Frank Phillips Home to change ownership

A long-time Bartlesville monument will be undergoing ownership changes in the near future, pending a decision of the Bartlesville City Council on Monday.

According to City Attorney Jerry Maddux, budget cuts have prohibited the Oklahoma Historical Society from maintaining and operating the Frank Phillips Home into the next fiscal year.

Located at 1107 S. Cherokee Ave. in Bartlesville, the museum was once the home of Phillips Petroleum founder Frank Phillips. The home has been made available to the public since 1973, and is currently owned and operated by OHS.

Wording on the property deed specifies that the site is to become property of the City of Bartlesville in the event that OHS becomes unable to maintain it. City staff members, however, have determined the City cannot afford maintenance and operation of the facility, “and (has) no expertise to do so,” Maddux said in a memo to the council recently.

“If the City of Bartlesville is unable to maintain the property, under the literal reading of the deed, the property is to be torn down,” Maddux said.

To avoid destruction of the historical site and popular tourist attraction, City staff began working with the Frank Phillips Foundation, which owns and operates Woolaroc — another area tourist attraction and Frank Phillips-based museum — which has agreed to take ownership of the Home.

“The Foundation determined there was sufficient financial support to perform the deferred maintenance on the Home and to operate it and keep it open to the public as in the past,” Maddux said.

He said OHS has agreed to transfer ownership of the property to the City with the understanding it will in turn be deeded to the Frank Phillips Foundation “with restrictions that they will continue to operate the home as an historic site.”

Maddux said the property will be leased to the Foundation until actual ownership can be transferred and approved by the court.

“The court proceedings will take approximately two months and, accordingly, no deed will be given to the Foundation until the Court proceedings are completed and approved by the Court,” he said. Maddux said the lease is needed so the Foundation can operate the Home in the interim.

Bartlesville Area History Museum Collections Manager Debbie Neece said continued preservation of the Frank Phillips Home is important to Bartlesville.

“The grandeur of the Frank Phillips home represents the legacy of early oil development,” Neece said. “Frank and Jane Phillips extended their personal and social lives to their Woolaroc Ranch home and I am pleased to see the Frank Phillips Foundation and the Friends of the Frank Phillips Home have the opportunity to take this outstanding time piece under their wing for future generations to enjoy.”

Maddux said notices will be given to the heirs of the people who donated the Frank Phillips Home to the OHS.

“We do not anticipate objections,” he said.

The City Council will consider approval of the measure during its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday. The meeting will begin immediately following a brief Bartlesville Municipal Authority meeting, set for 7 p.m., at City Hall, 401 S. Johnstone Ave. The public is encouraged to attend all City Council meetings. City Council meetings are also broadcast live on Cable One’s Channel 53 and live-streamed on the City’s webcast.

Photos courtesy of Bartlesville Convention & Visitor’s Bureau