Built in 1926-1927 for oilman Waite Phillips (1883-1964), Genevieve Elliott Phillips (1887-1979), and their children Helen Jane Phillips Breckinridge (1911-1963) and Elliott Phillips (1918-2015), Villa Philbrook is an Italianate mansion on a property of 23 acres of gardens in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After living at Philbrook for only eleven years, the Phillips family made the generous decision to give their home away. In 1938, the Phillips family donated Philbrook to become Tulsa’s first art museum, and in 1939 the Philbrook Art Museum, later the Philbrook Museum of Art, opened to the public.
In selecting an architect for their home, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips turned to Edward Buehler Delk (1885-1956), who had a thriving architectural practice in Kansas City, Missouri. The couple commissioned Delk to build Villa Philbrook, their Tulsa home; Villa Philmonte, a retreat in Cimarron, New Mexico; and the Philtower, an office building in downtown Tulsa.
Villa Philbrook in Tulsa, OK was donated to the city in 1938 by the Phillips Family.
To complement Delk’s architectural designs, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips selected the Kansas City landscape architecture firm Hare & Hare to design the grounds of Villa Philbrook. The firm was founded in 1910 by father and son Sidney J. Hare (1860-1938) and S. Herbert Hare (1888-1960).
Multiple artists and craftspeople contributed to Villa Philbrook, including George Gibbs, Oscar Bach, Bertram Segar, Cooper & Gentiluomo, Edward F. Caldwell & Co., and Jørgen Dreyer.
While elements of Villa Philbrook have been altered from the original conception, multiple areas, including much of the main level, remain relatively intact from the period of Phillips residence. Other areas, such as the original dining room and Mr. Phillips’ bedroom reveal portions of the early history of Philbrook as the institution adjusted architectural elements to create period rooms.
Recently named “the most beautiful place in Oklahoma” by House Beautiful Magazine, the 25-acre Philbrook Gardens provide a setting like no other.
Historic structures on the Philbrook grounds include the Tempietto; East Formal Garden fountains, walls and gates; the fireplace; the “grotto;” the Summer House, which was built in 1933; and other architectural elements.
“The only things we keep permanently are those we give away.”