Oklahoma's Mysterious Mansions

By: Chris Putman | Category: Recreation/Leisure | Issue: July 2020

Harweldon Mansion, Tulsa, Oklahoma; photos by: Picturesque Photos by Amanda

Harweldon Mansion, Tulsa, Oklahoma; photos by: Picturesque Photos by Amanda

When viewing homes today, individuals can drive through subdivisions and see houses showcasing a cookie-cutter look.  They all seem to have similar designs displaying brick, stone and wood or some with the newer white farmhouse style, and most so much alike a resident could get lost in their own neighborhood.  There are some houses, however, that pepper the state that are a standout and worth an extensive tour or at least a drive-by. 

 

Harwelden Mansion, a national historic landmark, is a Collegiate Gothic-English Tudor-style mansion located on a three-acre lot that overlooks the Arkansas River at 2210 S. Main St. in Tulsa.  It was built in 1923 by a wealthy oilman and philanthropist Earl Harwell and designed by architects Wight and Wight.  The structure stands four-stories high, and the 15,000-square-foot mansion, carriage house and gardens occupy a full city block.  Every other Thursday enthusiasts can take a walking tour of the mansion, grounds and carriage house and the tour ends with cookies and a cup of English Tea. Guests learn about the Mansion’s history, the Harwell family and its architecture, renovations and use over the years.  The home boasts of spectacular stained glass, a stunning staircase and breathtaking gardens. 

The Harwelden functions as a bed & breakfast and the entire home is available to rent to groups or guests can stay in individual rooms.  The mansion is located just minutes from downtown Tulsa where visitors can attend Tulsa-based events or dine in Tulsa’s best restaurants.  Many couples utilize the mansion as a backdrop in which they say their vows, or its beauty is perfect for photography sessions.  For more information or to make a reservation for a tour or stay, log on to harweldenmansion.com, call (918) 960-0714 or email eat0@eau0eav0eaw0.

 

Considered the first mansion in Oklahoma, the Overholser Mansion was built in Oklahoma City’s Heritage Hills neighborhood in 1903 and is located at 405 Northwest 15th St.  Henry Overholser, referred to as the “Father of Oklahoma City” chose the Queen Anne and Chateauesque architectural styles for the house, something regarded as being out of style.  The Overholsers did not bat an eye at the criticism.  The home was later considered a beauty and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

 Currently, tours will consist of the first floor only, are given on the hour at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. and lasting about 35-45 minutes.  Admission is $5 for adults, seniors, students and children.  Children under age six are admitted free.  Mysteries of the Mansion or Scary Tales specialty tours are also available.  More information can be found at www.overholsermansion.org/ or tours can be scheduled by calling 405-525-5325 or emailing eat2@eau2eav2eaw2.

Located in Ponca City is a stunning structure titled the E. W. Marland Mansion, a 43,561 square foot Mediterranean Revival-style mansion.  Because it was the dream of successful oil baron Marland to live in a palace, architect John Duncan Forsyth partnered his talents with artists, sculptors and decorators to erect the “Palace on the Prairie” completed in 1928 after three years of construction.  Four-stories high, the home showcases 55 rooms with 10 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms, seven fireplaces, three kitchens and interestingly takes 861 light bulbs to light.

 The home is located on 34 acres at 901 Monument Road.  Guided tours provide views throughout the home as well as stories about the families that lived there.  Guided tours take place at 1:30 p.m.  on weekdays and weekends and during the summer at 1:30 and 3 p.m.  on weekends.  Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors 65+, $5 for students ages 6 through 17 and children under six years enter free.  There is a mansion tour, museum tour, grounds tour and side tours available.  For more information, log on to www.marlandmansion.com, call 800-422-8340 or email  eat3@eau3eav3eaw3.

 “The biggest takeaway is people are overwhelmed by the beauty, size and scope of the building,” E.W. Marland Estate Executive Director David Keathly said.  “It is always interesting to see their first expression when visitors walk in the front door.  Their eyes open wider and their jaws drop when they enter as their first sight is 2½ stories of the mansion.”

 

Oilman Frank Phillips not only found success in Bartlesville, but he also found his permanent home, the Frank Phillips Home.  There he built his 26-room Neo-Classical mansion in 1909 with architect Walter Everman.  It was the first home in Oklahoma to enjoy air conditioning in 1938.  The front entrance is adorned with stunning columns, an elegant staircase greets guests at the entry and the rooms are rich in wood detail. 

 Guided one-hour tours are provided for visitors.  Tour guides share stories about the home’s architecture, renovations and additions as well as the stories about the family that lived within the four walls.  Tours held  Wednesday through Friday take place at 10 and 11 a.m. and 2, 3 and 4 p.m.  Saturday tours are at 10 and 11 a.m. and 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. 

 Cost of the tours are adults $7.50, seniors 65+ $6.50, children (ages 4-12) $5, children under four years are free and veterans with Military ID are also free.

 There is a tour upgrade on Wednesday through Friday at 9 a.m. called the Director’s Tours.  More stops are made throughout the home and visitors see features not included on the regular tour.  The Director’s Tour lasts one-half hour longer and tickets are adults $15 and children $10.

 A museum and gift shop called the Interpretive Center is located onsite.  The home is located at 1107 Cherokee Ave. in Bartlesville.  Tours can be booked at 918-336-2491 and more information can be found at www.frankphillipshome.org/tour-the-home.

 

In the historic district of downtown Claremore sits the Victorian-style Belvidere Mansion.  Constructed by the Bayless family in 1907, the home showcases four expansive towers, breathtaking woodcarving throughout the main first-floor rooms and rises three stories to cover 9,000 square feet.  The second floor provided living quarters for the original family and the third floor is a 3200 square foot ballroom that was designed with a skylight that opened to allow the hot air of the home to escape during the summer months.  Wealthy entrepreneur, builder, businessman and real estate agent John Melville Bayless built the home but did not have the opportunity to enjoy it; he died before it was finished.  His widow and children moved in upon completion on Christmas day.

 A self-guided tour is free and open to the public.  A bonus to the home visit is there is an onsite teahouse.  Weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, receptions, rehearsal dinners and tea parties are often held at the home.  Located at 121 North Chickasaw Ave., the Belvidere Mansion and Gift Shop is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.   The teahouse is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m.  For more information, log on to www.belvideremansion.com/reviews/home.  Visitors can call (918) 342-1127 or e-mail  eat4@eau4eav4eaw4.

 Oral Roberts University Assistant Professor Rhonda Gallagher teaches communication but also has a passion for history.  She enjoys visiting homes that tell a historic story.

 “I think the Belvidere is my favorite because of all the stained glass and materials that were brought from abroad,” Gallagher said.  “The tours
also give details about the people who lived there…provide some valuable reminders that Oklahoma in the early days was not all rough and ready.”

Because of the physical distancing aspect built into the tours of any one of these homes, some visits may limit the number of people in one group, may require masks, have changes in days and times of tours or have other limitations.  Make sure to call ahead for reservations and restrictions.


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