Two other oil barons also left cultural legacies in Green Country: the Philbrook Museum of Art and the Gilcrease Museum, both in Tulsa, the metropolitan hub of the region.
Oil baron Waite Phillips, Frank Phillips’ brother, built Philbrook, a 72-room Renaissance-style mansion with 23 acres of gardens, in 1926 and later donated the mansion and grounds as an art center for the city of Tulsa. The museum’s collection contains works from around the world.
The major focus at the Gilcrease Museum, created in 1949 as a private museum by oilman Thomas Gilcrease and donated to the city in 1955, is Western American art.
“It has the most extensive Western art collection in the world,” said Nancy Phillips. “It has the most original casts of [Frederic] Remington statues, more than 20.”
There are also themed gardens on 23 of the museum’s 460 acres.
Another interesting garden in Tulsa is Linnaeus Teaching Gardens.
“You come out here to learn,” said a volunteer at the gardens. “It’s not designed to look at and go home. It’s all about learning about flowering plants and how they best work at your house.”
Adjacent to the gardens in Woodward Park is the four-acre terraced Italian Renaissance-style Tulsa Municipal Rose Garden with more than 3,000 rose plants representing more than 200 varieties.
“Tulsa can make an incredible garden-type tour,” said Phillips.
Wealth from the oil industry also played a role in Tulsa’s distinctive skyline, which features a large collection of Art Deco buildings.
“There was so much money here in the 1920s, and that was the style then,” said Phillips.
A great example of that architecture that groups can tour is the Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, a national historic landmark with a 255-foot-tall tower, a 750,000-piece mosaic behind the choir loft and several beautiful stained-glass windows.
Cast of Legends
Before reaching Tulsa, Route 66 runs through Claremore, whose tagline is “Cast of Legends.”
“We are not only the hometown of Will Rogers, but also Patti Page and Lynn Riggs, the playwright who wrote ‘Green Grows the Lilacs,’ which was the basis for the musical ‘Oklahoma!,’” said Tanya Andrews, executive director of the Claremore Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A “surrey with the fringe on top” is part of a memorial to Riggs in downtown Claremore.
The Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore pays tribute to the humorist and entertainer with 12 galleries of art and artifacts of his life, and Rogers’ birthplace in nearby Oologah is also preserved as a museum.
“We sit right on Route 66,” said Andrews. “Several Route 66 icons that are well known to travelers are in Rogers County, such as the Blue Whale and the world’s largest totem pole.”
For years, J.M. Davis displayed his large collection of firearms in the lobby, ballroom and cafe of the Mason Hotel, which he owned and operated on Route 66 in Claremore.
“As his collection grew, he was running out of room in the hotel,” said Andrews. “When he sold the hotel, he deeded the entire collection to the state if they would build a museum to house it.”
The J.M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum has more than 50,000 artifacts. In addition to more than 13,000 firearms, the museum has a varied collection of swords and knives, hundreds of German beer steins dating to the 1850s, John Rogers 19th-century statuary, World War I posters, musical instruments, Native American artifacts, ranching memorabilia and presidential campaign buttons.
While Claremore has its Blue Whale, another unexpected sight in the middle of the country is the USS Batfish, a World War II submarine on display in War Memorial Park in Muskogee.
“It is a submarine on dry land,” said Phillips. “You don’t think of Oklahoma as a place to tour a submarine. But the town sits on the McClellan-Kerr Waterway at the confluence of the Arkansas, Verdigris and Grand rivers. It has ocean-going barges that go all the way to the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, the farthest inland port in the United States.”