Oklahoma’s Boutique Hotels Provide Summer Stays for Summer Play
“Boutique Hotel” Conjures Up A Number Of Mental Images – Small, Personal, Original – But The Definition Is Elastic.
Boutique hotels usually range from 10 to 100 rooms; they’re most often located in the heart of a city. Exceptional service is expected. Much more than simply a place to sleep and shower, they provide a memorable experience in addition to accommodations. Oklahoma has no shortage of enticing examples of the form at its finest; if you’re traveling out of the city but staying in-state, these are destinations well worthy of a visit.
The Inn at Price Tower
Talk about unique! Nominated by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Bartlesville’s Price Tower could join the Statue of Liberty and Grand Canyon National Park on that prestigious list within the next two years. Located in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building, the Inn certainly qualifies as distinctive.
A must for any stay is a guided tour of the building. Built for H. C. Price as offices for his pipeline construction company, it was also designed for mixed commercial and residential use. Highlights of the tour are the 19th floor office of H.C. Price and the 17th floor family apartment. Docents share information ranging from facts about the cantilevered configuration of the building to personal stories of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Price family.
Price and Wright often had heated long-distance exchanges about the building. Price wanted a two-story office building; Wright wanted to build a 14-story office tower. According to an interview with the Landmark Preservation Council, Bartlesville, Mr. Price’s youngest son Joe reported, “When they came out [of a conference] my father was all happy and thrilled that they had compromised on a 19-story building.”
They were both giants in their fields and had great respect for one another. Wright acknowledged as much in a mural he designed for the family apartment. He named the piece “The Blue Moon,” saying, “The perfect design, perfect architect and perfect buyer” came along once in a blue moon.
The mural has been restored and the colors and furnishings have been brought back to Wright’s original concept. Visitors now can see the building as it was when it was first built in the mid-1950s.
The rooms on the 7th through 13th floors have been redone to create the Inn accommodations. Designed by New York architect Wendy Evans Joseph, the spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright permeates the contemporary spaces. In the rooms, the smooth concrete floors are stained Wright’s favorite Cherokee Red, and one of his favorite materials – copper – is used for towel racks and accents like the screen inserts on cabinet doors and desk tops. Large area rugs in shades of olive green and wall-length stretches of light green curtains give the rooms a cozy feel.
In-room amenities include free Wi-Fi, refrigerators, make-up mirrors and safes. Parking is free. Breakfast is continental-style. The 15th floor Copper Bar is open for lunch Tuesday through Friday and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and happy hour is 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Room and suite rates range from $145 to $245. Tickets to tour the Tower are included with the room, and be sure to check on availability when you reserve. A visit to Price Tower should be on every Oklahoman’s bucket list. How often do you get the chance to spend the night in a world wonder?
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Mozart Festival, June 6-13:
A veritable banquet of music and activitiesfrom blues to Baroque, country to classical. okmozart.com
Frank Phillips’ country getaway includes acres of animals and a museum dubbed the “Smithsonian of the West.” woolaroc.org
Phillips Petroleum Company Museum:
A fascinating look at the oil industry and the many uses of petroleum. phillips66museum.com
The Frank Phillips home:
An Oklahoma Historical Society property, the mansion retains almost all the original furnishings. A small interpretive center in the carriage house adds biographical information. frankphillipshome.org
The Mayo Hotel
When it was built in 1925, the Mayo was the tallest building in Oklahoma. Topping out at 18 stories, the Sullivan-esque skyscraper features two-story Doric columns and false terra-cotta balconies. In its heyday, J. Paul Getty lived here and Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh and John F. Kennedy all visited.
The hotel closed in 1981 and stood empty for 20 years. Macy Snyder Amatucci says, “My dad actually got the hotel for free but he paid $250,000 for the parking lot.” The building had been stripped of much of the marble and fixtures. For several years the family hosted events in the Grand Hall area, but the real renovation didn’t begin until 2007. Bringing the landmark back took a year and a half and a cool $42 million.
Restoring the grandeur wasn’t easy. Using black and white period photos and memories of nonagenarian Margery Mayo (daughter of John Mayo who built and owned the hotel with his brother Cass), the Snyders painstakingly pieced the place back together beginning with the lobby. This beautiful area with its impressive marble staircase is a favorite spot for weddings and other events.
One of the hotel’s most famous rooms – the Crystal Ballroom – came next. The terrazzo floor was mostly intact and the chandeliers could be restored but the elaborate plasterwork had been badly damaged by weather. Today the two-story space is once again THE place for elegant events.
Elvis suffered no heartbreak at this hotel. He stayed in the Presidential Suite – now the Penthouse Rooftop Lounge. Sip a City Lights cocktail (citrus vodka, pomegranate and Champagne) and watch the sunset from the deck – it’s the best view in town.
Originally housing 600 rooms, today the Mayo is a combination of 76 loft apartments and 102 guest rooms. Rooms and halls are full of historic pictures. There’s nothing standard about the Mayo’s standard rooms. All have custom-made beds, custom organic linens and robes, Keurig coffee makers and butlers’ kitchens with small refrigerators, sinks and microwaves. Base colors are neutrals, enlivened with intense accents. The exclusive Mayo logo – you can read the name in the intertwined design – graces accent pillows. Décor is retro ’50s: sleek and sophisticated.
Suites range from Studio loft spaces to the Celebrity Suite, a rock star-style suite with vibrant colors and wall art reflecting some of the hotel’s illustrious visitors. Escalade chauffeur service is available to guests, celebrity or not.
You won’t go hungry here. The hotel restaurant, The Boiler Room (yep, if you look closely, you’ll find bits of the old boiler in the décor) serves three a day. The menu, under Executive Chef Michelle Vandenhende, offers interesting choices like Brussels sprout, kale and pecorino salad with sun-dried cranberries and lemon honey vinaigrette and old favorites with a difference. Their beef tenderloin is encrusted with grainy mustard, oregano, rosemary and basil and slow roasted. For a quick snack, stop in the adjoining Topeca Coffee Shop for a bite and a cup of their artisan brew.
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Tulsa has one of the largest Art Deco collections in the country. Take advantage of a Segway tour, get directions for a self-guided exploration or do the guided Tulsa Foundation for Architecture’s one hour walking tour, which leaves the Mayo Hotel at 10 a.m. on the second Saturday of each month.
Brady Arts District:
A short walk from the Mayo hotel. Check out the Philbrook Downtown, the Woody Guthrie Center, Guthrie Green and the myriad restaurants and clubs. thebradyartsdistrict.com
A great way to see the heart of Tulsa. For a fun lunch, try their Food Truck Wednesday Tours. 918.728.6311
Out and about:
There’s plenty to see in Tulsa – art at Philbrook, Gilcrease and the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art; nature at the Tulsa Zoo, Jenks Aquarium or one of the parks; concerts and plays at numerous venues and art and indie films at Circle Cinema. visittulsa.com
The Ambassador Hotel
This historic hotel has just had a makeover and is now affiliated with Marriott’s Autograph Collection of boutique hotels. Just as gracious as ever, the lobby is brighter with lighter colors while retaining the architectural details – like the fireplace – that have always made it a welcoming space.
The rooms and suites, in addition to updated décor, offer amenities too numerous to mention including luxury linens, laptop-sized safes, robes, coffeemakers and lighted make-up mirrors. Guests can also take advantage of chauffeur service within a five-mile radius. According to marketing manager Kelsey Kincaid, “There’s not much we don’t do for our guests. We try to anticipate their needs.” The hotel has a fitness center and clients have access to the large gym facilities at the nearby First United Methodist Church.
The award-winning restaurant, the Chalkboard, is open for three meals a day, seven days a week, but be sure you schedule dinner so you can try their signature dish, Beef Wellington. Kick off your meal with a cocktail – you might order a Batatas made with sweet potato-infused bourbon. If you’re attending a concert at the BOK Center, inquire about trolley service available to restaurant and hotel guests.
One of the special areas in the hotel is the Hurley library, a quiet, cozy retreat with books, a nook with a computer and memorabilia about the hotel’s founder, Major General Patrick Hurley. Oklahoma native Hurley was Secretary of War under President Hoover and Ambassador to China under F.D.R. Also in the library are prints of paintings by his son, Wilson Hurley. Patrick Hurley opened the 10-story, Mediterranean-style Ambassador Apartment Hotel in 1929. This was where Tulsa’s oil millionaires hung their hats while their mansions were being built.
You can enjoy this luxury even if you don’t have your own oil well. Room rates range from $189 to $359. Expect to pay more if Garth Brooks is in town.
The Campbell Hotel
This is a classic right on Route 66. When it was built in 1927, it was on the east edge of Tulsa, and was the Max Campbell Building with the Casa Loma Hotel taking up the second floor. The rooms were probably rented long-term or were available to traveling salesmen who were beginning to make calls using automobiles. For those still using the trains, the hotel was accessed by a trolley line which ran from downtown to the corner of 11th and Delaware.
Entry was by a wide staircase and on the first floor was a Safeway grocery store, a drug store, a barber shop and a beauty parlor – pretty much one-stop shopping. Today the lower floor features the lobby, a lounge, a spa and an events center.
The building is built in late 19th/early 20th Century Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival style, with tan brick, clay tiles on the roof and boxy parapets on the corners. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.
Before that time, the building was a wreck. Part of the roof was gone and the structure was in shambles. A local development group – Group M Investments – saw good bones in the old building and began restoration. In the spring of 2011, the property was the Designers’ Showcase, benefiting the Foundation for Tulsa Schools. The hotel opened in August of that year.
Each of the 26 rooms was styled by a different decorator in themes ranging from the Cowboy Room (Go O-State!) with tractor seats and a cowhide area rug to the rich and royal Renaissance Suite – popular with brides and grooms. It features a floating sleigh bed with hanging canopy and a bathroom tiled with onyx.
My favorite room is the Tulsa Art Deco room. Shimmery satin in shades of silver and gray, dark gray walls with Art Deco ornamentation stenciled in the corners, a mirrored fireplace topped with a beveled triple mirror and a crystal chandelier spell “Elegance” with a capital E. It’s like staying in one of those sophisticated bedrooms from a black-and-white ’40s movie. You expect to see Fred Astaire dance in wearing a white tie and tuxedo!
Current rates are $139 to $209. A continental breakfast is available in the lobby or you may use a voucher for breakfast in their restaurant, Maxxwell’s.
What a great place for a small wedding – the party could rent the entire hotel (rates negotiable), get beautiful in the Spa Maxx – everything from hair to toenails – and have the ceremony and reception in the events center.
An homage to the historic 1906 Artesian Hotel that burned down in 1962, today’s Artesian stands proudly on the spot, its corner turrets shiny against the blue sky. A boutique property with 81 rooms including four suites, the hotel and its amenities make it an attractive destination.
The hotel features a fine dining restaurant, Springs at The Artesian, with both dining room and patio dining; Bedré Café for sandwiches, sundaes and shakes and those wonderful Bedré chocolates; and the Fountain Club Lounge for drinks, light bites and, on Friday evenings, live entertainment.
In olden times, visitors were drawn to the area for the mineral waters. There’s plenty of water at the Artesian – though not of the mineral kind. A large, indoor-outdoor swimming pool is attractive year-round, as is The Bathhouse, a roomy hot tub.
Sole’renity Spa is a favorite spot with services for men and women and dry saunas, steam rooms and whirlpools. Children have their own mini-spa.
Rates go from a summer season low of $159 and up. Feeling lucky? Try the connected casino.
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Chickasaw Visitor Center:
Your first stop. There’s information here about everything to do in the area ... and there are bikes for rent. chickasawcountry.com
Chickasaw National Recreation Area:
Practically across the street. This is the perfect spot for a morning walk. To explore more, rent a bike or drive through the park to the Nature Center. nps.gov/chic/
Chickasaw Cultural Center:
The area’s premier attraction. Art, history and heritage is all wrapped in a high-tech package. Try the Chickasaw Special in the café – an Indian taco, pishofa (a variety of corn soup) and grape dumplings. chickasawculturalcenter.com
Prepare to shop! You can always see the factory floor through huge, glass windows. If you want to see work in progress, call first to see if they are in production. The real attraction is the chocolate itself, whether it’s truffles, bars or covered potato chips. bedrechocolates.com
Boutique hotel? This is a stretch. But The Canebrake doesn’t really fit easily into any category. The services certainly qualify it and it is unique. Furthermore, it’s just finished a $2 million expansion, making it new news.
This eco-friendly resort started with co-owner Lisa Bracken’s love of yoga, family circumstances and an affinity for Oklahoma. Yoga is still a major part of the picture with a variety of classes, and a movement room has been added for different activities including barre work. The expansion also included a game room with a pool table, tournament shuffleboard table, arcade games and a comfy seating area with games and TVs. There’s also a fitness center and indoor, half-court basketball floor. Under the not-so-glamorous-but-good-to-know category – there’s a tornado shelter large enough to accommodate all guests.
The spa now has a total of seven treatment rooms, and three can accommodate couples. Men’s and women’s lockers, dressing and shower facilities are new additions as are the steam rooms and chromotherapy saunas. An outdoor pool should be completed by early summer.
Located on 200 acres cozying up to Lake Fort Gibson, the facility offers mountain bikes and five miles of trails for hiking and bird-watching. Five stocked fishing ponds beckon anglers – no license is required and tackle can be checked out at the front desk.
The Canebrake restaurant is a destination on its own. Executive Chef (and co-owner) Sam Bracken and Chef de Cuisine Matt Owen have come up with menu items that are tops in taste but with consideration to season and locality.
A featured salad on the winter menu was beet tartare – tiny-diced roasted beets and pickled apple with crispy capers, pecan oil, fennel and baby arugula. Even beet haters gave this selection a thumbs-up. Beet lovers, never fear, there’ll be a beet choice on the summer menu. Yes, you can order healthy choices but if you’re up for a splurge, you won’t be disappointed. Save space for Amber’s chocolate, bourbon and pecan pie with homemade cinnamon ice cream.
Accommodations available Wednesday through Saturday include lodge rooms and duplex suites. Rates range from $99 to $319. In nature a canebrake acts as a purifying filter and a calming influence on running water. The object of The Canebrake is to do that for you.
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Sequoyah State Park:
Golf, tennis, horseback riding and lake activities are available at Sequoyah State Park across the lake. travelok.com
Fort Gibson National Historic Landmark:
Explore this nearly-two-century old site with both original and reconstructed buildings. okhistory.org/sites/fortgibson
Check out beautiful Honor Heights Park and visit the Five Civilized Tribes Museum. visitmuskogee.com