Project methods used by the Oil Region National Heritage Area parallel those encouraged by the federal authorizing legislation and by the Pennsylvania Heritage Areas Program within the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources — Preservation; Community Revitalization; Recreation; Education; Promotion; and Intergovernmental Cooperation.
At any given time, there are about 40 active projects underway with financial assistance from either the National Park Service or DCNR, often augmented by matching funds from local private and public sources. Most projects include elements of multiple goals, as described in the Oil Region National Heritage Area Management Plan. The projects featured on this web page illustrate current activities for each project type.
The Tarbell House
The historic home of Miss Ida Tarbell is being restored as a model demonstration rehabilitation of a Victorian-era residence.
Miss Tarbell lived here for six years, including her attendance at Titusville High School where she graduated in 1875 at the top of her class and her early studies at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. Her career path led to journalism and writing. Between assignments, she would return here to visit family members. Her thorough series of articles entitled “The History of the Standard Oil Company” published 1902 – 1904 by McClure’s Magazine and then in 1904 in book form by the Macmillan Company led to widespread interest in this firm’s practices, and eventually to the U. S. Supreme Court ruling which required Standard Oil to restructure into state-level corporations; the dissolution occurred in 1911. She also wrote numerous other biographies, including 9 books about Abraham Lincoln. In 2002 the U. S. Postal Service issued a stamp in her honor, recognizing this forceful muckraker historian and biographer as one of the 20th century’s top women in journalism.
This Italianate home was built by Ida’s father, Franklin S. Tarbell, in 1870, recycling many materials from the former Bonta House, one of the most elegant hotels in nearby Pithole (a now vanished oil boomtown). Only three families have owned it — the Tarbells, the Greens, and the Gibsons. As of May 30, 2007, the Oil Region Alliance purchased this property to preserve and restore it; financial assistance for the acquisition was generously provided by Preservation Pennsylvania, Inc. and other private sector donors.
Situated within Titusville’s Historic District, this property at 324 East Main Street already has a blue/gold state historical marker out front. Area preservation architects provide consulting services during the project planning and rehabilitation.
In 2007, safety and security concerns were addressed (including sidewalk repairs), threatening vegetation was removed, necessary roof repairs conducted, the rear deck will be removed. By early 2008, a complete Preservation Plan will be prepared, providing programmatic and fiscal guidance for the preservation of this vital building which is so closely linked to pivotal oil history.
For the latest news on special events, fund-raising, and volunteer opportunities involving this active preservation project, please see the “Tracking Progress on the Tarbell House” portion of this website.
Walking Tour in Emlenton
The quaint town of Emlenton hugs the eastern hillside of the Allegheny River, marking the downstream conclusion of the federally designated Wild and Scenic Allegheny River. Two exits of I-80 provide direct access to the east and west banks of this community which in 2006 had 748 residents.
This southern gateway to the Oil Region National Heritage Area has a proud history beginning way before the oil and gas industries which dominated its economy and architecture for many decades. For instance, by 1839 there were 20 iron furnaces in operation within a 16-mile radius of this center of riverine commerce. Several major energy providers trace their roots to Emlenton, including Columbia Gas Company which began in 1882 as the Emlenton Gas Light and Fuel Company, and Quaker State Oil Refining Corporation which was formed in 1931 as a merger of numerous regional firms. Today, Emlenton is known for its recreational outfitters, its bicycle trailhead on the smooth asphalt Allegheny Valley Trail, antique shops, a growing number of artists, and as the corporate headquarters of Farmers National Bank.
A 22-station set of colorful descriptive panels line a walking tour which takes the leisurely ambler about an hour to traverse, guided by the free walking tour brochure which is available through the Oil Region Alliance and found at the tour’s beginning point, the Crawford Center on Hill Street. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes for this stroll, because the tour covers much of the hillside residential and Main Street retail portions of Emlenton.
The walking tour showcases interesting architectural examples of oil family homes, houses of worship, and commercial buildings past and present. Each panel includes historic photographs, illustrations, and text regarding one or more topics, as well as a series of prior and current oil/gas logos associated with Emlenton history.
Originally installed in 2002 and 2003, some of the panels ‘aged’ rapidly in the bright sunshine in this valley. Therefore, in the summer of 2007, a fresh set of duplicate panels were put into place by the Oil Region Alliance with its partners the Pumping Jack Museum and the Borough of Emlenton.
Trail Utilization Study
“Hot off the press” is a report entitled “Trail Utilization Study: Analysis of the Trail Systems within the Oil Heritage Region.” If you’ve wondered how many people were on the biking, hiking, waterway, and other trails in eastern Crawford County or anywhere in Venango County during the study period of July through December, 2006, you can find out by checking into this report which was prepared by PBS&J Consulting’s Canonsburg, PA office.
For instance, the last sentence in the report’s Executive Summary reads. “It is estimated that approximately 160,792 users frequented the trail system within the Oil Heritage Region throughout the 2006 calendar year, creating an estimated overall economic impact of roughly $4.31 million.”
This trail use study was financed in part by a Pennsylvania Heritage Areas Program grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, via the Oil Region Alliance; matching funds were provided courtesy of the Allegheny Valley Trails Association.
This webpage includes the report’s Executive Summary and Table of Contents. Complete hard-copy reports are available on request from the Oil Region Alliance. The complete report is also found on line at www.avta-trails.org.
This study’s findings are already being put into action guiding regional trail developers as they plan this system’s inclusion in the overall Erie-to-Pittsburgh Trail network.
Educational Partner Mini-Grants
Thanks to a Pennsylvania Heritage Areas Program grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Oil Region Alliance in 2007 made available mini-grants of up to $1,000 for organizations adding oil history elements or units to their in-school or life-long learning opportunities for residents of the Oil Region.
August 13, 2007 is the deadline for the current round of such applications; for application instructions, contact ORA Project Manager Kim Harris.
The educational partners are encouraged to identify creative ways to channel curiosity and factual oil history into participatory experiences for young, old, and in-between. Successful applicants in earlier rounds have included such examples as guided field trips for senior citizen groups visiting area attractions, hands-on crafts for summer campers in occupational skills from the oil boom era, subsidies for bus transportation to bring students to area oil museums, re-publication of community-specific oil education units for in-classroom use, and training for scout leaders who wish to include merit badges for area history or oil history in particular. The educational partners agree to provide the Oil Region Alliance with their completed lesson plans, learning materials, evaluations, and suggestions for project replication on a wider scale.
For a complete list of the approved projects selected in the two earlier rounds of educational mini-grants, please contact Kim Harris at 677-3152, Ext. 120; email@example.com. Photographs on this page show youth from the Titusville YMCA Summer History Camp during a field trip to the Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry in Oil City, the hub of Oildom.
Visitor Center inside Perry Street Station in Titusville
During the excursion train season, thousands of passengers board the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad at its Perry Street Station in downtown Titusville, thus beginning their several-hour guided ride through the valley that changed the world. Presently, after they purchase their train tickets, the guests explore not only the refreshment stand and gift shop in this restored freight station, but also examine brochures and photographs in the custom literature cabinet that welcomes them to this northern gateway to the Oil Region National Heritage Area.
To make even better use of this time in the waiting area, designs have been prepared by Phoenixx Design Associates recommending the installation of new exhibits along one entire wall inside the station. As illustrated on the sample rendering on this web page, these new exhibits will trace Titusville’s history since early Native Americans gave “Oil Creek” its name for the oil seeps along its banks through the present, emphasizing the roles played by railroads and petroleum alike. For example, once these exhibits become available, waiting passengers can race forms of oil transportation, to see whether the horse-drawn teamster wagons, the floating oil packet boats, the steam-pulled train engines, or the oil pipelines were fastest or most reliable.
Funding for the designs was provided courtesy of the National Park Service and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Now that the visitor center designs have been approved by the OC&TRR and the Oil Region Alliance, fund-raising (primarily through grantsmanship) is underway to assemble the resources to produce and install the new exhibits. Several applications have been filed by the Oil Region Alliance; if those are successful, construction could happen soon, thus having the new Visitor Center exhibits in place in plenty of time before the kick-off of the “OIL 150” celebrations in the summer of 2008 and continuing through the conclusion of 2009.
Murray’s Scenic View in Oil City
Situated along Plummer Street on the edge of Oil City and Cornplanter Township is a spot traditionally considered one of the best observation spots in the Oil Region, showing several miles of Oil Creek valley immediately upstream of Oil City. From the flat plateau which is today known as Murray’s Scenic View, the hillside takes a steep drop of over 300 feet to the creek valley below.
Interestingly, the view just a few decades ago was cluttered with bustling oil refineries and support businesses. Today, since the demolition of Pennzoil’s/Calumet’s Rouseville refinery, the view is one of busy traffic on Route 8 winding between replanted fields with few visible oil tanks, active wood molding and chemical manufacturing plants, and lush hillsides with fewer residences.
Significant safety and convenience amenities are slated for this interesting location, including vehicular parking, bench seating, a gazebo, several colorful interpretive panels providing examples of historic photographs taken from this location, decorative native vegetation on the top of the overlook, and tree trimming on the adjacent hillside in order to widen the viewing angles. Project design work by J. T. Sauer will become reality through construction services provided by vendors yet to be selected.
This project site is on land privately owned by the Murray family, whose deed requires that it be maintained as a free public overlook, as established by the Stewart family before them. Project funding combined municipal services and support by Cornplanter Township and the City of Oil City, with state grants from two different components within the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (C2P2 and Pa. Heritage Areas) as well as federal transportation enhancement funding via the Pa. Department of Transportation. The interpretive panels will be purchased with financial assistance from the National Park Service. Private sector funding is being provided by the property owners, service clubs, and the next-door neighbors who have opened “Fat Dogs”, a seasonal ice cream stand.
The forecast for 16301 by WP Wunderground