Ida Tarbell House



Tarbell House Phase I Complete


Under the administration of the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism, the historic Tarbell House, located at 324 East Main Street in Titusville, has undergone some significant changes over the past six months. From August to December of 2009, Phase I of the rehabilitation plan, which consisted mainly of exterior repairs and modifications, was completed. “Stabilization of the structure is seen as the most critical part of projects like this. We feel that we’ve now made a major step toward preserving this valuable piece of history for many years to come,” said Randy Seitz, Oil Region Alliance President/COO.

Among the first tasks completed was the construction of a new roof. Due to structural deterioration of the existing roof, the decision was made to remove the 1920′s-era dormered main section and replace it with a flatter, more basic construction, returning to the house the original Italianate-style roofline. Through an ingenious plan proposed by Gustafson General Contracting of Oil City, the new roof framing was constructed underneath the existing roof, allowing complete protection from the elements until the time came to demolish the old roofing and framing.

Once the new roof framing and sheathing was completed, the built-in box gutters were reconstructed to original specifications, using modern stainless steel. Having been dismantled since the 1920′s remodeling, the most difficult part of this stage was to find enough elements of the original gutters to replicate. The contractor was able to achieve this goal, and once the gutter framing was complete, metalwork was hand-fitted and soldered into place. All asphalt roofing on the rear section of the house was removed and replaced by a standing-seam steel roof; both bays were given new hand-soldered terne-coated steel roofs. These new roofing materials are rated to last more than 100 years.

All masonry on the house, from the brick chimneys to the stone foundation, was raked and repointed. The bay on the west side of the house, which over the years had been slowly pulling away from the main frame of the house, was carefully lifted and given a new, more solid foundation.

Electricity, gas, and water service were restored, and heat was restored to the house to minimize any further humidity issues. A new gutter drainage system was installed to restore the house’s ability to drain rainwater away from the foundation, further reducing moisture issues in the basement. The main roof had not had this ability since the built-in gutters were removed in the 1920′s.

Finally, the 1920′s-era front porch was removed and the original Victorian porch and veranda were reconstructed to a very close approximation to their original configuration. Using a combination of historic photos and structural clues, the project team believes these elements are now very close to how they would have looked during the Tarbell family’s residence. Railings and other details are expected to be added in the spring.

Funding for Phase I was provided by the National Park Service, the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Crawford Heritage Foundation, the Oil Region Alliance, and private donations.

The future phases of the project will include restoration of the side porch, interior renovations, energy conservation measures, a handicapped ramp to the side entrance, and completion of the main roof, including reconstruction of the third floor cupola tower, which Ida Tarbell wrote about in her biography.

Funding is currently being sought for phases; for more information about contributing to the project, contact Vice-President of Heritage Development Marilyn Black at 814-677-3152, or via email at


Phase 1 Complete  
For More Information: Marilyn Black – 814-677-3152, ext. 105;

Turning Back the Hands of Time at the Tarbell House

Due to the rapid pace of progress being made on the demonstration rehabilitation of this important historic home in Titusville, Pennsylvania within the Oil Region National Heritage Area, you are invited to return to this site each month to watch how the hands of time are being turned back for the Tarbell House.  Some times the changes will be dramatic, and in other cases you’ll see how the many little steps come together to constitute a hopefully smooth transformation of model stewardship of such a property.

Click Here for the Tarbell House Fact Sheet — Past and Future

July 26, 2007

Public open house today receives 134 visitors, including residents of Clarion, Clearfield, Erie, Forest, Crawford, Venango, and Warren Counties in Pennsylvania as well as guests from Florida, Ohio, Maryland, and Michigan.  In order to facilitate parking along East Main Street, the Oil Region Alliance provided complimentary shuttle service arranged by the Titusville Senior Services, from a boarding location at Quality Markets downtown. 

Curious neighbors, municipal leaders, potential funding partners, media representatives, and others were eager to see inside this 1876 Italianate home, which has been in the ownership of just three families prior to its May, 2007 purchase by the Oil Region Alliance. 

Refreshments were provided by Titusville Historical Society (yes, the cookie ladies) and the Alliance. 

July 25, 2007

front covers of each one, probably laid out in alphabetic order from left to right)

As of today’s deadline, 3 firms submitted proposals to be the consulting preservation architects to prepare the official Preservation Plan for this historic house.  Proposals were formatted as instructed in the Request For Proposals issued by the Oil Region Alliance in June.  During the August meeting of the Oil Region Alliance Board of Directors, a vendor selection was made, with the resulting contract with Struxures, LLC beginning as of September 1, 2007.

July 24, 2007

Area media publish stories announcing the free shuttle service for the Open House scheduled for July 26, utilizing a news release issued yesterday by the Oil Region Alliance.

July 23, 2007

Thanks to a gracious offer by artist Steve Rainey of Titusville, the Oil Region Alliance today placed orders for signed, numbered art prints featuring the pen-and-ink elevation illustration which Mr. Rainey made in the 1990s from an earlier photograph showing the home as initially constructed.  Also being printed are notecards using the same artwork.  Sales of both items will be earmarked as matching funds to leverage grant support for the rehabilitation of the Tarbell House.

July 20, 2007

CDs of the 55-minute Public Broadcasting program entitled “Ida Tarbell:  All in the Day’s Work” are received from Lisa Gensheimer, with the North East, PA firm of Mainstreet Media, who produced this 1999 program.
The CD is available for purchase for $24.95 including postage and tax, from  The producers hope to attend the upcoming Open House in Titusville.

July 17, 2007

Today the Oil Region Alliance sent to the Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources a letter updating its April, 2007 grant application for “Alliance, This Old House Implementation Project” indicating that a specific house has been acquired, thus increasing the level of priority for this pending grant application.

July 16, 2007

Officers of the Titusville Historical Society meet with project managers and the head of the ORA Preservation Committee to identify participation opportunities for this volunteer organization.  THS representatives agree to research the following topics:  (a) gather photographs of the exterior and interior of the Tarbell House across all time periods; (b) prepare a chronological list of the actual individual occupants of the Tarbell House, including adults and youth, owners and renters; (c) compile a master list of excerpts from Tarbell family documents of descriptions of the Tarbell House and of family activities therein; and (d) with the Titusville Alumnae Association, compile a master set of excerpts from any school-related items, writings, photographs, etc. of Ida and/or her relatives.

July 11, 2007

Today the final wave of invitations was mailed out for the July 26 Open House.  All neighbors and adjacent property owners in this block of East Main Street are among the recipients of these special invitations.  Publicity in area media continues.

July 5, 2007

Yardman Russell Bahneman (who more than 10 years ago was a renter of the second story apartment of the Tarbell House) finishes removing the high stands of overgrown weeds and vines from the backyard, thus opening to view the retaining wall along Church Run, a tributary of Oil Creek, along the northern edge of the property.  Now the PVC pipe recently installed by the City of Titusville to rework sewage lines is more evident.

June 28, 2007

Today the Request For Proposals was issued by the Oil Region Alliance, with these full instructions mailed to more than 60 potential consulting firms experienced in the rehabilitation of historic Victorian-era homes.  Legal notices are also authorized for publication in area newspapers.  Proposal deadline is noon on July 25.  In the weeks ahead, several on-line services in turn announce this vendor opportunities to their various constituents, thus triggering more direct inquiries for proposal instructions and forms.  Proposing firms are instructed that the Preservation Plan will need to describe in detail two scenarios — rehabilitating as presently configured, and a more dramatic restoration of the 1895-1900 features of the historic house.

June 26, 2007

Following a welcoming picnic at Pithole, Dr. Phil and Elsie Morey are given individual tour of Tarbell House.  Her father, William C. Darrah, is the author of “Pithole:  The Vanished City,” initially published in 1972 and in 2006 reprinted by the Oil Region Alliance.  Parts of the former Bonta House (an elegant hotel in this oil boomtown) were re-used by Franklin Tarbell when building his home in Titusville.  Dr. Morey provides guidance on air-filtering equipment recommended for hands-on volunteers to be working on house rehabilitation.  The Moreys generously donate multiple first-editions of their relative’s book, with proceeds to be earmarked as matching funds for the Tarbell House restoration, which they hope will include the reconstruction of the third-floor tower and a return to the initial roof line.

June 18, 2007

The Titusville City Council tonight selected as a sidewalk replacement vendor the firm of Ken Leach Construction.  In this program, private property owners can opt in for inclusion at the same unit costs as the work being scheduled on public property.  City Council also approves the Oil Region Alliance request to include the sidewalk in front of the Tarbell House in this city-wide improvement program.  Several neighbors have also opted to have repairs made at the same time.

June 15, 2007

Today members of the ORA Heritage Advisory Council are given private tour of the Tarbell House.  Forester Cecile Stetler provides guidance on threatening vegetation which is disrupting sidewalk and in many cases would make contractor work more complex if trees/shrubs are not removed prior to active rehabilitation on the building exterior.

June 14, 2007

Today prior owner Barbara Gibson leads Oil Region Alliance on a detailed tour of the Tarbell House, pointing out architectural features and telling stories of her family’s occupancy there.  She provides an important skeleton key, and agrees to research family and business records to assist in providing photographs and tenant lists useful in the coming rehabilitation.  Mrs. Gibson also indicates which remodeling occurred during her ownership.  She requests and receives permission to relocate a memorial red bush tree from the front yard, as it had been planted in memory of her late husband Marvin Gibson.

June 8, 2007

Oil Region Alliance receives via AMC Mortgage a report on the sanitary sewer prepared by the City of Titusville, indicating that while most of the components are in order at the Tarbell House, one sump pump needs to be re-routed so that it does not drain into the municipal sewage line.  We notify the code officer that the report has been received, and that the work will be performed by a licensed plumber prior to activation of water service on site.  After this work occurs, re-inspection will be required.

Also today, Project Manager Mike Henderson escorts membership of Titusville Historical Society on a private tour of the Tarbell House.  Many attendees offer to be volunteer helpers in various capacities in the coming rehabilitation of the building and grounds.

June 5, 2007

Starting today, offers of volunteer and monetary assistance are generously relayed to Oil Region Alliance Project Manager Mike Henderson, who begins to build a data base of interested parties who will receive periodic direct notification of project progress and special events connected with the Tarbell House.

June 4, 2007

Today the Oil Region Alliance issued its first public news release about the purchase of and plans for the Tarbell House.  The story becomes major front page news in the Titusville Herald on June 5, and a major story with color photographs in the next Sunday edition of the Erie Times-News, among other coverage in area media and the Alliance’s own newsletter.

June 1, 2007

Today is a day of exuberance!  This morning, the locksmiths change all locks, while the Oil Region Alliance staff shoot initial documentation photographs of the exterior and interior of the building.  Staff are joined by
Lynn Cochran from the Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce and Lois Parsons from the Titusville Historical Society.

Introductions are made with several neighbors, who indicate much joy that this rather bedraggled-looking Victorian house will be rehabilitated in accordance with the U. S. Secretary of the Interior’s standards and thus return to the style depicted on homes throughout this block in the historic district.

Introductions are also made with Titusville police, Borough Manager, municipal code officer, and their respective assistants, all of whom express relief that the new owners are determined to be model stewards.

Complete insurance coverage also took effect today.

May 31, 2007

Hurrah!  The fully executed sales agreement and deed are recorded today at the Crawford County Courthouse by Alliance solicitor Robert McFate, Jr.
Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism purchases land and house for $39,000 from the AMC Mortgage Service of West Orange, California.

This purchase would not have been possible without the persistent and positive encouragement by Mrs. Lynn Cochran, in her dual capacities as Chair of the Oil Region Alliance Preservation Committee (as a volunteer) and the Executive Director of the Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce and staff of Titusville Renaissance, Inc.  She attended each Sheriff’s Sale, monitored communications with the respective mortgage firms and banks, kept all Titusville-area realtors informed of the Alliance interest in this property in case it reverted to outright sale, and identified early potential donors toward the acquisition/rehabilitation costs which will be involved for the years to come.

May 24 – 30, 2007

Exact sales contract language edits go round among the parties and their respective realtor and attorney advisors.

May 24, 2007

Today the Board of Directors for the Oil Region Alliance concur with the ORA Executive Committee’s action of making a higher sales offer for the Tarbell House, and authorizing the Solicitor to continue to coordinate communications on exact terms and conditions.

May 11, 2007

Today the ORA Executive Committee passed a motion to file a higher sales purchase offer (subject to solicitor’s language edits to related documents)
for the Tarbell House.  Seller pushes for a daily penalty fee to be added to sales price if agreement not fully executed and sale closed by May 31.

April 26, 2007

Today the Oil Region Alliance Board of Directors authorizes a sales purchase offer to be made for the land and building at 324 East Main Street in Titusville.  This initial offer is declined by AMC Mortgage.  The pace of negotiations accelerates henceforth.

Meanwhile, in central Pennsylvania, the Board of Directors for Preservation Pennsylvania, Inc. today approve a motion to “provide 1/3 grant and 2/3 loan to the Oil Region Alliance for the purchase price only of the Ida Tarbell House, not to exceed $50,000.”  The funding source would be the Preservation Fund, managed by this statewide preservation advocacy non-profit organization.  The PP loan portion will be repaid (subject to purchase of the house, of course) early due to anticipated earmarked major donations for this project.

April, 2007

After more than 8 months of communications among the interim property owners and the Oil Region Alliance exploring various property donation
approaches, AMC Mortgage puts the Tarbell House up for sale through local real estate brokers.  Within one day, the realtors notify Mrs. Cochran who officially introduces Board agenda item for Oil Region Alliance to enter into direct sales negotiations.

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