- Associated Press - Sunday, August 27, 2017

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. (AP) - It led to a yearlong effort to avoid one of the provisions of the original deed - the demolition of the home to build a “green” park.

According to the deed, if the Oklahoma Historical Society could no longer operate the facility, ownership was to be transferred to the city of Bartlesville. If the city was unable to operate the museum, the deed called for the demolition of the significant historical site.

“That was about 18 months ago, and after talking with officials with the city of Bartlesville we were not going to let that happen under any circumstance,” said Bob Fraser, CEO of Woolaroc. “If we let that happen to the house, Frank would have come down from heaven and kicked our tails.”

No need for Frank Phillips to come back to life and kick anyone.

The Tulsa World reports that the Frank Phillips Foundation, owner and operator of Woolaroc, is taking over a lease on the historical home in Bartlesville and is actively working to fund an operating endowment to preserve it for future generations of Oklahomans.

The foundation also operates the fabulous Phillips ranch and museum about 12 miles southwest of Bartlesville.

Construction on the Frank Phillips Home near downtown was finished in 1909. The original 26-room neo-classical mansion has been remodeled twice, the last time in 1930. The interior of the home is filled with original furniture, decorations and personal effects.

The Oklahoma Historical Society had owned and operated the home since 1973.

However, the group has been hit hard by state budget cuts in recent years. It recently transferred ownership of Sequoyah’s Cabin to the Cherokee Nation and has been working with local entities to find additional funding to keep other historical sites open.

Bob Blackburn, director of the Oklahoma Historical Society, told the Tulsa World earlier this year that the group’s state funding has been slashed by more than 40 percent in the past eight years.

Bartlesville officials were notified over a year ago that the Frank Phillips Home was one of the facilities that would need additional funding and support or it would be closed.

“So, this has been in the works for a long time, because once we looked at the deed we knew we had to find a different solution,” Fraser said.

The city of Bartlesville and Woolaroc worked out an agreement whereby Woolaroc would take over the operation of the facility.

“It was a natural for us,” Fraser said. “But, there were still quite a few details to work out, legally and financially, to make it work.”

Woolaroc has embarked on a $1 million fundraising effort in the past year to fund an endowment for operation of the Frank Phillips Home.

The expected transfer of ownership of the Frank Phillips Home to the Frank Phillips Foundation will be decided in Washington County District Court in the near future.

“The state has been dealing with funding issues in the past few years, so we knew this day was coming,” Fraser said. “If it wasn’t going to be us (Frank Phillips Foundation), then who? It was the perfect mission for us.

“I don’t think anyone ever felt like bulldozing the facility was going to happen. We just have to work through some things. It is a great fit and addition to the history we have at Woolaroc.”

Fraser said the group hopes to stabilize the situation and start finishing work on securing the future for the facility in the next year.

“There’s no doubt this is a very significant part of the history of Phillips 66, Bartlesville and our state,” Fraser said. “This will allow us to move forward and market the Frank Phillips Home as part of the tremendous history we have in this part of Oklahoma.”

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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