Photo © Courtesy of Oil Region
Pennsylvania’s Oil Region is rich with history. The birthplace of the Oil Industry not only changed the area—it changed the world. What was once the site of the world’s first commercially successful oil well, gritty and industrial, is now a picturesque, biodiverse, second-growth forest with several cold water fishery creeks.
The Oil Region National Heritage Area
With impressive Victorian architecture dating back to the mid-1800s, there’s history and beauty to be found behind every corner. Experience all that the region has to offer, from museums, lively local arts, brewpubs, shops, and a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities—the Oil Region has something for everyone.
One of only 55 National Heritage Areas in the U.S., Congress designated the ORNHA in 2004 because of the significant influence the oil industry’s start had on the regional culture and world history. The ORNHA is managed by the nonprofit Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism (ORA).
Founded on land given to Seneca Chief Cornplanter as a thank you for his support during the Revolutionary War, Oil City has three historic districts. Contributing buildings/resources include the National Transit Building and Annex, an 1890s headquarters for a Standard Oil subsidiary, now home to an entry mural on the history of oil and gallery and artist studio spaces, and the Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry, housed in a 1905 former post office, featuring regular and changing exhibits.
The Scheide House in Titusville is a historic home, once owned by John Scheide. The Scheide family were avid bibliophiles and built a collection of rare books, including a 1455 Gutenberg Bible, an original printing of the Declaration of Independence, and Shakespeare’s first folios. The collection was donated to Princeton University, constituting their largest single donation to date, valued at $300,000,000. Princeton keeps the collection in a reproduction of the Scheide House’s fireproof masonry library wing on campus.
Investigative journalism pioneer Ida Tarbell grew up in Titusville during the oil era. She wrote The History of the Standard Oil Company, a scathing exposé of John D. Rockefeller’s business that led to anti-monopoly legislation. Her historically preserved childhood home is now a house museum and site for special events.
In 1753, young colonial officer George Washington was assigned to deliver a message to the French, who had a string of forts in what would become western Pennsylvania. He and his contingent traveled from Williamsburg, VA, pausing at what is now known as Riverfront Park in Franklin. Their final destination was Fort LeBoeuf in Erie County. They returned via a waterway that Washington named French Creek. The full trip took 14 and a half months to complete. His route is now known as Washington’s Trail and can be followed through western PA to the Maryland border. A new visitor center in the works on Liberty Street in Franklin’s retail core will highlight this story.
The Drake Well Museum & Park commemorates the exact location of the first commercially successful oil well. The museum and grounds celebrate “the Valley that Changed the World,” and showcase how the discovery of oil impacts every day and every life since August 27, 1859.
The OC&T Railroad is the best way to tour the valley and experience the rich wildlife! The three-hour tour starts at Perry Street Station in Titusville and follows Oil Creek by Drake Well and through Oil Creek State Park to the turning point at Rynd Farm.
DISCOVER HOW THE BIRTHPLACE OF A WORLD-CHANGING INDUSTRY HAS BECOME AN AMAZING PLACE TO GET AWAY & EXPLORE
Travel the Oil Creek valley via the Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad or explore the Oil Creek State Park Trail. Once home to the epicenter of the oil industry, this scenic park is now a treasure trove of outdoor recreation. The 9.7-mile paved trail is part of more than 65 miles of paved trail and hundreds of miles of multi-use trails throughout the region.
Fishing enthusiasts enjoy world-class fly fishing on Oil Creek and the pristine French Creek, recognized as the most biologically diverse stream of its size in the state of Pennsylvania! They fish for smallmouth bass, walleye, musky, and flathead catfish on the Allegheny River.
The Allegheny Wild and Scenic River Water Trail, a 107-mile section from Kinzua Dam to Emlenton, is ideal for paddling, jetboating, birdwatching, and more for the whole family.
Oil Region National Heritage Area looks to the future:
The Oil Region Alliance has recently received a $300,000 assessment grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up and redevelop brownfields. Brownfields are properties that may be harmful to the environment due to the potential presence of a hazardous substance.
“This grant opens the door to finally rehabilitating and redeveloping these and other relics of our industrial past. We now have the chance to make them living, breathing parts of our present and future, and usher in a new wave of the resourcefulness, innovation, and entrepreneurship that have defined our communities since the beginning.” —Selina Pedi, ORA Redevelopment Manager/ACRVR Blueprint Community Coordinator.
“Brownfield redevelopment is just one component of our multi-faceted mission. We will always be stewards of the ORNHA, preserving and interpreting our heritage and promoting and developing recreational assets. As a Regional Development Hub Organization, we have the opportunity to do even more in terms of conservation and ecology. Everything is connected.”—John R. Phillips, II, ORA President & CEO.
To learn more about the valley that changed the world visit OilRegion.org
A natural setting of breathtaking beauty, high quality schools, abundant cultural activities and proximity to some of the nation’s great urban centers: all of this is available at a very favorable cost of living, much less than surrounding and competitive areas.