Bartlesville, Oklahoma was not on my bucket list.
My daughter lives in Tulsa and suggested we visit Bartlesville and stay in the Price Tower, a forty-five-minute drive from her home.
Price Tower, located in Bartlesville, is one of the only two “skyscrapers” designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The Price Tower caught my eye and I wanted to visit and find out more about it.
Lisa, my daughter, is not a Frank Lloyd Wright follower, but I am a volunteer tour guide at Taliesen West in Scottsdale, Arizona and she wanted to give me a birthday present. She made a reservation at the Price Tower for one night. She knows what makes her mom happy.
The tower is nineteen stories tall. It opened in 1956. FLW originally designed Price Tower as a skyscraper in Manhatten, New York in the 1930s. The project never went forward because of the Depression.
The Price Tower was called “the tree that escaped the crowded forest”. The crowded forest was Manhatten. The rooms within the building branch out like those of a tree. The trunk of the tree makes its way through the center of the building. There are three elevators and each floor. They are big enough for two people and one suitcase. Ascending the floors on the elevator feels like traveling through the trunk of a tree.
FWL installed levers on the sides of the building that moved back and forth to block the wind. They no longer work.
Harold Price owned oil pipelines and became the largest welding contractor in Mid-America by 1926. Bartlesville was a booming oil town at the time.
Mr. Price wanted a building three stories high and planned on putting a hair salon, a dress shop, and a gift shop. He proposed the price of $75,000. The ending price was much more. Frank Lloyd Wright added on features that were not requested by Mr. Price.
Frank Lloyd Wright had other ideas. He convinced Mr. Price to build the tower to nineteen floors. He told Price that he would recoup the money by renting the rooms out as living quarters, apartments. Mr. Price was not convinced, but he went along with the idea.
Bartlesville now has a nineteen-floor “hotel” in the middle of a town with a population of 36,389 as of 2017. The building is built of cement blocks, mahogany doors, turquoise carpet, and various types of chairs. The windows are tinted in a copper color. Copper represents the “leaves” of the trees. The drapes in some of the rooms are made from woven copper.
Frank Lloyd Wright used triangles in his design of the building. Price Tower mostly features 30- and 60-degree angles, with triangles everywhere.
The roof is made of the tectum for fireproof. Price Tower represents the usual designs of FLW. Common materials, open planning, furniture design by him, and industrial type kitchens crammed in the corner of the apartments.
There were eight apartments in the building. Some of the apartments didn’t have draperies or artwork. He didn’t want anyone to be distracted by the beauty he had created. His furniture was built in, he didn’t want anyone to be moving it around. He used cast aluminum chairs. The sofas and chairs were red and diagonal in shape. Not the kind of chairs that make you feel comfortable.
FLW designed the dishes that the renters in the apartments ate from. He designed coffee cups with a red design so that women’s lipstick did not show up on the cups. He didn’t like women’s lipstick on cups.
The rents were expensive and it was hard to find tenants. The rooms were odd shapes and were not designed for entertaining your friends. Many of the tenants moved out. They couldn’t live their lives within triangles.
The Price Tower was redesigned to be a hotel. There are twenty- one hotel rooms. The room we stayed in was a suite. It was surrounded by windows.
We spent more time in the room in the evening because it was raining. The toilet paper roll, towel rack, and lighting fixtures were copper. We had a full view of the town and of the prairie. I didn’t find the view extraordinary. There were no mountains, lakes or trees to see.
The Price Tower belongs to the Price Tower Arts Center. Oil prices collapsed in the 1980s at Bartlesville was left with a lesser population and many of the businesses ceased to exist.
Note: Check for tour times before you visit. They are not open every day. You are not allowed to take photos of the rooms that served as apartments. You are not allowed to sit on the furniture. https://www.pricetower.org/
Outpost is the best place for coffee.
There are a few places to have dinner and breakfast.