I stayed in one of the converted office spaces on the 8th floor on the northeast side of the tower, so my views were of downtown Bartlesville. The room was lovely and modern being inspired by the building’s design but not copying it. This is where I really experienced the way he used the space and created a feeling with his tree-type building.
The tower offers tours of the structure and has gallery space for exhibitions. During the holidays the large gallery is used as event space, but the gallery of Wright furniture is a permanent exhibition on the second floor above the reception area.
The tour was included with my overnight stay, so the next morning I wandered around downtown as I waited for the tour to begin. I enjoyed the tour for the anecdotes and for the opportunity to see the spaces in their near original conditions. The furnishings were spectacular and experience unforgettable.
My favorite space on the tour is Mr. Price’s office on the 19th floor. It is really a two-story office with its vaulted ceiling. It has views looking out over the vast Oklahoma wilderness and is appointed with beautifully designed furniture and art.
Though the guide was knowledgeable he did make a few mistakes like saying we were visiting a World Heritage site. This isn’t true yet. It hopefully will be in the next couple of years, but until UNESCO signs off on a declaration the Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings World Heritage Site is still just tentative and will include 11 total sites.
Outside of the tour, besides the feeling you get of the space expanding and opening out when in the rooms, I love the entrance space. It isn’t the largest lobby space, but the main entrance goes up two stories with some fantastic lights on the ceiling meant to be like a field of stars. According to my guide, Mr. Price asked for a mural on the wall in the entrance. Mr. Wright insisted there shouldn’t be one. I agree; it would have completely crowded the space and felt oppressive.
However, Price insisted on something, so the compromise was a quote painted on the wall. It is subtle and adds a bit of interest on the big white wall, but it doesn’t control the space. I also love what it says because it sums up the philosophy behind the tree that escaped the forest. Whether it was meant that way or not, I think it is perfect. It is excerpts from two Walt Whitman poems—Wright’s favorite poet.
“Toward all, I raise high the perpendicular hand—I make the signal, To remain after me in sight forever, For all the haunts and homes of men.”
“Where the city of the faithfullest friends stands, Where thrift is in its place but prudence is in its place, Where behavior is the finest of the fine arts, Where outside authority enters always after the precedence of inside authority, Where the city that has produced the greatest man stands, There the greatest city stands”
Overall, the experience was wonderful visiting this National Historic Landmark and staying in a Historic Hotel of America.
Be sure to spend some time with the permanent exhibition as it showcases not just furniture designed for the Price Tower but also other beautiful pieces from other Wright properties including the foyer rug from nearby Hillside, the home Wright built for H.C. Price Jr. in Bartlesville.
Also, go across the street to the Community Center, which was designed and built by William Wesley Peters—Wright’s son-in-law and head of Taliesin Architects for years after Wright’s death. Go inside and look around at the theater and event hall. The crowning piece for me though is the mural on the wall in the lobby done by Heloise Crista, who lives at Taliesin West where I work.
If you have time for more in Bartlesville, visit some of the Bruce Goff designs and visit the Phillips home and the Phillips Co. museum. When I was done at the tower I found my way to Frank Phillips’ ranch called Woolaroc. More about that in the next post.