Welcome back. In 1927 Waite Phillips built two beautiful homes, Villa Philbrook and Villa Philmonte both of which were designed by architect Edmond Buehler Delk. In Tulsa Philbrook is located at 2727 South Rockford Road and looks similar to the home Waite and his wife Genevieve built in New Mexico. The exterior of Villa Philbrook is distinguished by fancy wrought iron fencing and the grounds feature stone fountains and reflecting pools set in lush gardens that were laid out by Waite himself. The interior has floors of marble, teak, walnut and oak with elaborate European silk curtains hanging above giant windows. There are stucco ceilings in the library, the study and the music room and on the walls are hand painted murals of dancing maidens.
With Genevieve’s direction the main part of Villa Philbrook is European in style but Waite had his man cave on the lower level or basement if you could call it that. A big American Indian art collector, Waite filled the rooms with tribal rugs and mounts of buffalo, elk and mountain lions he had shot. He didn’t have to worry about space for his collections because architect Delk had completed his other house, Villa Philmonte in New Mexico soon after.
Designed in a style that was similar to his Tulsa home but without as much square footage, Villa Philmonte had a massive yard. With close to three hundred thousand acres at an elevation of around six thousand five hundred feet above sea level, sitting on his porch looking out at the mountains Waite could see as far up as ten thousand feet to peaks that were covered in snow, some all year around. He told his friends and business associates that there was no place on earth like it and many of them came to visit. Villa Philmonte also reflected Genevieve’s interest in European style as well as Waite’s love of Native American and western art.
Reading up more on Waite in the Boy Scout library located just a few blocks from the villa I learned that he had been fascinated by the history of this area that had once been part of an enormous land grant from Mexico. He loved to tell houseguests about an old cabin that had been right where the villa was now located and that Kit Carson, Buffalo Bill, Jesse James and a slew of other well-known western characters had actually slept in the area. Will Rogers and Wiley Post were bound to have heard these stories when they stopped over for a visit on their way to Alaska in 1935. Waite took one of the last photos of the two in the gardens at the villa before their tragic deaths a few days later.
Charles Dawes who was Vice President in Calvin Coolidge’s administration came to Philmonte regularly as did well known Tulsan Bill Skelly, oil man E.W. Marland and big brother Frank. When he was interviewed by author Michael Wallis for the book Beyond the Hills, the Journey of Waite Phillips, Waite’s son Chope recalled that many of the major figures of the time came to visit the family at Villa Philmonte during the seventeen years they lived there.
Unfortunately for all of us Chope, Waite and Genevieve are gone now but friends Villa Philmonte is not and that’s where I’ve been staying on and off for the last few months. Not in a cabin or tent but right in the same room Will stayed in. Right where the famous actress Yvonne DeCarlo unpacked her suitcase. The same room where Frank and Jane would have dressed for diner. With the old swimming pool right out my window I can almost hear Waite and Frank talking oil while Jane and Genevieve discuss the latest Paris fashions. Yes I’m in historic room #7 at the Philmonte mansion in Cimarron, New Mexico and I might just stay for a while.
Here’s the local snow report. Central New Mexico continues to be dry and the lack of precipitation is making it rough on the ski areas. As for wildlife sighting, I can see elk, deer and turkey right outside my window. No bear but lots of buffalo on Ted Turner’s big ranch which is just five or six miles away.
Till next time I’ll see ya down the road……