With its rich collection of historic and contemporary art and captivating modern exhibits, you’d be forgiven for getting so absorbed in the Philbrook Museum of Art’s displays you forget to appreciate your surroundings. But the building itself is worth paying attention to as well.
The museum is housed in the former home of oil businessman Waite Phillips and his wife Genevieve. The three-story, 72-room mansion is strikingly beautiful and makes you feel as though you’ve been transported to an Italian villa. The architect, Edward Buehler Delk, designed several notable landmarks in the Midwest and Southwest.
The Phillips had their mansion built in the 1920s. Finely ground white marble mixed in with the stucco covering the exterior makes the building shimmer in the sun. Marble fountains and fireplaces fill the inside, and gorgeous wooden floors lie beneath intricate, ornate ceilings.
The Phillips donated their grand estate to Tulsa in 1938. They wanted it to become some sort of art or cultural center. Just a year later, in 1939, the Philbrook Art Museum officially opened its doors to the public. It was expanded in the 1990s and now includes nine collections from around the world. One of the highlights is its vast collection of Native American art, which includes paintings, jewelry, pottery, and traditional woven artifacts and baskets.
In addition to the art, the surrounding gardens, both formal and informal, are worth exploring, too. Like the house, much of the meticulously manicured landscaping was modeled after Italian gardens, which were largely inspired by Villa Lante, a famously beautiful estate in central Italy.