked us in and gave us a quick tour, showing us the gardens where weddings have taken place for about a decade. She insisted we pose for a photo, when she found out our 39th anniversary was coming up.
Lots of Green
We explored a while on our own. It was hard to imagine the peaceful lawns and pathways, swarming with wedding guests. I loved having it to ourselves.
I spotted a couple statues of children in the front gardens. It made me stop to think about what it was like for young kids living here, without parents. There's evidence that the Children's Home was a luxurious place, offering art and music lessons and a indoor pool with marble tile, a gymnasium and a skating rink. There are also creepy rumors, of an evil head mistress who beat children to death and a nutty nurse who threw herself from the bell tower. Just rumors, I hope. But supposedly, graves were found on the property. Yikes.
West Wing Superior
But all the crazy tales were easily forgotten when we headed down the second floor hallway, lit by glowing chandeliers. We opened the door to our West Wing Superior Room and the title matched the decor. It seemed more like a room at the White House, than a room in a haunted hotel. I felt totally unworthy.
Everything from the view, to the glass doorknobs was top notch.
Sconces and Chandeliers
We must have had 7 or more crystal light fixtures. It was so utterly not our style, but we were giddy about the whole thing.
Velvet and Wood
There was something pretty splendid about being in an old building, where everything smelled fine. The bed linens, drapes, couch and rug were all odor free.
The last time we had velvet drapes and couch, we were in a musty Victorian hotel in Wyoming, with creaky floors. Everything from the square pillar to the panel moulding, looked sturdy and clean.
The bathroom was so glamorous it pretty much made me laugh. The spacious, marble shower, looked like it could hold about 4 guests at once. The dramatic horse looked like he was politely turning his head, for those entering the claw footed tub. The gorgeous wood and marble vanity did a very fine job of holding the bucket of ice, delivered by our friendly host.
Evening at the Dominion
Before Don and I headed out for the evening, we went against house rules (no alcohol) and had a wine toast in our room. How could we not? Like sneaky children, we took the evidence back to our car. Which was wise, since we had a little turn-down service while we were away. A nice chocolate stamped with the hotel image, was our reward!
Unfortunately, the hotel's new restaurant wasn't yet open for business. But we were able to walk to the historic downtown area, for dinner. Returning to see the lit up main house and fountain, was the best surprise. Equally lovely and eerie!
The faucet handle fell off and water began to spew in all directions. I tried desperately to force the handle back on, while I kicked open the door with my foot to whisper/shout, "DON!" (I wanted no hotel staff coming to help!) Don woke and came to the rescue of his naked wife, by shutting off the water valve, underneath the tub. By this time, there was water covering the entire framed horse, the mirror, the marble floor and water was seeping towards the wood and carpet in the next room. Don and I used every towel to meticulously mop up the puddles and to remove every droplet. No bath for me.
By the time Don and I were dressed, we were exhausted. We headed straight to breakfast, passing though a sort of walkway between buildings.
The Main House
We ended up in the main house, with its grand staircase and formal dining room and bright reception room, with fireplace. I'm not sure how this space was used 95 years ago, but for a while it became a private residence to the new owners in 2000... I think!
Don and I greeted another hotel guest on the way to our cozy breakfast room. She was sitting in her nightgown, having tea in the dining room... and that sort of amused me. I'm pretty sure I've never gone to a B&B breakfast, wearing a robe or nighty.
Chef David appeared from the new kitchen, which will be used to prepare meals for the new Bistro, soon. He was in great spirits for 8 am. We chatted a bit about all the interesting places he has worked in past years. I was curious about his interest in international cooking.
The Bistro looked just about ready for business. David was extra excited about the pizza oven.
More Than Enough to Eat!
Time To Go
When it was time to check out, we had to share the news of our bathtub, with the host. I'm pretty sure I didn't cause the problem, but I somehow felt a little sheepish, as if I were one of the kids from the Children's Home, admitting guilt. My casual description of the problem, gave no hints about the real drenching fiasco that occurred.
The grounds and the hotel couldn't have been more lovely. The chef-cooked breakfast was a delicious treat. The staff and even the other guests, made us feel welcomed and comfortable.
That crazy bathtub experience, could have been the punishing work of the ghostly mistress!
Downtown Oklahoma City
Built in 1911
I was eager to lay eyes on the hotel that W.B. Skirvin built over 100 years ago. It is said to be the oldest in OK City.
As we drove through the city on a Friday afternoon, the 14-story hotel suddenly appeared. It was every bit as impressive as the internet photos. Hopefully there wasn't some catch. $119. seemed awfully low, for city hotel, with 50-million-dollar renovations.
A Grand Entrance
Pillars and Chandeliers
When we stepped inside the lobby, my eyes followed the square pillars upward. Who were those crazy faces, looking down from the top?
I continued staring far above my head, where 7 fabulous Murano glass chandeliers hung from the ceiling.
The desk team didn't look quite like these smiling gals from 1950, but the staff was very welcoming. They even asked if we would like a high or low room. High Please!
I loved seeing the vintage photo later and recognizing the carved scroll panels that I'd seen on the lobby desk. We continued to finding hints of the original hotel as we explored later. I so love a renovation that preserves some history!
When I pushed the button for the elevator, I really felt like I should be traveling with a steamer trunk, or at least a vintage cosmetic case. The ornate, art deco door covers were added to the original doors in 1930. Pretty impressive!
Climbing to the Mezzanine
If we hadn't been on the 11th floor, we might have used the stairs more. The red tile in the stairwell was original and the marble stairs were added in the 1920's remodel.
We did at least take the stairs to the second floor mezzanine, which had some nice seating and a good view of the lobby.
Looking over the mezzanine railing, we had a great view of the carved characters, which showed a little of Mr. Skirvin's humor. The smiling faces at the top of the pillars, belonged to Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. There was also a pair of "Okie-gargoyles" carved into the woodwork. One was supposed to be OK Governor "Alfalfa" Murray and the other is a mystery.
If I'd done my homework, I could have asked to be on the 10th floor for some extra excitement. Evidently, there are stories about Mr. Skirvin and some misbehaving with women and gambling on this floor.
Some even talk about ghosts that haunt the 10th floor. Stories tell how Effie, a housemaid was once locked in a room on the 10th floor, to avoid scandal. Supposedly she gave birth to Mr. Skirvin's child in that room and later jumped to her death with her baby. Some claim to have met up with her ghost. Luckily these stories are mostly legend and Don and I are more amused than creeped out!
The 11th floor seemed to be ghost free. We did however have some nice framed art. I loved the vintage photo of the "milk bottle building" that I had photographed on our way driving towards the hotel.
My photos do not do the room justice. It was a lovely corner room with more space and luxury than the photos show.
The bed was cushy with good lamps and end tables. That's pretty much all I need.
Tub and a Window
a complimentary box of special products, like the hotel offered in the past! Lavoris mouthwash and powder... creme rinse...! Do people say creme rinse anymore? This little package was on display with old photos, near the lobby.
I love windows, especially with a corner room. One of our windows showed the nearby Bricktown area, with a Candy Factory.
The other window gave us a perfect view of the rounded structure with decorative designs on the top. But, then I noticed someone straight across, sitting on the window seat and that was creepy. I felt like I was in Hitchcock's Rear Window movie!
Seeing the rounded building made me curious about the rooms inside the structure. Don and I took a ride to the top floor and had a look. What a lovely widow-filled space!
The Venetian Room
While on the top floor, we also took a peek at The Venetian Room, with its restored plaster ceilings. In the 1930's orchestras played here and vaudeville stars performed.
It's hard to imagine this elegant space once had wagon-wheel light fixtures, instead of chandeliers. It's even harder to imagine this space abandoned. The hotel sat dormant for nearly 20 years.
The Red Piano Bar
After exploring a while, Don and I set off for the piano bar in time for Happy Hour. We sipped martinis, while a gentleman played old favorites on the shiny piano. I was equally entertained by the artwork above our heads.
Whimsical Ceiling Art
It would be totally easy to have missed the two painted ceiling panels above our heads.
A century ago, Mr. Skirvin shared more of his quirky humor when he chose this artwork for his hotel. I so adored the amusing characters that stared down at us from a painted mezzanine. Elephants and mermaids... trapeze artists and opera singers!
Doors to Dinner
The dining room wasn't open until 5, but that was okay. It gave us a better look at the elaborate door. We could have sat near the window and played chess while we waited.
There was another cozy sitting area near the restaurant. I loved the festive, martini drinking gang above the red couch!
We ended up skipping dinner at the hotel and taking advantage of the balmy evening and the Skirvin's good location. It was an easy walk to Bricktown, where we wandered along the canal and stopped to sample some food and drink along the way.
Hotel at Night
When we returned, we walked across the plaza to catch a view of the lit up hotel. I'm not sure how Mr. Skirvin lit the hotel in 1911 when there were only 2 towers and 10 floors. Maybe it had a big neon sign in the 1950's when Elvis or Dean Martin were guests. It looked pretty perfect on the last night in August, 2018.
We may have missed dinner at the hotel, but we made sure to have breakfast.
Coffee Shop/Park Avenue Grill
I doors were wide open in the morning and we headed into the area that had once been the snazzy new Coffee Shop in 1926. I wish they still had the U-shaped bars and stools, but at least they kept the art deco tile work
They were serving a fabulous looking buffet, but we opted for omelet and oatmeal. My crazy huge bowl had smaller bowls of raisins, almonds and brown sugar. Our food was just right... along with a carafe of coffee!
And the price was the icing on the cake!
A Happening Downtown!
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, when we arrived. Tulsa looked more beautiful and alive than I ever remembered.
We barely made it on time to enjoy a local production of "Billy Elliot" starring a friend of my dad's. Then we rushed a block away to Guthrie Green to catch the end of a performance with composer/ performer, David Amram. He and my Dad had a quick reunion. It was their first, since working together over 50 years ago at Lincoln Center. It was a whirlwind of reunions and then it was time for goodbyes.
But we were in a rush. I only had time to glance up all 18 stories as we rushed in through the main entrance. This was once the tallest building in Oklahoma, when it was built in 1925!
From Floor to Ceiling
Don checked us in at the desk while I studied the 2-level lobby. (Those were some very long curtains!) I wondered what the place looked like when Bob Hope stayed... or JFK or Charlie Chaplin!
Off to Our Room
We got our key and headed for the set of elevators. It was fun to imagine the clothing styles and even the suitcases that traveled up these elevators over the years.
History in the Halls
The hall gave no hints of the hotel's age. The Mayo was gutted and renovated before its reopening in 2009, so all seemed sleek and modern. But there were numerous framed photographs telling lots of history. I longed for some time to study, but we were in a hurry.
We checked in at 7:10 and needed to freshen up and be in the bar by 7:30, so I snapped pics fast. It is my job to take photos before we mess the place up. This place was huge for $119.00!
It was nice to be able to spread out after 2 weeks of of road-tripping, with mostly cramped accommodations. The modern decor was a little unmemorable and I think they forgot to put artwork on the walls, but we weren't complaining. The bed was heavenly and the TV was huge.
Well, there was some art in the bathroom, which was spotless. My photos don't capture any of the clean, fresh feel of this place. I kept wishing we could slow down and enjoy.
I lifted the blinds of one of our two windows, since I always need to check out the view.
I couldn't see much, since we were surrounded by buildings. But if I have to stare at a building, at least it was one with some character.
Drinks Served by Casey
Casey was our very extroverted server in the bar. He brought our drinks and made sure to give Dan lots of olives. We yakked on and on over appetizers and drinks. We made sure Casey got a photo of all of us and of course he took a selfie of himself. I took my own photo of Casey and I think it shows off his personality quite well.
We made some toasts and enjoyed having the place to ourselves. I also had a chance to wander a bit and snoop at the decor.
Boiler Room Treasures
Good Night To Dan & Kim
If it hadn't been a Sunday night, our friends might have been able to hang out longer. We also could have enjoyed a visit to the Penthouse Rooftop Bar, but it was closed on Sunday. It was finally time for good-byes, then Don and I took a detour on the way to our room. We weren't able to peek at the Rooftop Bar, but we found The Crystal Ballroom.
New Kind of Overnight
Big RV on Dirt Road
Jennifer and Kate had been traveling in their Winnebago for over a year. Don and I managed to meet up with them numerous times during their travels. We had just finished a rendezvous in Missouri, but Don was eager to head off to Arkansas for some hiking. I chose to spend a day and night, traveling in the "Bessie". The road that took us to the farm was beautiful and entertaining... with smacking low branches and jolting pot holes!
Will We Fit?
We called as we neared the farm, to give the owner enough time to walk down from her house to unlock the gate. She and her friend arrived, sipping glasses of champagne. It as Happy Hour after all. Kathleen was sure Bessie would fit through the gateway, but it looked impossible to me. Jennifer and Kate made it happen!
Kathleen said to park anywhere, so we pulled over, right in front of their lovely log house, beside a field of curious alpacas.
As we approached in the RV, the alpaca heads all turned to watch the Big Bess come to a halt. A few seemed to frolic like happy goats. Kathleen called it pronking.
Kathleen said it was no problem if our traveling animals, Gypsy and Bailey came out for a look. The alpacas were used to small critters.
The sun was lowering, but we got a quick tour of the barn.
Kathleen had names for every alpaca, which is a hint that these animals are raised for their luxurious wool, not meat. One sweet friend (hard to see in dim light) had a prosthetic leg. What sweet creatures.
Back in Bessie
The alpacas got settled in their stalls for the night and we headed into Bessie for dinner and bed. It had been a long day. I got the Railroad Bunk, which I loved. Kate had even made a little curtain that I could pull. The outside temps were pleasant, so no need for the noisy generator to cool or heat Bessie.
I slept well and woke early. I was eager to peek out my window, but the alpacas weren't out yet.
I took Bailey on a walk down the dirt road, past the rolls of hay.
I tried to earn my keep in the Bessie, by helping with some animal walks. But in truth, I caused a bit of a problem when I let Little Gypsy Cat loose. She headed right through the fence, into the alpaca area. Luckily she was lured back... not by me.
Kathleen had pointed out a few pregnant alpacas the night before. She said there was a chance we might get to witness a birth in the morning. That would have been a first for me! But we had no such luck.
Jennifer and I made good use of our cameras.
And then we made good use of our muscles. I was wearing flip flops and a white jacket when we asked Kathleen if there was anything we could do to help out.
Suddenly, Jennifer and I were invited to clean stalls. Alpaca poop! But my sister and I have always teamed up well doing chores. We took turns with the shovel and hoe. I had the fun of emptying the wheelbarrow into the big pile.
Touching the Poop!
How crazy to spend the night in Bessie, that cozy house on wheels... on a farm! We were parked right in the midst of it all and felt graciously welcomed by the owners.
But, most of all I will remember the chores! It was pretty comical how Jennifer and I moved about scooping and scraping, while Kathleen followed us around telling us stories. That is the image that I will most remember!
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!