A History of Woolaroc: Frank Phillips's Ranch on the Range

Updated on April 1, 2018
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Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.

Woolaroc Ranch was a haven not only for Frank Phillips, but also for bandits, outlaws, and other breeds of notorious criminals. Though it has since become something very different, at one time, the Woolaroc Ranch was a thriving retreat for those famous enough to get invited. Over the 25 years that Frank Phillips lived here, he and his wife entertained more than 200,000 guests, including presidents, actors, and outlaws. Herbert Hoover, Wiley Post, and Harry Truman were just some of the people that Frank and his wife entertained.

The Woolaroc Ranch began life as a simple log cabin. Over the years, it has been transformed into one of the most unique lodge structures in the United States, and one of the most exotic museums in the world.

Fun Fact

It was at Woolaroc Ranch that Frank Philips won and lost the Ringling Brothers Circus in a bet.

History of the Woolaroc Ranch

In the 1920’s, much of Oklahoma was still wild and rugged lands.  With the discovery of oil near Bartlesville, all of that began to change.  Frank Phillips was one of the first to seize this untapped resource in Oklahoma, and quickly made a name for himself in the Oil industry.  Along with his other ventures, it didn’t take long for Phillips to become immensely wealthy.

Still, Frank Phillips longed for the good-ole-days of the Wild West.  He longed to preserve the way of life that characterized the west, and it was from this longing that the Woolaroc Ranch was born.

Hidden away in the rugged Osage Hills of Northeastern Oklahoma, the Woolaroc Ranch remains much as it was when Phillips and his family lived there.  Construction at the ranch began in 1925 with the main room of what would become the lodge.  Over time, this simple one-room building would grow to house eight bedrooms, including a servant’s room.

He called this ranch Woolaroc, a name taken from the woods, lakes, and rocks that surrounded it.  The name was originally intended for the lodge ranch house, but it was so unique that it became the name for the entire Frank Phillips ranch.

Two years later, in 1927, he chose the name Woolaroc for one of the two planes that he sponsored in the Trans-Pacific Dole Flight to Hawaii.  The plane won the $25,000 first prize, and Frank Phillips was so proud of that feat that he brought the Travel Air monoplane back to the Woolaroc Ranch.  After its arrival, he had a one-room sandstone “hanger” built to display his pride and joy. 

Like the lodge house, this one sandstone hanger continued to grow as Frank Phillips continued to add to his collections of artwork and other western memorabilia.  Eventually, this hanger would grow to become the main part of the Woolaroc Museum.

Frank Phillips was so infatuated with western lore that he brought Buffalo and other big game to his ranch.  Many of the decedents of these large beasts still roam the grounds of the Woolaroc Ranch.  The buffalo herd dates back to 1926 when Frank had 90 of the animals were brought here from South Dakota.

That same year, Frank Phillips hosted the first cow thieves and outlaws reunion at Clyde Lake.  While many of the stories from those days are long lost, one can imagine the mystery and mayhem that those events brought to the Woolaroc Ranch.

The Woolaroc Museum and Ranch

Today, the Woolaroc Lodge remains as it was during Frank Phillips time. This large home is an exceptional testament to the oil boom era in which it was built.

Inside, the walls of the Lodge are ornamented with 97 animal heads and 107 sets of horns. Many of these were gifts from some of his illustrious visitors, while others were from animals that had died of natural causes.

The Woolaroc Museum plays host to a comprehensive collection of American Western art. Each room of the Woolaroc Museum is decked out with awe-inspiring paintings and sculptures, many from Frank Philips personal collection. The exhibits bring to live the early history of the pioneers, the outlaws and Indians, and the rugged cattlemen that called Oklahoma home.

The Woolaroc Museum also hosts an internationally acclaimed collection of colt pistols, as well as the world famous Woolaroc plane.

The Woolaroc Museum and Ranch are truly one of Oklahoma's top destination spots. 

For more information about the Museum, including admission rates and hours of operation, visit www.woolaroc.org.

Photos from the Frank Phillips Ranch and Woolaroc Museum

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Inside the Woolaroc Museum, where the Woolaroc plane is displayedThe Woolaroc Plane in FlightA View inside the Woolaroc RanchA View inside the Woolaroc RanchA View inside the Woolaroc RanchStatue on the grounds of the Woolaroc MuseumA view from the lake of the Frank Phillips Mausoleum
Inside the Woolaroc Museum, where the Woolaroc plane is displayed
Inside the Woolaroc Museum, where the Woolaroc plane is displayed
The Woolaroc Plane in Flight
The Woolaroc Plane in Flight
A View inside the Woolaroc Ranch
A View inside the Woolaroc Ranch
A View inside the Woolaroc Ranch
A View inside the Woolaroc Ranch
A View inside the Woolaroc Ranch
A View inside the Woolaroc Ranch
Statue on the grounds of the Woolaroc Museum
Statue on the grounds of the Woolaroc Museum
A view from the lake of the Frank Phillips Mausoleum
A view from the lake of the Frank Phillips Mausoleum

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    © 2010 Eric Standridge

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