Price Tower: Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Close-up with the fish-eye

First Visit, October 2002 Second Visit: April 2006


October 2002: The drama of getting there:

Bartlesville, Oklahoma is a small oil town that has a very interesting variety of architecture.  I was actually surprised at how large the town is and how beautiful it was.  It was like an oasis in the middle of Oklahoma farm land.   I really enjoyed the afternoon I spent there.  

The hard part was getting there.  Its not hard to find, but I got sidetracked on my way between St. Louis and Oklahoma.  I saw an RV pulled off the side of Interstate 44 with a flat tire.  The two occupants were standing at the front with their hands on their hips staring at it.  It was like they were trying to psychically repair the tire and rim.  I had to stop. 

Stan and Edna are an older couple from Florida on their annual trip around the country in the largest RV I've ever seen.  This was their first flat.  AAA said they'd be right over in about 4 hours.  They obviously didn't want to wait.  I pulled up and offered some help.  They eagerly accepted.  

Edna went inside to cook dinner, while I looked at the pile of tools that Stan had pulled out of the lower storage compartment.  I grabbed the lug wrench and tried with all my might to loosen one of the 12 lugs.  No luck.  I needed to get more leverage.  Neither Stan nor I had anything handy to work as an extension.  I finally looked at the bike rack on top of my car and had an idea.  

It took me over an hour to take the bikes off the roof and dismantle the rack enough to use the cross bar for more leverage.  That finally worked.  I got all 12 lugs loose.  

From that point, it took moments for Stan to use the hydraulic jacks to lift the whole RV off its wheels and change the tire.  They were on their way in 3 hours.  And after a nice dinner, I was late for my tour of Price Tower.  Oh well.  I'll catch it next time.

The building:

Price Tower from across the parking lot. 

Price Tower was built in 1956 for Harold C. Price Sr.  The design and construction process took 4 years to complete.  This was the first of three Wright buildings to be commissioned by the Price family.  If you look in the Arizona section of this web site, you can see some lovely photos of Mr. Price's retirement home in Phoenix (Actually you can see some lovely pictures of the wall surrounding the Price house in Phoenix.  I think Mr. Price valued his privacy).  

Price Tower from the street.

Price Tower was built as an apartment building.  Its construction is mostly poured, steel reinforced concrete.  Each of the floors are cantilevered.  There are copper shutters and accents all over the building which not only protect the rooms from the hot Oklahoma sun, but also add a wonderful green patina to the building.  

Pete using his fish-eye lens.  

The tower is now used as the home of the Bartlesville Art Center.  The have tours of the building at 11am and 2pm Tuesday through Saturday and 2pm on Sundays.  You can get information at their web site.  The people were very nice in trying to accommodate me and answer all of my questions.  I was pretty upset that I wasn't able to make it to my tour on time.

Getting the whole picture, fish-eye style

According to the Price Tower web site, Wright first met Harold Price in the early 1920s.  Price started out as a welder with his own small shop.  As Bartlesville grew as an oil town, so his business grew to be one of the largest pipeline construction companies in the country. 

Photo from across the street.

Harold Price, Jr. commissioned a Wright home to be built in Bartlesville while the tower was being constructed.  It is a private residence and for once, I respected the owners privacy by not photographing it.

South side with the fish-eye

This view shows off the cantilevered floors.  The central core of the building is what gives it support.  For that reason, the tower is able to have the second floor overhang significantly.  It is a quite striking visual affect that reminds me a lot of the S.C. Johnson Wax Research Tower.

West side with the fish-eye

Though the external design work is quite different from the Johnson Wax Research Tower, the building design is quite similar.  The outside walls of glass are not load-bearing.   They merely keep the wind out.

Sun dial at the corner.

This complex sun dial not only tells time, but also tracks the calendar.  It is quite an amazing piece of art work as well as a functional timepiece.  Unfortunately it was a bit too cloudy to really get a good reading on things.  It didn't help that it was pretty late in the day either.

Smaller view of the sun dial.

Price Tower with a beautiful Oklahoma sky.

Sign by the entrance

My favorite tile.

Close-up with the fish-eye

Copper panels above the door.

The green patina of the copper really adds color and distinction to the building.  The weathering looks completely different in this close-up of the panels above the entry than it does when you look at the building from a distance.  The color really fits well with the "amber waves of grain" atmosphere that surrounds Bartlesville.

Stitched photo of North side.

The building contains 8, 2-story apartments as well as some office space.  The 16th floor has a kitchen as well as some outside balconies for entertaining.  The 17th floor has more office space. The 19th floor has a small office space and rooftop gardens.

Window under the north awning.

Taken out of context, this window looks totally out of place.  When you take a step back and look at the court yard and car ports in their entirety, it looks right at home. 

Entry way and car ports.

There are car ports on either side of the building for the occupants to store their DeSotos.  Each is supported by a rather thin looking, copper covered support.  Most of the car port roof is cantilevered.


Sign out on the street

Plaque below the sun dial.

Twilight with a storm brewing.

Sunlight fading.

Bartlesville Community Center

Across the parking lot from Price Tower is a Wrightesque building that is home to the Bartlesville Community Center.  It has a 1700 seat auditorium for all kinds of performing arts.  They have regular performances of ballet, theatre and classical music.

The Community Center was designed by Wesley Peters, one of Wright's apprentices, in 1979 and built under the supervision of the Frank Lloyd Wright Architects from Taliesin West.  It was originally designed as the first of a three phase project that also included an exhibition hall and hotel.  It was being financed by the Phillips Petroleum Company.  The early '80s were not kind to the oil business in Oklahoma and the second two phases were never built. 

Bartlesville Community Center

The building was completed in 1982 and opened that year with a performance by Kitty Wells.  The acoustics of the auditorium are amazing and make it a very attractive venue for artists to perform. It is the home of the annual Oklahoma Mozart festival. 

Sign in front of the Community Center

Side view of the Community Center

The lines and design are an interesting mix between Wright's Corbin Education Building and the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium.


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