Bartlesville was founded along the banks of the Caney River as a small mill operation and general store. With the discovery of oil, Bartlesville began to grow into a thriving small city, attracting the entrepreneurial spirit to the newly established town in Indian Territory. Bartlesville quickly grew into a thriving frontier town with the Caney River and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Rail Depot as its anchors.
In its early years, Bartlesville, similar to all small towns, depended upon the Caney River and the railroad for its livelihood. The Central Business District was the hub of the City with all residential, business and cultural activities located in close proximity to this thriving area. This pattern was typical of cities in the first half of the 20th Century when all city life revolved around its downtowns, railroads and rivers.
Today, Bartlesville’s citizens and visitors alike enjoy the rich, diverse heritage of a town built by the oil industry. Roaming herds of exotic animals on an oil baron's vast ranch, a chic hotel in Frank Lloyd Wright's only skyscraper, plus a wealth of Western art, culture and history, make the Bartlesville area a treasured place to live. Since its early days in Indian Territory, Bartlesville's history has been told by the architecture still proudly on display. The old Washington County Courthouse, built in 1909, housed county offices until they were moved to the Federal Building on Fifth Street in 1973. Adding drama to the Bartlesville skyline, the Price Tower, completed in 1956, is the only built skyscraper designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
The rich architectural display found within the Central Business District led to Downtown Bartlesville’s listing as a National Register Historic District in 1991. Specific buildings within the Downtown District that are also listed on the Register include Price Tower and the Old Washington County Courthouse. In addition, Price Tower was awarded the honor of being designated a National Historic Landmark in 2007 and was nominated as a World Heritage Site in 2011. In 2006, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Bartlesville to its list of America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations as a top example of unique and lovingly preserved communities in the United States.
For a virtual tour of our nationally-recognized Historic District, go to http://www.bartlesvilleheritagetrail.org. Or walk, bike or drive the Trail yourself! Heritage Trail Downtown Historic District booklets can be purchased for $10 from Main Street Bartlesville (call or email us), at the Bartlesville Visitors Bureau at 201 SW Keeler Ave, or at Price Tower Gift Shop at 512 S Dewey Ave.