In 1927 guests were invited to the lodge of oil magnate Frank Phillips. A new Steinway Duo-Art piano had arrived providing the perfect occasion. Throughout the evening, however, guests noticed Mr. Phillips set drink glasses on the finish and struck matches on the expensive instrument. They may have thought he was off his rocker, but all along he had planned to cover the piano with bark to match the decor of the lodge.
The bark-covered piano sits today in the corner of the home known as Woolaroc near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Above the room hang mounted taxidermied animal heads. Rather than being trophies of the hunt, these are mostly animals that lived and died on the 3700-acre ranch. Even today many species of animal reside at Woolaroc, including a herd of buffalo that roam freely.
Most of what’s in the lodge dates to the late 1920s, including the telephones, cattle-horn furniture, ashtrays made from elk, buffalo and rhinoceros hooves. Indian blankets in the room were purchased on trips to the Grand Canyon. A fish caught off the Texas coast and hanging in the dining room was said to be 66 inches long and weigh 66 pounds.
Phillips spent a great deal of time in New York, but looking around the room, and especially the adjacent museum, one can sense the New Yorker wasn’t in him. The beautifully-sited Woolaroc museum contains a great deal of American Indian material, a collection of western art and artifacts, and one of the largest collections of Colt firearms in the world. Also on display is the Woolaroc, the aircraft that won the ill-fated Dole Air Race in 1927. Watch
The museum of significant size contains western masters by big-name artists including Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, William R. Leigh, Frank Tenney Johnson, and Thomas Moran, most of it collected by Phillips himself. The Arkansas pine-bark frames were selected by Phillips as well. It’s the same bark that covers the piano.
Also in the museum is memorabilia from the Phillips 66 oil company and Phillips himself, including mementos from his 66th birthday, a year after his retirement.
Phillips 1909 home is near downtown Bartlesville and also available to tour.