Growing up in the Twenties was a different time. World War I had just ended and women were given the right to vote. Flappers were entertainment and rumble seats were all the rage. A cold Coke cost five cents, prohibition was making it big for bootleggers.
For Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Twenties brought all that and more. Oil was in the ground and money was coming in from all directions. T-Town was quickly becoming the Oil Capital of The World, and Waite Phillips, an oilman with 25 acres, was doing well.
Phillips was doing so well, he wanted to build his wife, Genevieve, a mansion that resembled an Italian Renaissance villa on his 25 acres. He hired Edward Buehler Delk in 1926, a Kansas City architect, who skillfully interpreted Renaissance styles with a fashionable style of the day. He also commissioned the architect to design the Philtower office building and the Villa Philmonte. In 1927, the Phillipses moved into their new home with the two children, with plans to entertain friends and enjoy the beauty the villa offered.
A Gift to Tulsa That Gives Still Today
Tulsa was surprised by Mr. Phillips in 1938 when he announced he was gifting the city their 72-room mansion and the surrounding 23 acres to be used by the city as an art center to be enjoyed by all Tulsans and visitors. Today, this gift still gives beauty and pleasure as one of the country’s finest art museums. The original residence’s integrity remains intact and is graced by additions. The gardens complete this attraction in classic Tulsa beauty and style.
Each year, over 160,000 visitors visit the Philbrook, further encasing the emotional testimony to the city’s past, and still showcasing the bright future of the city. With the help of generous donations, Board of Trustees, and the George Kaiser Family Foundation, a new satellite facility was opened in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District in 2013 with the contemporary and modern art collection that was overflowing in the original museum. A comprehensive Native American collection is on display as well, including the Eugene B. Adkins Collection and Study Center.
What began as a gift from the Phillips Family to the City of Tulsa, today lives on with a motto “To make a creative and connected community through art and gardens.” And with the City’s help, along with many donors, the Philbrook Art Museum lives on, day after day, year after year.
Today’s Activities Would Make Waite and Genevie Proud
Today, the Philbrook Museum hosts many activities and events that the Phillips would be proud to be a part of. Like the biennial fundraiser known as the Philbrook Edge. Launched in 2015 to celebrate innovation in art, food, gardens, and wine. Women in culture were celebrated this year and recognized for their contributions to the community.
Another event, Mix: Speakeasy, is considered Oklahoma’s premier music and mixology event. The best of the best bartenders compete in a 1920’s style house party for the crown. The funds raised at this event are slated for education and make access programs possible.
Each year a holiday festival runs through the month of December with train rides, garden games, and a Lego Village. There is live music with holiday décor and shopping galore, all making an unforgettable experience. There is no doubt that the city has done well to keep the Phillips’ intentions in the manner they would not only approve but enjoy, too.
Philbrook Museum of Art
2727 S Rockford Rd, Tulsa, OK 74114