Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – Waite Phillips and Barnsdall Filling Station in Sapulpa
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
Waite Phillips was one of the ten children in the Phillips household. He and his twin brother, Wiate, were born in 1883. They were also the younger brothers to Frank and L.E. Phillips of Phillips Petroleum Company. These brothers created petroleum operations around Bartlesville in 1906. Waite began his career under the guidance of his brothers.
By 1914, Waite sold his interests to his older brothers to begin on his own. He became an oil producer and marketer. He would soon have “the Waite Phillips Company in 1922 and the Independent Oil and Gas Company” around 1927.
“After 1918, he had his headquarters in Tulsa. While in Tulsa, Waite built several office complexes, such as the Philtower and Phicade Buildings. He also had a mansion built, the 72-room Italian Renaissance-style Villa Philbrook. In 1938, during the Great Depression, Phillips donated his immense home to the city of Tulsa, which adapted it into the Philbrook Museum of Art.”
This week in Sapulpa history, in 1923, it was announced that a new building for an $8,000 filling station would be erected on the corner of E Lee and S water.
“A modern filling station will be built at the Southwest corner of Water and Lee streets in the near future, according to a building permit issued by the Waite-Phillips company yesterday afternoon.
“The permit states that the service station will be constructed of brick and cement, at a cost of $8,000*. The new station will be one of the largest in the city, the permit stating that dimensions will be 20 feet in width and 50 feet in length.
“The location decided upon the Waite-Phillips Company will result in filling a gap on the Water and Lee business blocks. For some time, this particular corner has remained vacant. Work on the new station is to start soon, it was said.”
*Note: the Waite Phillips Filling Station on Lee was estimated to be around $8,000 in 1923, which would be around $133,000 today.
“The original building was built and owned by Waite Phillips Company. It remained in the building from 1923 to 1927, when it was taken over for the next two years by Higrade Service Station, McAllister & Company. In 1929, Barnsdall Refinery Company bought the building.”
The Oklahoma town in Osage County, Bigheart, was the original name for the renamed town of Barnsdall. Bigheart was named for an Osage Chief James Bigheart. The community was later named for Theodore Barndsall and his Barnsdall Oil company (both from Pennsylvania) on January 1, 1922.
The town of Bigheart was founded in 1905. The town survived natural disasters ranging from “a tornado in 1911, a major fire in 1913, and a flood in 1915.” Bigheart Oil Field was discovered in 1916 for the Bigheart Producing and Refining Company. In 1921, Barnsdall Oil Company purchased the oil field. At its peak, the town grew to a population of 2,000 residents by 1920*.
*Note: today, the population just reached 1,000 townsfolk.
The filling station on Water and Lee was owned and operated as a Barnsdall station from 1929 to 1938. “From 1938 to 2007, the facility was the home of several businesses.” This included “O.S. Janow, Walter Jones, Sapulpa Battery Company, Wardrobe Cleaners, Ted’s One Day Wardrobe Cleaners, Durbin’s Locksmith,” and Willard Battery Store.
In 2007, the Sapulpa Historical Society purchased the building that went up for sale. Restoration began with aid of grants, foundations, donations, and the great efforts of many, many volunteers and workers. Some donations and purchases included “an old Barnsdall sign from an owner in Kansas City,” and “from First Data in Tulsa, donated some wonderful old original gas pumps and station memorabilia.” It would also house two antique vehicles of a 1922 Buick and a 1929 Ford. The Waite Phillips-Barnsdall Filling Station, now a part of the museum, is owned and operated by the Sapulpa Historical Society still today.
(Oklahoma Hall of Fame; Oklahoma Historical Society; Philbrook Museum of Art; Sapulpa Herald, February 9, 1923, January 8, 1927, June 22, 1929)
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.