Villa Philbrook was a child of the Twenties in Tulsa, which smelled of oil and resounded with money. In 1926 Edward Buehler Delk (1885–1956), a Kansas City architect, was hired to design an Italian Renaissance villa on 23 acres by oilman Waite Phillips. Delk skillfully interpreted Renaissance styles in the most fashionable manner of the day and was hired in a burst of commissions with three major projects at once: Villa Philbrook, Villa Philmonte and the Philtower office building. This impressive home was completed in 1927. Friends say that the Phillipses built the villa as a place where their two children could entertain friends.
In 1938 Waite Phillips surprised Tulsans with the announcement of his gift of the 72-room mansion and surrounding 23 acres of grounds as an art center for the city of Tulsa. The vision first made possible by Waite and Genevieve Phillips is now one of America's finest art museums. The integrity of the original residence remains intact while later additions to the facility and gardens complete this classic Tulsa attraction.
Serving an average of 150,000 visitors annually, Philbrook has become a poignant testimony to Tulsa's past while building a shining example of this city's bright future. Through the generosity of Trustees, Donors, and the George Kaiser Family Foundation, Philbrook opened a new satellite facility in Tulsa's Brady Arts District on June 14, 2013. Philbrook Downtown features the Museum's growing collection of Modern and contemporary art as well as highlights from the Native American collection, and includes the Eugene B. Adkins Collection and Study Center.
What began as an unprecedented gift to the city of Tulsa by the Phillips family continues today through the generosity of Philbrook members and donors year after year, making relevant art programming accessible to all.