Traveling upriver on the Allegheny by train or boat in the late nineteenth century, you would see Emlenton, Franklin and Oil City in Venango County, Tionesta in Forest County, pass by Tidioute and finally reach Warren in Warren County. All along the River, you would be treated to an array of particularly fine Victorian homes built by the region’s lumber and oil magnates as personal monuments to success.
You can make that same trip today and still see many of those same wonderful Victorian houses. The railroads are gone and the river has been dammed upstream of Warren at Kinzua, but a drive along Routes 8 and 62 will cover similar views. Short trips away from the river will take you to Titusville, birthplace of the oil industry, or to Endeavor and Sheffield where evidence of the great nineteenth century Pennsylvania lumber industry remains even now. Meadville to the west and Bradford, Smethport and Ridgway to the east are close by and offer splendid examples of surviving Victorian structures.
We cordially invite you to preview the Victorian Region by experiencing the Victorian communities and structures featured below.
Available under each community in the region are driving directions, lodging and dining options, brief histories, local attractions, and current historical and prominent Victorian architectural examples.
Emlenton would appear today to a visitor unaware of its past as a quaint, quiet little town with a picturesque assortment of Victorian folk cottages clinging to its hillside and a view of the river below. Up until February 2015, an old steam-powered wood mill could still be seen on Main Street, the last of the mills which once were a substantial part of the town’s nineteenth century economy. Sadly, this structure was lost in a fire.
The Allegheny Valley Railroad once came up from Pittsburgh on its way to Oil City, Warren and beyond. Tank cars filled with crude oil destined for Rockefeller’s refineries in Cleveland and the East Coast commonly passed through Emlenton in the 1870s. Flat cars filled with rough cut and finished lumber were shipped both north and south on the railroad. Out on the river, large rafts, some as much as 300 feet long, consisting of 80 to 100 foot white pine “sticks” would float downriver on the high water of springtime.
Local investors, including James Bennett and Marcus Hulings, established a narrow gauge railroad in 1877, which traveled east to present day Knox, then Shippenville and Clarion. The objective was to gather the lumber, farm produce, coal, limestone and oil from Clarion County and deliver it at Emlenton to the Allegheny Valley Railroad. This hard working little railroad climbed out of the valley bottom by way of Hill Street passing just under the covered verandas of the millionaire’s homes above, to disappear along the right of way you can still see lead into the woods. The line was quite prosperous, but it was bought and dismantled by a rival rail line originating in Foxburg just down the river.
Hill Street became the street of elegance, wealth and power in Emlenton. Near the east end of Hill Street at 304, you can see today the Second Empire residence (As is Shown To The Right) built by Eben Crawford.
The elder Mr. Crawford was an oil man and a principal in the Emlenton Gas Company, one of the earliest natural gas companies in the country. Eben Crawford’s son, George, lived for a time in this house after his father’s passing. George eventually became Chairman of what we know today as the Columbia Gas System. After a time, George lived in Pittsburgh, but he maintained this second home in Emlenton.
His younger brother, Carroll, maintained a residence in the Queen Anne next door at 306 Hill Street. Carroll Crawford was also prominent in the natural gas industry. Unfortunately, Carroll Crawford, already a widower, died at the age of forty-four leaving three young children as orphans. George Crawford, their uncle, had the children taken to Pittsburgh along with their governess, Mother Woodford. George maintained a suite of rooms in the William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh. His brother’s children resided in his William Penn suite. George, the children and Mother Woodford would return to Emlenton by train on weekends.
At the other end of Hill Street, the west end, at 617 stands a Queen Anne residence which Harry J. Crawford built in 1903. H. J. Crawford was the first cousin of Eben Crawford’s sons. Harry was a particularly successful oil and natural gas producer at the turn of the century. He and several partners gained control of the Emlenton Refining Company located just up the street and along the river. Eventually, the Emlenton Refining Company became the major constituent of the Quaker State Oil Refining Company. H. J. Crawford remained in Emlenton all his life. Also widowed at a young age, he raised two teenage daughters in this Hill Street home. A man of great wealth, he was known for his simple, frugal way of life and his generosity toward the community he loved.
- Interstate 80 to either Exit 42 or 45, then Route 38 to Emlenton. An alternative route from Pittsburgh would be Route 8 to Butler, Route 68 and 268 to Parker on the Allegheny River, then Route 268 north along the river to Emlenton. Much of this old route takes you through nineteenth century oil fields.
- “A Stroll Through Historic Emlenton”, 1997, Emlenton Civic Club.
- Foxburg Inn, 20 Main Street, Foxburg (724) 659-3116
- Barnard House (B&B), 109 River Avenue, Emlenton (724) 867-2261
- The Red Brick Inn (B&B), 2621 Nickleville Road, Emlenton (814) 498-2659
- Emlenton Motor Inn, 6318 Emlenton-Clintonville Road, Emlenton (724) 867-2314
- Allegheny Grille, 40 Main Street, Foxburg (724) 659-5701
- Foxburg Pizza, 12 Main Street, Foxburg (724) 867-0123
- Little It Deli, 201 Main Street, Emlenton (724) 867-8000
- Pumping Jack Museum, 511 Hill Street, Emlenton (724) 867-0030 (by appointment and chance with help from the Borough office)
- The Button House, (open by appointment only) 17 Palmer Street, Foxburg (724) 659-0180
- The Red Brick Gallery & Gift Shop, 17 Main Street, Foxburg (724) 659-0003
- Allegheny RiverStone Center for the Arts, 42 South Palmer Street, Foxburg
- Crawford Center for the Music & Arts, 511 Hill Street, Emlenton (814) 671-1550
Franklin exists because of its location on French Creek where the creek flows into the Allegheny River. More than two centuries ago, both the French and the English would come either south from Lake Erie by way of the French Creek waterway or north from Pittsburgh following old Indian trails or the Allegheny River. The imperial and colonial interests of both eighteenth century European powers interacted and clashed along this north-south route in the wilderness of Western Pennsylvania. Both the French and the English occupied forts in Franklin. After the French and Indian War and the War of Independence, Franklin began to prosper as a commercial center and the seat of government for Venango County, a very large Pennsylvania County in the early nineteenth century.
French Creek was Franklin’s most essential natural resource. The creek provided power, water power, to operate a number of grist mills, saw mills, woolen mills and iron works situated in the 1840s and subsequent decades along its banks. Dams were constructed in the nineteenth century across French Creek to provide the necessary water pools. The mills are all gone. The dams are all gone. The surviving evidence of this thriving, mid-nineteenth century commercial activity can be seen in Franklin’s Greek Revival residential architecture from the period. A concentration of examples in the 1200 block of Elk Street, just across from the old public commons, is particularly impressive. Other vestiges of Greek Revival architecture and the contemporaneous, less stylish National Folk houses of the times can be seen scattered along Franklin’s nineteenth century streets.
In the early 1860s oil was shipped down the river from Oil Creek to Pittsburgh. The Atlantic and Great Western Railroad arrived in Franklin in 1863. Some of the crude oil coming down the river from Oil Creek was then transferred to the railroad and shipped either north and east to New York City or west to Cleveland. A second rail line, the Jamestown and Franklin, entered the Oil Region at Franklin in 1867. The competition between these two railroads for the crude oil traffic to Cleveland almost immediately led to favorable rates and rebates for the owners of the Cleveland refineries at the expense of refiners in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York and the Oil Region itself. One Cleveland owner, John D. Rockefeller, exploited this advantage to its fullest.
Franklin prospered as a rail terminal. Many of its citizens became particularly successful oil producers. In the late nineteenth century, Franklin became a center for refining crude with its largest facilities being owned by Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Most of Franklin’s fine Victorian homes represent the prosperity of these times.
The Galena-Signal Oil Company Building on Liberty Street is also representative of this success. Built in 1902, the Galena-Signal Oil Company Building is an elegant example of Italian Renaissance architecture. That building provides an interesting contrast to the more flamboyant and picturesque Italianate County Courthouse situated in the nearby commons area, a structure completed in 1869.
Just upriver from Franklin you can easily see the Joseph Sibley mansion, River Ridge, situated on a hill and looking back down on the valley and across the river to Route 8. Sibley made a fortune as a young man in partnership with Franklin resident, Charles Miller. Sibley and Miller were the two principals who created and organized the Galena-Signal Oil company, a refining company specializing in lubricants and kerosene lamp oil for the railroad market. The company early on became a subsidiary of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. In the 1890s and the first decade of the 1900s, Sibley was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for five terms. President McKinley, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Standard Oil’s John D. Rockefeller were all his close friends and were entertained by him in his original residence on Elk Street at 12th in Franklin or at his vacation home on Lake Champlain. President McKinley was traveling in 1901 with Joseph Sibley in Sibley’s private rail car when the President was assassinated in Buffalo. Sibley built River Ridge in 1913 after the death of his first wife. The River Ridge estate grounds were operated as an experimental farm.
Franklin’s downtown retail and commercial district, immediately adjacent to its nineteenth century residential neighborhoods, remains firmly rooted in its Victorian past. The Victorian character and integrity of Franklin’s downtown testifies to the long prosperity enjoyed by the community and the appreciation later generations have had for this Victorian architectural legacy. Nestled in the valley of French Creek between two high and wooded hillsides, the place seems enchanted, as if by means of some wonderful magic it was taken from another place and time.
- Interstate 80 to Exit 29, then north on Route 8; Interstate 79 to Exit 34, then east on Route 358 and Route 62
- “Walking Tours Of Historic Franklin”, Franklin Rotary Club, 1990
- “Oil, Oil, Oil”, Michener, Venango County Historical Society, 1997
- “Views Of River Ridge Farm”, Mong, 1999 reprint of 1925 publication
- “Franklin, A Place in History”, Michener, 1995
- Quality Inn and Conference Center, 1411 Liberty Street 814-437-3031
- D’Casa B&B, 1501 Liberty Street, 814-432-7699
- Holiday Inn Express, 225 Singh Drive, Cranberry, 814-677-2640
- The Witherup House (an eco-friendly B&B) 828 Liberty Street, 814-437-7203
- Idlewood Motel, 1566 Mercer Road, 814-437-3003
- Barrow Civic-Theater, Liberty Street, (814) 437-3440
- DeBence Antique Music World, 1261 Liberty Avenue (814) 432-5668 (A museum housing the largest collection of nineteenth and early twentieth century musical machines and music boxes in the country)
- Venango County Historical Society (Historical and Genealogical Research), 301 South Park Street (814) 437-2275
For Visitor Information on The Franklin Area:
- Franklin Area Chamber of Commerce, 1255 Liberty Street, Franklin, PA 16323 (814) 432-5823
- Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism, 217 Elm Street, Oil City, PA 16301 (814) 677-3152
To fully appreciate both the natural beauty of Oil City and the essential transportation, management and financial roles in the oil industry the community played in the late nineteenth century, you must get out on the town’s four bridges…and look around. The Allegheny River flows from east to west as it passes by. Oil Creek completes its journey south to join the Allegheny River at Oil City. Oil City did not exist before the discovery of oil along the banks and small tributaries of Oil Creek in the early 1860s.
The crude oil was shipped down Oil Creek in wood barrels carried on flat bottom boats. The boats were of shallow draft, but a successful journey still required the creek be flooded by natural rains or snow melt. In the dry weather, dams were constructed until the pools behind were of sufficient height for a man-made flood. The dams were let go in sequence, and the resultant rush of water allowed hundreds of boats filled with thousands of barrels of oil to race wildly down the Oil Creek Valley to a fate not always certain. Sometimes, the stampede of oil-filled boats did not make it to the river before wrecking on the piers of the Center Street bridge and creating a massive pileup of splintered boats, broken barrels and a monumental black, foul smelling, oozing mess. Ice jams and major floods are not uncommon along Oil Creek. In the nineteenth century, several catastrophic fires occurred as a result of these floods. The Great Flood and Fire of 1892 destroyed most every structure constructed of wood in Oil City’s North Side commercial district on both sides of Oil Creek. The loss of life was heavy.
In the 1860s, Oil City was the staging area where much of the oil gathered in the Oil Region was shipped to the rest of the world. For five years the oil from the creek was transferred to larger flat bottoms or bulk barges for shipment down the river to Franklin or Pittsburgh. Difficult, if not impossible, to navigate in the summer, the river proved alluringly beautiful and frustratingly undependable for shipping crude out of the region. More dependable transportation was required and was provided by the coming of the railroads.
The railroads approached Oil City three ways. The Allegheny Valley Railroad, a Pennsylvania Railroad affiliate, came up the river from Pittsburgh and reached Oil City’s South Side, then called Laytonia, in 1867. In 1866, the Oil City and Pithole Railroad, built by Oil City residents Jacob J. Vandergrift and George Forman, arrived in town from Oleopolis up the river. The Oil City and Pithole was obtained that same year by the Warren and Franklin Railroad, which had a line up the Allegheny River to Irvine on the Philadelphia and Erie, a major carrier to the seaboard and another Pennsylvania Railroad affiliate. That same year, 1866, the Atlantic and Great Western arrived in downtown Oil City by crossing a bridge over Oil Creek. The Atlantic and Great Western was allied with and eventually owned by the Erie Railroad. In 1870, the Jamestown and Franklin was extended to Oil City on tracks parallel with the Atlantic and Great Western’s, though it went through the tunnel on the west side of the creek and then up the valley. The Jamestown and Franklin was associated with the New York Central. The competition for the crude and refined oil trade being shipped from the region among the big three, long distance trunk lines – the Pennsylvania, the Erie, and the New York Central- resulted in distorted freight rates and rebates which favored the Cleveland refineries and Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of Ohio. The railroad bridge over Oil Creek is particularly significant because it leads west to Cleveland and is a tangible reminder of where and how the railroad rate wars of the late 1860s and early 1870s played out.
Pipelines were used in the 1870s to gather the oil from the producing wells and transport it to the tank cars at railheads. In 1877, a number of local men including J. J. Vandergrift and Marcus Hulings combined their pipeline interests and those of others to form the United Pipelines. The pipeline company was in fact controlled by Standard Oil of Ohio and operated as a Standard Oil subsidiary. Vandergrift was not only the President of the company but sat as a director on the Standard Oil board. In 1881, the National Transit Company was formed with the purchase of the entire stock of the United Pipelines with its 3000 miles of pipelines and over 30 million barrels of storage capacity. To this gathering and storage system was added Standard Oil’s long distance pipelines to Buffalo and Cleveland and one under construction from Olean, New York to Bayonne, New Jersey. Operational headquarters remained in Oil City. Very soon, this Standard Oil pipeline transportation company was regularly pumping crude oil long distances and taking crude and refined oil traffic away from the very railroads that had treated Standard Oil so favorably in previous decades.
At the corner of Center and Seneca Streets, the National Transit completed the erection of a particularly fine commercial block in 1890. The somber, austere rectangular mass and prominent arches of this building are reminiscent of H.H. Richardson’s commercial structures built of rough cut stone. This five story structure of thick, self-supporting masonry walls is finished, however, with a smooth red brick and red terra cotta ornament. Note the terra cotta ornament is completed in abstract geometric designs with no historical precedent. The building’s corners have no sharp edges being given ample radiuses from the foundation to the attic. This building, designed by the Fredonia, New York firm of Curtis and Archer, looks very much to have been inspired by the work of the great Chicago architectural firm of Burnham and Root and can correctly be called a Chicago Commercial Block. John Wellborn Root’s red brick commercial blocks appear quite modern when contrasted with the contemporaneous Italianate, High Gothic and Queen Anne commercial buildings of the late nineteenth century.
Just to the north of the National Transit Building is the Transit Annex. This structure was completed in 1896. Finished with luxurious, gold Pompeian brick and ample use of golden terra cotta with classical forms and panels, the design represents how architects after the death of H.H. Richardson interpreted his seminal work. With the arcade in the attic, the pronounced molding, or archivolt, delineating each arch, and the unusual corner entrance, this building looks very similar to work the celebrated Pittsburgh firm of Longfellow, Alden and Harlow was creating in the early 1890s. This renowned firm, directly descended from Richardson’s shop, in fact designed the similar, precedent-setting Conestoga Building built for J. J. Vandergrift in 1892, a building thankfully still standing on Water Street in Pittsburgh.
Just across the Allegheny River from Route 8 by way of Route 62 is Oil City’s old Victorian residential district. Known today simply as the South Side, in the nineteenth century it was commonly referred to as Laytonia. The successful oil producers and brokers, the pipeline owners, the refiners, the oil goods manufacturers, the bankers and the prominent merchants of the time built their fine residences on the South Side. Remarkably, most of these homes have survived in an extensive Victorian, tree-lined neighborhood, which recalls the pleasing ambience of a different day. Proceeding up Petroleum Street to West Third you come upon the house built by Marcus Hulings in 1878. The Hulings House is noteworthy for its sheer size and bulk. The roof eaves feature prominent Italianate overhangs with deeply drawn brackets. The decorative window surrounds are consistent with the Italianate influence and unusually thick in cross section. The roof is unique, not representative of the Italianate but probably a stubborn northern Pennsylvania concession to rough winter weather.
Several blocks to the west on Third Street you come to Innis. Up the hill to Fourth Street at the corner with Innis is a particularly large Victorian residence built on a sprawling lot. William J. Innis was an Oil City inventor and manufacturer. This house is his monument. Built originally in 1874 and remodeled several times in the nineteenth century, the house now features large and elaborately decorated trusses and a full classical veranda wrapped about a fundamentally Stick mass. In the 1880s this house featured a large, well appointed observation cupola above the central roof where Mr. Innis was reported to “communicate” with playful “spirits”, look down on the valley below, and probably smoke cigars. After his death in 1894, his survivors wasted little time in eliminating the observatory and remodeling the place as you see it today.
- North on Route 8 from Franklin; South on Route 8 from Titusville; South on Route 62 from Warren.
- “Oil City’s Victorian Houses”, McElwee, 1998
- “The Oil City”, Martens, 1971
- “Sketchbook of Victorian Architecture” in the Oil Heritage Region, Pacior-Malys, 2003
- Turtle Bay Lodge, 472 President Village Road, Tionesta, (814) 677-8785
- Holiday Inn Express, 225 Singh Drive, Cranberry, (814) 677-2640
- HM Mulligan’s, 220 Sycamore Street, (814) 676-8180
- Yellow Dog Lantern Restaurant, 218 Elm Street, (814) 676-1000
- Villa Italia Ristorante, 904 East Second Street, (814) 677-1264
- Famoore’s Family Restaurant, 18 East First Street, (814) 676-4789
- Mosaic Cafe, 257 Elm Street, (814) 676-4773
- Karma Coffee, 237 Seneca Street, (814) 493-8628
- Taco Shack, 222 Center Street, (814) 271-7239
- Venango Museum of Art, Science and Industry — Oil City’s Official Visitor Center, Featuring oil industry memorabilia and displays from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, as well as a Wurlitzer Theater House Organ. 270 Seneca Street, Oil City, PA (814) 676-2007
- Transit Fine Arts Gallery, National Transit Building, 206 Seneca Street, Oil City, PA, (814) 676-1509
- Venango Genealogical Society (genealogy and historical research), inside the Oil City Library, 2 Central Avenue, Oil City, PA (814) 678-3072
For Information on The Oil City Area:
- Venango Area Chamber of Commerce, 24 Seneca Street, Oil City, PA 16301, (814) 676-8521
- Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism, 217 Elm Street, Oil City, PA 16301, (814) 677-3152
- Venango Museum of Art, Science & Industry, 270 Seneca Street, Oil City, PA 16301, (814) 676-2007
Tionesta is situated on the Allegheny where Big Tionesta Creek joins the river about 15 miles east-northeast of Oil City. Driving from Oil City to Tionesta along the river, you are treated to a dramatic display of thickly forested slopes ascending steeply from the wild and pristine Allegheny. The river, Big Tionesta Creek and the great Pennsylvania forest shaped the destiny of this small nineteenth century village. By the 1850s, rivermen coming down from Warren or New York were accustomed to pulling up and seeking public lodging in this then remote place. Around the village even then, rafts of rough timber cut in the forest covering the hills above Tionesta Creek were being assembled for floating downriver to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville and beyond. By the 1860s, several very prosperous timber companies had saw mills along Tionesta Creek. Tionesta became a main assembly point for both rough cut timber rafts, some as long as 300 feet, and loads of semifinished lumber shipped downriver on shallow draft flatboats. The flatboats were constructed on the site. Eventually, Tionesta became the seat of government for Forest County.
On Elm Street near where the road passes by the mouth of Tionesta Creek stands a Greek Revival structure built when the village was very young, about 1850. This simple rectangular volume would have appeared to the rivermen of the time to be quite the palace, a luxurious structure for this far away wild place.
Beside the Greek Revival structure, looking over the river and the mouth of the creek is a comfortable and colorful Queen Anne built some forty or more years later. Today, this place at 131 Elm Street is operated as a bed and breakfast and invites the traveler to stop, linger on the broad veranda and stay a bit.
A number of different companies had sawmills and lumbering operations along Tionesta Creek. The largest concerns were Wheeler and Dusenbury and the Collins Lumber Company. Others, though not as big, conducted successful lumber operations in the area. One family, the Cropps, did very well in general agriculture, dairy farming and the lumber industry. Forrest Cropp was a prominent resident of Forest County for many years. He and his wife made their home in this handsome Victorian on Elm Street. Essentially a Stick Style mass, the building shows the early influence of Queen Anne where the flat wall plane is interrupted with a cantilevered second story and the front gable is enclosed in a triangular pediment. A highly stylized sunburst can be seen in both the main gable and the pediment over the front steps. The heavy turned posts are Jacobean and appropriate for the style. The house today is the site of the Forest County Historical Society.
In the 1930s, in an effort to control flooding downriver on the Allegheny, Tionesta Creek was dammed just a mile or so above the village site. The massive earthen dam can easily be reached by driving south out of Tionesta on Route 36, just a short way up the big hill. The site has become a destination for sightseers and recreational boaters.
As the lake behind the dam filled, various old village sites along Tionesta Creek were of necessity abandoned. Nebraska was one of those old sites along the Creek. In the early 1940s, the residents of Nebraska were told to leave by the Federal Government. The village of Nebraska was a nineteenth century lumber town, home to millionaire lumberman Truemann D. Collins and site of one of his sawmills along Tionesta Creek. Collins built a fine Italianate residence with an impressive tower, which allowed him to look over Nebraska and down on his lumber mill.
Truemann D. Collins, better known as Teddy Collins, was somewhat eccentric. He dressed at times in frumpy clothes and rode an old two-wheel cart behind a fat-bellied horse. He was known to have taken several days to personally negotiate the purchase of a thirty-five dollar cow, totally unheard of for a man with his means. It is said because of his manner of dress that day, Teddy was once denied a room at a fine hotel. He bought the place that same day and stayed the night. He and his brother, Joseph, built several fine hotels, some of the very best in Pennsylvania and New York. For example, the Collins brothers built the Collins House in Oil City in 1873, a large and flamboyant commercial Italianate structure known in later years as the Arlington. Both the Arlington in Oil City and the buildings which once constituted the village of Nebraska are now gone. The Nebraska site at the top of Tionesta Lake can be reached today by boat on Tionesta Lake or by driving southeast on Route 36. Turn left off Route 36 at Newmansville onto the old Nebraska Road. Follow the road north and down into the Tionesta Creek valley. Where the bridge crosses the Creek is the site of the old lumber village called Nebraska. This road will take you back to Tionesta.
- From Oil City take Route 62 east and north along the Allegheny River. From Warren come south on Route 62 along the River. From Titusville come east and south on Route 36.
- Kellygreen Bed & Breakfast,131 Elm Street (Route36), Tionesta, (814)755-8808.
- Midtown Motel, 201 Elm Street, 814-755-3576
- Tionesta Dam and Lake
- Forest County Historical Society Museum — emphasizing the early lumber industry on Hickory and Tionesta Creeks, 422 Elm Street, Tionesta, (814) 775-3338
For Information on the Tionesta Area
- Northwest Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau, 175 Main Street, Brookville, PA 15825;
(800) 348-9393, firstname.lastname@example.org
Well known as the birthplace of the oil industry, Titusville had a prosperous lumber industry even before Drake successfully drilled for oil in 1859. In the nineteenth century, fortunes in Titusville were made pursuing a variety of pioneering industrial activities. Lumber, tanning, chemicals, metals, as well as oil production and refining were all part of Titusville’s industrial mix. Situated along the banks of Oil Creek, the early Titusville lumber mills could float their rough hewn logs south fifteen miles to the Allegheny River. A good road to Meadville led to the west and a road to the east went to Warren. The Oil Creek Railroad was completed to Titusville in 1862. It connected with the Philadelphia and Erie Railroad, leased by the Pennsylvania, at Corry. The Oil Creek Railroad was the only direct rail line out of the early Venango Oil Region until 1866. For some four years, most of the oil moved by rail came north along Oil Creek to Titusville, and then to the world.
Titusville’s great wealth in the nineteenth century was spectacularly manifested in block after block of fine Victorian homes, many of which are still standing along Titusville’s tree-lined streets. David Emery built a fine Italianate home at 213 E. Main. He was a local oil producer and also active in the Bradford fields. He was an organizer and president of the Octave Oil Company. He became the owner of the property where Edwin Drake drilled the first successful oil well. Eventually, Emery’s wife and family transferred the Drake Well site to the Daughters of the American Revolution and additional adjacent land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
John Fertig built his Italianate style home at 602 E. Main Street in 1873. Three months after moving in, the house was severely damaged by fire. Fertig, undaunted, immediately rebuilt the home you see today. A school teacher by training, Fertig early on began drilling for oil. In 1861, he hit a 1000 barrel a day gusher at the McElheney Farm along Oil Creek, only the second flowing well discovered to that date. Fertig invested heavily in various industrial enterprises in Titusville including the National Refining Company and the Titusville Ironworks.
Arriving in Titusville in 1869, Joseph Seep worked for Jabez Bostwick of New York City as a buyer of crude oil. Seep was a buyer in the original Venango field along Oil Creek, at Parker along the lower Allegheny and in the Bradford field. Eventually, Seep succeeded Jabez Bostwick as the Purchasing Agent for the Standard Oil Trust. Unlike most other Standard executives, Joseph Seep did not move to New York City, but chose to remain in Titusville where he remained active until his death in 1928. Like a number of other prominent Titusville residents, Joseph Seep worked in Oil City. He would ride the train south to Oil City where the Joseph Seep Agency offices were located in the National Transit Building on Seneca Street. From this site, Seep would announce to the country what the daily purchase price of oil would be.
Seep had many children. His oldest daughter, Lillian, married Dr. Edgar Quinby in 1889. At this time, Joseph Seep and his wife had a fine Queen Anne residence built at 332 W. Main Street. This house was given to Dr. Quinby and Lillian Seep as a wedding gift. Joseph Seep’s very large Romanesque house at 304 W. Main was taken down in 1937.
William Scheide attended the Pennsylvania Polytechnic in Philadelphia. In the late 1860s he came to the Oil Region to find work as an engineer. He was hired by the Tidioute Pipeline Company, a firm owned in the early 1870s by Adna Neyhart and Samuel Grandin of Tidioute. In time Scheide became an independent producer and dealer. In 1880 he became the general manager of the United Pipeline Company, a Standard Oil Division and predecessor to the National Transit Company. In 1884, Scheide built a fine Queen Anne in Titusville at 214 W. Main Street. He retired from the National Transit in 1889.
- North on Route 8 from Franklin and Oil City. East on Route 27 from Meadville.
- “Titusville: An Illustrated History” Mabel Clark, 1993.
- “Around Titusville” David Weber, 2004.
- Quality Inn, 511 W. Central Avenue, 814-827-0041
- Caboose Motel, 407 S. Perry Street, 814-827-5730
- McMullen House Bed & Breakfast, 430 E. Main Street, 814-775-0005
- Missy’s Arcade, 116 Diamond Street, 814-827-8110
- Sam’s Restaurant, 425 E. Central Ave., 814-827-7780
- Pasquale’s, 423 E. Central Ave., 814-827-6123
- Drake Well Museum and Park, 202 Museum Lane, 814-827-2797
- OC&T Railroad and Perry Street Station – official Oil Region Visitor Center of Titusville – 409 S. Perry Street, 814-676-1733
For Visitor Information on Titusville:
- Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce, 202 W. Central Avenue, (814) 827-2941
- Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism, 217 Elm Street, Oil City, PA 16301, (814) 677-3152
In 1821 Aaron Benedict founded the community we know today as Pleasantville. The Borough of Pleasantville was incorporated in 1850. Benedict came from Western New York where he had been a prosperous mill owner and businessman. Fortune turned against him, however, and at the age of forty-two he found himself in the Northern Pennsylvania wilderness starting over again. In an 1819 agreement with the Holland Land Company, Benedict bought a parcel of four hundred acres, subject to settlement and development. Originally, he called the place, Benedictown. From the beginning, Benedict was interested in the clay deposits readily available at this site. He persuaded his son-in-law, William Porter, to relocate to Benedictown. Porter worked in the pottery business and was known as a ‘chemist”; he had working knowledge of how to apply the salts for glazing. The pottery prospered by manufacturing wares similar in appearance and quality to Rockingham pottery and Liverpool Queensware.
In 1831 E.R. Beebe, Aaron Benedict’s nephew, arrived in Benedictown. He had knowledge of the tanning business and knew how to make shoes. This business prospered. The Beebe family constructed a stylish Greek Revival home on North Main Street in the 1840s. It is possible this family was related to Lucius Beebe & Sons, the prominent Boston Shoe manufacturer who built the Queen City Tannery in Titusville in 1890.
A tangible manifestation of Aaron Benedict’s continuing influence on the community he founded can still be seen today where North Main Street divides at Route 27. At this location you can still see the Greek Revival church completed in 1848 on land donated to the Allegheny Baptist Church by Aaron Benedict. The church building was later sold to the Free Methodists. Benedict died in 1860. Never believing the area was particularly well suited for farming, he was convinced God intended the region for some other purpose. Drake’s successful oil well in Titusville was seen by Benedict as confirmation of this belief.
The pottery industry in the area died out some time before the Civil War. Ironically, the Pleasantville oil boom started on the old William Porter farm just south of town where an eccentric character, “Crazy Abram James”, successfully drilled for oil in February of 1868. James went into a fit at the site the year before and upon regaining consciousness claimed the spirits of the other world showed him rivers of oil beneath the surface of the ground. Oil has been a part of Pleasantville’s life ever since.
John Brown came to Pleasantville from New York State in 1833. He was a merchant by trade and set up shop at the southwest corner of State and Main. Brown shipped his goods by way of the Erie Canal to Erie and then over land to Pleasantville. He had four sons who succeeded him in this very successful business. One of the son’s, Samuel Queen Brown, built a fine Italianate structure on State Street just west of Main. The Brown Brothers became very successful oil producers. Samuel Q. Brown became president of the famous Tidewater Pipe Company, an independent oilmen’s venture started by Bryon Benson and David McKelvey of Titusville. Pleasantville has had a particularly close relationship with Titusville since the early days of oil.
Some of Pleasantville’s most elegant early homes were built along Chestnut Street. Judge James Conneley built a fine Second Empire with lavish interior decoration at 317 Chestnut Street about 1870. A District Court judge, Conneley was very soon transferred to Philadelphia. The locally prominent Holeman family bought this fine house when Judge Conneley left the area.
A physician, Dr. John Wilson, built a particularly nice brick Italianate residence at 248 North Main Street in 1873. The home features prominently overhanging eaves with pairs of deeply drawn brackets and appropriate masonry window hoods. The home remained in the Wilson family for a number of years. Today, the excellent condition of the structure and the beauty of the grounds are noteworthy.
- East from Titusville on Route 27 or northwest from Tionesta on Route 36 or north from Oil City on Route 8 and Route 227.
- “Pleasantville Diamond Centennial”, 1996.
- Coal Oil Johnny’s Eatery, 117 East State Street, 814-589-5500
- Corky’s, 107 South Main Street, 814-589-5607
For Information on the Pleasantville Area:
- Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce, 202 W. Central Avenue, (814) 827-2941
- Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism, 217 Elm Street, Oil City, PA 16301 (814) 677-3152
Victorian Architectural Styles
The Adam period of architecture in the United States was an extension of Colonial Georgian architecture, very English, and not usually built after the War of 1812. Examples in the Victorian Region are very late for the Adam period, quite scarce and of special interest.
A few examples were built just north of Warren. An interesting stone example can be found in Franklin at 1142 Elk Street.
This stone house was built in 1843 by Edward Pearce, an early Franklin wagon maker and hotel operator. This house features a very regular mass and plan with a rigidly ranked arrangement of five windows symmetrically placed about the main door on the front facade. Note the windows are of the sash type with six small panes in each sash reflecting the window glass technology of the time. The classical features which give this house its particular Adam flavor are the carved stone columns of the entrance and the elliptical fan light over the door.
After the second war with the English, the War of 1812, Americans were in no mood to build structures that reminded them of the English. This was particularly true of residents of New York state and Northwestern Pennsylvania where the War of 1812 was a particularly harsh reality. Turning to the ancient Greeks for classical inspiration, Americans began to build homes, churches and other structures, which clearly looked like Greek temples. The small house built at 1238 Elk Street in Franklin is an excellent example of Greek Revival.
The very regular mass with the simple rectangular plan is a common Greek Revival form. The relatively shallow roof creates a gable end presented to the street as an elaborate classical pediment supported by four fluted columns with simple Doric capitals. Forming the base of the triangular pediment is a three-part classical entablature consisting of a cornice, frieze and architrave. This very pronounced entablature, which in this case wraps around the building, is characteristic of Greek Revival. The doorway and light over the door are rectangular. Greek classical architecture was primarily rectilinear and angular. This house was built in 1846 by James Myers and used as a law office.
The house at 1236 Elk Street in Franklin is an example of a Greek Revival with a slightly more complicated mass. The central volume is a very regular, rectilinear two-story box with a shallow gable roof and a gable end facing the street. To both sides of this central volume are identical one-story volumes. This structure was built about a centerline running up through the entrance to the roof peak. The volumes and details seen to the left are also repeated to the right; the house is symmetrical. Though a full pediment was not constructed, two short returns at the eaves give the strong impression of a triangular form. The porch roof is supported by two classical columns with Doric capitals. The entablature of the roof porch is highlighted with appropriate dentil molding. The wings on both sides of the main mass are finished with classical pilasters. This house was built in 1842 when Franklin’s economy was based on the water power of French Creek, close by iron furnaces, and the town being the seat of the County Court. At the time, it was a village of mill operators, brewers, wagon makers, rivermen and lawyers.
The Free Methodist Church on N. Main Street in Pleasantville was built in 1848. A very regular mass, the building features a fully enclosed classical pediment facing the road and supported by substantial classical pilasters built into the building corners. The rectilinear front entrance is defined by two pilasters at the sides. This church structure was constructed on land donated by Aaron Benedict who founded the village of Pleasantville, first known as Benedictville, in 1821. Benedict acted as the agent of the Holland Land Company. With a school, churches, a tannery, pottery and a general store, Pleasantville became a cultural and commercial center for the surrounding farmers. Benedict was not only the village’s real estate developer but the justice of the peace. The village was known as a source of abundant and tasty spring water, water which disappeared in the oil rush of 1868.
The Kingsland House at 107 N. Franklin in Titusville is a very late period Greek Revival built in 1862. Kingsland owned timber land, cleared it, and sold the lumber in the early 1860’s to the contractors building Titusville’s houses. This rather large structure is appropriately very regular in mass and plan. The gable ends of the building face to the sides. Pilasters, narrow in scale for the heft of the structure, are defined at the building corners. Note the old technology six over six glass panels in the sash windows. The house was remodeled as a grand hotel in 1865. Likely added when the home became a hotel, the large pediment supported by full-height, fluted columns with prominent Ionic capitals dominates the Franklin Street facade. The small window with the semicircular hood seen in the pediment is inconsistent with the rectilinear and angular nature of Greek Revival. This structure has served as Titusville’s City Hall since 1872.
Classical Revival architecture could be seen in America in the late eighteenth century. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is an early example. This architecture not only incorporated the rectilinear and angular Greek classical forms but, also, the curves, arches and domes of the Romans. Examples of this style were built in America throughout the succeeding nineteenth century and occasionally appear in Victorian settings.
The William Abbot House at 215 W. Main Street in Titusville is an excellent example of Classical Revival architecture. The mass is essentially regular and symmetrical. The Main Street facade displays a Greek pediment with a substantial entablature supported by hefty pilasters at the corners of the house. Within the pediment is a Roman semicircular fan window. The veranda features a semicircular roof with wings, all supported by columns with Doric capitals. To both sides of the main rectangular mass are semicircular, two-story window bays displaying a strong Roman classical influence. Consistent with the Greek influence, the entranceway of the house is surrounded by two rectilinear sidelights and a rectilinear overhead light. Abbot was an early oil producer around Titusville and in the later 1860’s was quite involved in Pithole. He built this house on Main Street around 1870.
North of Tionesta on Route 62 and just a short way east on Route 666 is the tiny village of Endeavor. There you will see a small Classical Revival structure built in the late 1890’s in memory of two young daughters of Nelson and Rachel Wheeler. Nelson Wheeler was a third generation Wheeler, a New York family that owned the Wheeler and Dusenberry Company, at one time the largest lumber company in Pennsylvania. This small structure, originally used as a kindergarten, displays a very elaborate Greek pediment at the front and a broad entablature about the building. Pilasters with Ionic capitals are at the building corners. The pediment is supported by four columns with Ionic capitals. The entranceway is topped with a very Roman elliptical fanlight. A circular wreath and vines, a reflection of English Adam styling, can be seen on the face of the pediment. After Nelson Wheeler’s death in 1920, the Wheeler family donated 20 acres of virgin white pine to the state, a sight that became known as Heart’s Content. This donated sight was the genesis of today’s Allegheny National Forest.
The Gothic Revival began in England in the mid eighteenth century. It evolved architecturally in England for some fifty years before crossing the Atlantic to America. In England, the Gothic Revival architecture was a derivative of three distinct building forms found in the English past: the church, the castle and the cottage. What these three structural types had in common was they definitely were not classical and they were from England’s own unique past. In America, a few Gothic Revival experiments were attempted as early as 1798. However, it wasn’t until the 1830’s when a significant Gothic Revival presence could be seen in the United States. Much of this was due to the work of Alexander Jackson Davis.
Davis clearly designed his American Gothic Revival homes after the very ornate and sophisticated English cottages so popular during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Davis’ best cottages were quite elaborate, expensive and the rival of some of the best English cottages. Homes like that were not built in the near wilderness of the Victorian Region. However, Davis designed more affordable derivatives and representations of these can be found in the Region.
A merchant, Peter McGough, built the Gothic Revival cottage at 917 Elk Street in Franklin in 1862. This simple cottage consists of two rectangular volumes arranged in a more complex “T”-shaped plan. The roof ridge lines are equal in height. Gable ends and a central gable dominate with the wall surfaces passing the eave line unbroken all the way to the peaks. Decorative vergeboards have been applied along the gable roof edges and shallow Tudor arches highlight the porch entrance. Four-part quatrefoils have been pierced through the panels above the porch roof. Note the obviously old foundation and the board and batten vertical siding.
The Charles Lay House at 114 Petroleum Street in Oil City (As Shown To the Right) is another example of a simple Gothic Revival cottage. This house consists of a primary “L”-shaped, asymmetrical mass with a parallel mass behind. A full display of gables can be seen with the wall surfaces unbroken as they rise to the gable peaks. Decorative braced pendants are located at the gable peaks. The porch roof supports are detailed with Tudor arches. Charles and William Lay were early real estate developers on Oil City’s South Side, a place known as Laytonia in the late 1860’s.
The big house at 1415 Elk Street in Franklin is an example of a very late period Gothic Revival Cottage. Built in 1875, this house features a relatively simple crossed mass and plan with a uniform ridge height and the expected arrangement of gables with unbroken wall surfaces. The veranda roof is supported by squared posts detailed with appropriate Tudor arches.
The Christ Episcopal Church on Oil City’s South Side represents the High Victorian Gothic style of the late 1800’s. This edifice of different colored stone and brick is referred to as Ruskinian.
Of a different character is the First Baptist Church on Liberty Avenue in Franklin. This church was designed with Gothic windows of the late English vertical type, a style dating to the 15th century. The church was also given castle battlements suggesting a mighty fortress.
Young English touring the Continent in the early 1800’s took note of the stimulating forms of the medieval Italian fortresses with their high military towers and asymmetrical masses. Such structures were seen as alternatives to the classical architecture of the Italian Renaissance, the classical architecture preferred by their parents and grandparents. When these young English came into their own money, they often would build country homes in the new Italian style. This Italian style was noticed by Americans who built more modest variations.
Christopher Heydrick, an attorney, in 1864 built an Italian style house at 927 Elk Street in Franklin. The Heydrick House consists of an “L”-shaped volume with a tower, the entire mass and plan being distinctly irregular and asymmetrical. The roof slopes are shallow; the eaves extend well beyond the wall surface and are detailed with shallow brackets. The handsome, lavishly detailed classical veranda is not original, but likely a late nineteenth century modification.
John Duffield was a grocer, mill operator and an oil producer. In 1874 he built the house at 1116 Elk Street in Franklin. This later period Italianate shows the influence of time and American building practices in that it is a very regular mass and plan unlike the irregular Heydrick House built at 927 Elk Street a decade before. The tower has been all but eliminated in the Duffield House; a vestige of the tower can be seen in the cupola now centered over the mass. Characteristic of the style, this house was given overhanging eaves with decorative, deep drawn brackets and decorative window surrounds with curved hoods. Rising from just above floor level, the first floor windows are particularly tall and, when opened, allow a person to step from the inside room to the veranda. The veranda roof is supported by original square posts with brackets.
In Titusville, Frederick Crocker, an oil producer, built his Italianate home at 322 N. Washington. Crocker completed this house in 1870. Essentially a regular and symmetrical cube, the house has a prominent cupola centered over the mass. Semicircular gables with the wall surfaces rising above the eave line are centrally situated over each facade. The curve of the gable eaves are reflected in the eaves of the cupola. Both deep drawn, decorative brackets and classical modillions are used to suggest support for the overhanging eaves. Paired windows with pediment and wing hoods give the structure appropriate details. The original porch section you see today is what remains of the original full-width veranda supported by squared posts and detailed with brackets. Crocker sold this house in 1879 to Walter Roberts whose brother, E.A. Roberts, was Crocker’s earlier rival in the oil well torpedo business.
About 1870 Adnah Neyhart built this fine Italianate on Main Street in Tidioute. The house was given a cupola and broad, overhanging eaves. Deep drawn brackets support the eaves. A large frieze with small rectangular attic windows is around the walls of the house below the overhanging eaves. This Greek Revival influence is accentuated with the unusually thick dentil molding at the corner formed by the eave and frieze. The first floor Italianate windows are tall, some paired and surrounded with appropriate curved hoods. The entrance reflects the window surrounds. The house has retained its original, “L”-shaped veranda. Neyhart was a partner in the firm of Neyhart and Grandin, very successful oil producers in the late 1860’s and early 1870’s. Neyhart and Grandin along with Vandergrift and Forman were the principal suppliers of crude to Rockefeller’s Standard Of Ohio in the early 1870’s. Adnah Neyhart died in 1875, a young man.
The Tidioute Pipe Line Company office was built in the early 1870’s. On Main Street, this was the office of the firm owned by Adnah Neyhart and the Grandin brothers. W.T. Scheide, a notable Titusville personality, was hired as a young engineer to run the business. This commercial building’s second floor windows reflect the very decorative, curved window hoods associated with Italianate architecture. The cornice with the shallow curve is supported by elaborate brackets. The columns and pilasters on the front facade with their very complicated capitals were meant to impress the visitor with the prominence of this early oil firm.
After the Civil War, Venango County replaced its old Courthouse with a new one, one that took some three years to design and build.
Completed in 1869, this courthouse reflected the classical influence of the Italian Renaissance, an influence widely accepted all over the country at that time. The first floor entrance arcade of rusticated stone, the balustrade above it, the use of multicolored stone and brick, the horizontal belt above and around the first floor, the arcade of arched windows in the second floor facade, the classical brick pilasters supporting the pediment above, all are architectural vocabulary from the Italian Renaissance. The picturesque towers soaring vertically above the horizontal mass below are a dramatic departure from the classical renaissance theme. These towers give the building its Italianate credentials.
Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte and generally referred to as Napoleon III, declared himself Emperor of France in 1852. The French allowed him to have his way until 1870 when Louis made the mistake of going to war with Prussia…and losing. The period 1852 – 1870 in France was called the French Second Empire by the Europeans of the time. During this period, a grand architectural scheme was developed to emphasize the linear, horizontal character of the Parisian streetscapes. Much of old Paris was demolished, and rows of new apartment buildings were constructed along the city’s long, straight streets. The apartments continued the French architectural tradition of restrained classical designs and were almost always topped with a mansard style roof, a roof form common in Paris since the 1700’s. The uniformity of height and decorative detail of these new apartment buildings was striking.
The apartments built in Paris during the Second Empire were considered by some, however, to be too plain, too dull and woefully lacking in individuality. The “new rich” and Parisians who had achieved influence by association with the new political regime were inclined to flaunt their recently acquired wealth and power by constructing free-standing mansions, the French called them “hotels”, which were lavishly decorated. While maintaining the general horizontal massing and mansard roof forms of the Parisian apartments, the new hotel details were more baroque than classical, nonconforming and visually outstanding. Many older Parisians thought these flamboyant hotels to be in poor taste. Nonetheless, it was these Parisian mansions that caught the eye of both the wealthy English and Americans of the time.
Samuel Dale was the son of an old and prominent Pennsylvania family from Lancaster. In Franklin, Dale developed interests in iron works and grist mills along French Creek and established a stagecoach line between Pittsburgh and Erie. In 1874 he built a fine Second Empire residence at 1409 Elk Street.
This home consists of a very regular, rectangular mass with a two-story bay facing east to capture the morning sun. The attic dormers are surrounded with highly decorative baroque hoods; paired windows on the second and first floor repeat the elaborate hood design. Paired brackets and modillions give decorative support to the building’s cornice. A centered entrance is defined by a prominent elliptical hood. The full width veranda with its squared posts is original, emphasizes the horizontal nature of the building and is representative of the style. Mr. Dale lived in this house just two years before passing away at the age of sixty-one.
William B. Sterrett was a Titusville manufacturer of farm machinery and oil well goods and equipment. He did well enough to build this fine house at 226 E. Main Street in 1871.
The more complicated mass of this Second Empire incorporates a tower situated in the corner of an “L”-shaped plan; the tower and plan reflect the concurrent influence of Italianate architecture. A concave mansard roof sits on top of the structure; paired brackets support the cornice. Elaborate window hoods add to the flamboyant nature of this structure. Mr. Sterrett married Sadie Farel who quickly invited her family to join the couple. In time Sadie kicked William out of the so-called Sterrett house while the Farels lived there for many years after. Sterrett died in 1907, alone, in a Meadville hotel.
The Hunters were a prominent family in the very early days of Tidioute. In time they became major players in the region’s lumber industry. Samuel Hunter was one of the family’s patriarchs. On Samuel Hunter’s property between Main Street and the River, Jahu Hunter built a splendid Second Empire residence. The house features a central wing with a tower. Side wings also extend out from the basic rectangular volume. Decorative hoods can be seen over the windows of both floors and elaborate surrounds define all the attic dormers. The concave mansard roof is repeated in the tower. Baroque window roundels are in all four sides of the tower roof. Paired brackets and modillions provide decorative support to the cornices at three levels. The full veranda has been added to over the years, but it has retained its original character. Note how three distinct lines of the veranda roof, the main mansard roof cornice and the upper mansard cornice accentuate the horizontal character of the Second Empire style. The vertical tower is an American vernacular touch showing, once again, our fondness for picturesque Italianate towers.
In the 1860’s and 1870’s American builders developed a uniquely American style of architecture, one that emphasized the architecture of wood. Rather than attempt to emulate the masonry of Greek and Roman buildings of antiquity, copy the style of fifteenth century Italian villas finished in stone and concrete, pretend to be a quaint English cottage, or create the illusion of a castle built of stones, American builders chose to exploit the abundant resources of wood found in the United States in new and innovative ways while paying no heed to historical precedents. The American builders of the time chose to erect expensive houses which emphasized the new, light, highly versatile wood frame structural system recently developed – the balloon frame with its light 2×4 studs and 2×10 joists and rafters.
The Stick style was a masculine architecture of sharply drawn lines, lots of angularity and few curves. No longer limited by the great weight and assembly difficulties of masonry construction, the new Stick designs soared high into the sky with jagged, irregular roofs and plenty of American imagination. The steeply sloped roofs extended noticeably beyond the wall line like sharp knife edges and in some form emphasized the rafter construction. The horizontal sheathing and vertical cornerboards suggested a weave or lattice of “stickwork”. This stickwork was often complimented with inverted picket fence vertical cladding, ornamental bands of decorative wood arrangements at the floor levels, and decorative trusses at the gable ends. Sometimes, decorative horizontal and vertical boards were applied over the wall cladding. The exterior wall cladding and decoration of the Stick style house served to emphasize and celebrate the wood skeleton beneath.
Â Jacob Cadwallader was from Eastern Pennsylvania and was trained as a lawyer at Harvard. Upon graduation, he chose to try life in the Oil Region of Venango County. He did very well from the start as both a producer and refiner of oil. When the Bradford field came in, Cadwallader did well again as an owner of Anchor Oil. He also had considerable success in Warren County. Cadwallader lived in Titusville. In 1870 he built a fine Stick residence at 609 N. Perry.
This excellent example of Stick architecture clearly shows the soaring angularity the style is known for. The mass and plan are particularly complex and irregular. Vertical cornerboards, horizontal stick elements, and decorative wood arrangements about the floor levels all testify to the reality of a stick frame structure beneath the wall cladding. Note the simple form of the windows which call attention to the stud framing rather than disguise it. The underside of the roof eaves are sheathed parallel to the roof surface above and clearly suggest the presence of rafter framing. An old photo of this house shows decorative trusses were situated across the gable ends; the plain vergeboards are not original. The house has undergone other changes over the years.
The big house at 108 Reed Street in Oil City is a particularly fine example of a Victorian home built in the Stick style.
The first impression of this house is its tall and angular mass. The impressive hip roof is elaborated with a complex variety of dormers and gables. The exterior plan is angular with right angle turns here and there looking for new possibilities and ways to break out of the basic box volume. The roof rafters are exposed well beyond the wall plane and creatively finished. The windows are tall and plane, actually just simple voids in the stud frame. Elaborate trusswork can be seen on the gable facing Reed Street and on the gable overlooking West First. Some of this is repeated in the dormers to reinforce the strong statement made by the gable trusses. Three belts of Stick style decoration showing incised work, diagonal board panels, and short, vertical boards are around the floor levels. John R. Campbell purchased the lot for this house in 1872. County tax records from the time indicate the house wasn’t completed until 1880. Campbell was the Treasurer of a variety of early oil firms including Vandergrift and Forman. In 1877 he was named Treasurer of the United Pipe Lines Company based in Oil City. This Standard Oil affiliate was the entity responsible for collecting oil by pipeline from the well sites, transporting oil by pipeline to the railroads, and for storing oil not in transit.
Willis Hulings built a large Stick style residence in Oil City at 114 Moran. The Stick character of this home is evident from its high, angular mass and the sharp roof edges coming at you. The windows are all plane rectangular forms which appear as mere voids in the stud framing. Willis Hulings built this house in 1882. He was an attorney, prominent state legislator and particularly active in attempting to legislate uniform rail rates for the oil industry.
Built in 1879, the house at 711 W. First Street in Oil City was purchased by Alvin Drake Deming in 1889.
The Stick credentials of this house can be seen in its tall and angular mass, the open eaves which suggest the rafters, the elements of decorative trusses across the gables, the vertical cornerboards and horizontal cladding and the vertical picket fence cladding around the upper wall surfaces. The classical veranda is a latter 1890’s addition. As a younger man, Mr. Deming made a living as a photographer and his “Views Of The Oil Region” from the early 1860’s are highly regarded collector’s items and sources of early oil history. In 1876 Mr. Deming was compelled to sell his interests in a refinery to Standard Oil. In 1882 he was a principal in the establishment of the Independent Refinery. Much of this refinery was destroyed in the great fire and flood of June 1892. Hundreds in the region lost their lives in this extraordinary tragedy. Deming was injured in the massive explosion along Seneca Street in Oil City. He died the following year at the age of fifty-six.
The Victorian period church structure at the corner of 11th and Buffalo Street in Franklin is an interesting example of the passing influence of Stick architecture and the gradual emerging of something new.
The building demonstrates many of the Stick conventions. In this application, even the circular windows could be considered appropriately Stick. However, the belt of shingles around the tower and the application of shingles on the upper gable surfaces suggest the coming of the Queen Anne architectural style.
In the 1870’s, Americans took notice of the use of expensive terra-cotta tiles and the half timbered and stucco walls being employed by English architects when designing the new manor houses for very wealthy English clients. No longer interested in the Italian Renaissance look, English architects led by Richard Norman Shaw created new designs which were reflections of old Tudor styles from the 17th century. In keeping with old English building practice, the upper floors were often cantilevered out beyond the first floor walls. Ceramic tile, brick and decorative wall panels were commonly used by Shaw and his contemporaries to finish these new designs. Tall, elaborately executed chimneys were a common element of this English style. The English press mistakenly referred to this work by Shaw and others as Queen Anne. Americans were infatuated with this look and sought ways to incorporate elements of the English Queen Anne into their own vernacular buildings.
To do so, American designers and builders adapted the style details of the English Queen Anne to the basic American Stick. By the early 1880’s, American Sticks were being finished with wood shingles in the gable ends and around the belt line of the first and second floors. The use of wood shingles was America’s way of copying the far more expensive terra cotta tiles applied to the new English manor houses. Half timbering was applied to the gable ends of the American Stick, clearly mimicking the English practice.
Some classical details continued to be used sparingly by Shaw and the English. Classical detailing was also incorporated in American Queen Anne designs reflecting a renewed interest in America’s Colonial past. This new interest in classicism in America was reflected by the practice of giving the old Stick frame classical cornices at the eaves, closed pediments at the gables, and wood panels with classical motifs like sunbursts, acanthus leaves and such.
The American Queen Anne was now and then given a tower at a prominent corner. This tower was usually, not always, round. The prominent round corner tower may have actually been more a French provincial castle influence than something borrowed from the English.
Taken as a whole, these various design influences served to give the old Stick style a new nature by breaking up the continuous plane of the flat wall and giving that wall surface a textured skin. In doing so, the old American Stick became the new American Queen Anne.
The house at 123 W. Second Street in Oil City was built about 1872. Emanuel Wolfe, a dentist, bought this house in 1881. He had the structure remodeled in 1887 to the way you see it today. The wall surfaces display considerable horizontal and vertical stickwork. Note the belt of wood shingles about a good part of the house between the first and second floors. Though the third floor gables are not cantilevered, the impression they might be is created by enclosing each of the gables with a cornice. The gable wall surfaces are covered with wood shingles. Half timbering in the Reed Street gable facade suggests medieval English architecture. The dramatic earth tone shades used to paint this house are historically accurate for the 1880’s.
The house at 318 W. Main in Titusville displays all the complexity in massing and irregularity of plan associated with the well developed American vernacular Queen Anne.
A busy arrangement of gables and window bays are cantilevered out beyond the wall planes of the main volume. Bracketed cornices transform the gable forms to pediments. A decorative belt of wood shingles divides the first and second floor. Another belt of wood shingles wraps around the tower. The gable wall surfaces, too, are covered with shingles. A decorative wood panel on the second floor tower wall is an American representation of the decorative plaster panels used by English architects. Classical influences can be seen in the sunburst motif over the first floor bay, again in the similar fan shaped light in the left gable facing W. Main, and in the full width classical veranda. The house was built by a druggist, Theodore Reuting, about 1894. The yellow and white paint, a Colonial Revival color scheme, is appropriate for the time.
Sheffield in the latter nineteenth century was the location of a well developed tanning industry. One tanner, George Horton, did particularly well and built a very large Queen Anne in 1889.
Reportedly, this house was designed by a Chicago architect who had built a house in Chicago much like this Horton House. On a visit to Chicago, George saw the house and wanted one just like it. The result is this very large two story with a two story attic. The asymmetrical, irregular massing of this house is dominated by two story gabled dormers and a corner tower. The dormer over the front facade is noticeably cantilevered. The huge dormers are faced with half timbering and feature horizontal banks of windows, a very medieval English look. Even courses of rough cut field stone cover the first floor walls and wood shingles cover the upper stories. The choice of materials reflects the influence of the contemporaneous Shingle architecture, but the massing, plan and decorative detail of this house is all Queen Anne. Poor George didn’t get to enjoy this house for very long; he passed away in 1893 at the age of forty-five.
The Kahle brothers were very successful oil producers and brokers in Oil City with oil interests in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas. One of them, J. W. Kahle, Jr., built a Queen Anne in 1895 at 118 Moran Street.
The asymmetrical, complex massing and irregular plan of this house with its hip roof, dormers and tower are clearly Queen Anne. In addition to showing ample horizontal and vertical stickwork, the walls are partly covered with belts of wood shingles and bullseye wood panels representative of terra-cotta decoration used by the English manor architects. Turned posts and spindles reflecting the advances in wood working technology of the time are commonly seen on this house.
The Shingle style of architecture was created and perfected by New England architects in the 1880’s. Above all, it was an attempt to impose order and discipline on the building mass and to do it in new abstract ways with no reference to historical precedent. Where opportunities occurred, outside space was brought into the interior volume. Innovative interior floor plans were attempted with multi axes. The building was designed from the inside living space; windows were placed in the facade where there was a need for interior light with no regard to ranking or classical proportion. The roof forms tended to flow downward to command as much of the volume as possible. Horizontal volumes were introduced and then emphasized. Cornerboards and cornices were minimized or eliminated. In most cases, not all, wood shingles were used extensively to create a plastic skin around and over the frame. Stone was often used on the lower floor and the semicircular arch was a commonly used form somewhere on the building exterior such as verandas and loggias. Details were plain and thin in dimension . Some restrained Colonial Revival classical decoration was used. For the Victorian period, this architecture was considered very modern. At first, it is a difficult architecture to grasp, but it is perhaps the most satisfying to master.
When away from the East Coast, particularly New England, fully developed examples of this architecture are difficult to find. In the Victorian Region, a few relatively small examples can be seen. The Shingle influence can also be encountered on some of the Queen Anne forms in the Region.
The Mary Judd House at 115 Reed Street at the corner with West Second in Oil City is a nice example of a Shingle style house built on a city lot.
Note the mass of this building is disciplined and controlled beneath the long roof ridge and defined at the ends by a large and simple gambrel roof shape. In the Shingle architecture, the gambrel shape went beyond old colonial expressions and evolved into abstract forms such as massive, triangular gable sides and other simple shapes with no reference to the past. There is a powerful horizontal character to this structure with the line formed where the second floor shingle wall cladding meets the first floor brick wall serving to accentuate this horizontality. The windows are placed in the facade in a somewhat irregular fashion with the intention of providing light where needed. The window frame details are simple and light. Some classical detailing in the Palladian outline of the loggia on the third floor and the columned veranda facing Reed are consistent with the Colonial Revival interest of the day. This Reed Street house was built in 1891. Phillip H. Judd, a wealthy young oil producer, and his wife, Mary, bought the land in 1889 and began construction in 1890. Mr. Judd died in February of 1891 while the house was still under construction. Mary Judd moved into this house a young widow.
Dr. Clarence Coulter, prominent and a railroad surgeon for the Pennsylvania Railroad, built an impressive house in 1894 at 302 West First Street in Oil City.
When viewed from the front, this house shows strong Queen Anne influences with its complex massing and projecting gable. The columns, garlands, swags and oval window are all classical features which appeared on later Queen Annes. Viewed from the side, the house takes on a different character. The roof line extends down past the huge side gables at a different angle and essentially encloses and controls the entire mass. This house appears to be searching for a large expression of order. Such a design concept is consistent with the Shingle architecture, not Queen Anne. Three loggias at different levels pierce the walls of the Coulter House bringing exterior space into the mass of the building, another Shingle element. This house has a brother, a very similar house built in Titusville at 332 W. Main Street and known as the Dr. Quinby and Lillian Seep House.
The Jane Woodburn Glines House at 953 Elk Street in Franklin is another example of a structure demonstrating both lingering Queen Anne and emerging Shingle architectural influences.
Built in 1900, this splendid home displays a commanding roof which flows down from the roof ridge uninterrupted to spread out over the veranda across the front facade. A large second floor loggia is contained beneath the gable roof above and brings outside space in. The classical veranda and loggia columns and the extensive dentil molding are appropriate for both architectures.
The house at the corner of Moran and W. Third in Oil City is an expression of Shingle architecture built on a city lot.
When viewed from Moran, the mass of the house stretches out horizontally beneath a main roof ridge line with the left portion of the volume totally controlled by a cross gambrel roof form with shingles all over the wall sides as well as the roof. Most of the house is surrounded by a drip line formed by overhangs just above the first floor. This line emphasizes the horizontal character of this very early 1900’s house. The window placement on the Moran Street facade is highly irregular and clearly reflective of the arrangement of the living space within. The building shows on the W. Third St. facade some restrained classical details including an oval window and a Palladian window form at the attic level. Note the eyebrow dormer facing Moran. Some rough field stone was creatively used in this house, a use consistent with the Shingle architecture.
A change in American domestic architecture occurred in the 1890’s. While the New England Shingle architects were pursuing order and open plans in new and innovative ways, a concurrent antiquarian movement emerged in the academic community around Boston supported by the wealthy old families of the City. A well focused, well organized, well publicized and well financed effort was initiated to return to the all out classical massing, classical planning and classical details seen in the Boston area houses of the Colonial past. This reactionary movement was a return to simplicity, regularity and symmetry in mass and plan. Familiar historical forms, actual copies of the Georgian and Adam periods, were emphasized.
Examples of Colonial Revival architecture can be found readily all over the Victorian Region and are quite easy to recognize. The volumes are symmetrical, simple and emphasize the horizontal. Entranceways and windows are distributed about the building’s centerlines and ranked. The interior space is designed about the exterior demands for symmetry and regularity in the facade. Classical cornices are universal, usually elaborated with dentil molding. Pilasters at the house corners are common as are balustrades at balconies, above porches and along roof lines. Dormers are symmetrically arranged about facade centerlines, surrounded by pilasters and crowned with pediments. Infinite variations of the three-part Palladian window are prominently placed on wall facades. A fanlight is very often placed above the main entrance and Adam decoration of garlands, swags and wreaths is profuse.
Many houses in the Region show the influence of the Colonial Revival architecture on an older, evolving style. The house at 408 W. Second in Oil City shows the influence of Colonial Revival on a Queen Anne mass.
From the perspective shown, you get the impression the designer was attempting to impose classical order on the larger, asymmetrical, irregular Queen Anne mass. The gable dormers facing Second are symmetrically placed over the facade and reinforce the move toward order. The house is loaded with Colonial Revival details including the prominent porch columns with Ionic capitals, the strongly stated pilasters at the two front corners, and the Palladian window in the dormer facing west. The paint scheme, a cream body with dark brown details and a third color, fawn, for emphasis, is historically appropriate.
An excellent example of Colonial Revival architecture can be seen at the corner of 11th and Chestnut in Franklin.
The front facade was designed about a centerline and is symmetrical. The gambrel roof is a representation of an old 17th century Colonial form and is surrounded by a cornice emphasized with classical modillions and dentil molding. Pilasters can be seen at the building corners and at the central second floor pavilion and third floor dormer. Multipaned windows are used on the second floor and in the dormer for historical emphasis. However, advances in glass technology can be seen in the large window panes used on the first floor. The veranda roof is supported by paired columns and single ones. A porch rail with a balustrade of turned spindles runs between the columns. A three-part Palladian window form in the dormer crowns the entire architectural effort.
The house at the corner of 15th and Elk in Franklin demonstrates both the symmetry and classical decoration found on many turn-of-the-century Colonial Revival Victorians.
With its mansard roof and simple cube massing, the structure is reminiscent of the earlier Second Empire. The symmetrically placed rectangular windows are Colonial Revival, however. The entrance is surrounded by two vertical sidelights and an overhead elliptical light. This arrangement is repeated again and emphasized in the second floor center window. The central dormer facing Elk Street consists of three windows with a semicircular hood above the center window, a Palladian influence. The roof cornice is detailed with modillions and dentil molding. The entire roof seems to be supported by the four substantial pilasters at the building corners.
The house at 615 W. Second in Oil City is an excellent demonstration of the sublime beauty of classical proportion, symmetrical massing and balance. With very little decorative detail, this superb Colonial Revival retains a powerful and moving presence. The impressive entrance is surrounded by vertical sidelights and a double array of elliptical lights overhead. This theme is repeated in the central dormer above.
The Colonial Revival architectural theme continued well into the twentieth century. As time passed, the examples became more historically accurate, true replicas of buildings which existed a hundred and fifty years before. The house at 926 Elk Street in Franklin is an example of this.
This early twentieth century house, the Louise Mullins Thompson House, is much newer than its Victorian Colonial Revival predecessors, but it looks so much more antiquarian. It is an excellent replica of an Adam period brick house built in the South and mid Atlantic States, but it is not a true Victorian.
The four hundred year anniversary celebration of Columbus discovering America was held a year late, 1893, in Chicago. As was the custom at such expositions, each state would construct a building on the grounds for visitors to admire and tour. A number of states erected buildings of residential scale that looked back to both Greek Revival architecture and Classical Revival architecture for design precedents. Several of these Columbian Exposition structures were given porches with two-story high roofs supported by classical columns. Some of these porch roofs were in the form of the classical Greek pediment. Others were semicircular, flat and decorated with a balustrade. Second floor porch decks in some cases were constructed behind these two story columns. Some of these Chicago structures were given small wings to either side of the main mass. All of these buildings were classical in form and detail. They were quite popular and served as the source for a Neoclassical architecture which spread around the country after the Chicago Exposition.
The house at 634 Adelaide Avenue in the Miller Park section of Franklin (See Left) is an excellent , complete example of the Neoclassical architecture of the late 1890’s and very early 1900’s.
The house is clearly symmetrical and classical in mass and plan. Note the subordinate wings to both sides of the main volume. The semicircular porch roof is supported by massive two-story columns with Ionic capitals. A second floor porch deck is located inside the columns. Classical balustrades run to both sides of the front facade and define a terrace looking down on Adelaide Avenue.
The Issac Shank House at 118 West Main Street in Titusville is an interesting example of Colonial Revival form and historical detail set off by a massive Neoclassical porch.
Issac Shank built this house in 1906. He was a long time merchant and owned a very successful lumber yard in Titusville. The classical cornice about the main roof with its heavy modillions and dentil molding is carried out and around the two-story porch roof. The heavy porch roof is supported by four large scale columns with decorative balustrades added at the walls for Neoclassical emphasis. Note the very deep Greek Revival entablature above the columns. A second floor porch deck is suspended inside the columns. The entranceway is surrounded by sidelights and a fanlight above. This entranceway, the multipaned windows with their rigid ranking in the front facade, the lintel and building corner treatment, all served to create an antiquarian Colonial Revival strong enough to stand alone. The Neoclassical porch treatment was not necessary but did add to the architectural interest.
The big house at the top of the hill at 701 N. Perry in Titusville incorporates a two-story semicircular porch supported by massive columns.
This porch is situated to the front of what is fundamentally a replica of Adam architecture. A second floor porch deck is suspended inside the columns. This home was constructed by John L. Emerson around 1908. John Emerson was one of Edward Octavius Emerson’s sons. E. O. Emerson made a fortune in both early oil production and, later, in a natural gas partnership with J. N. Pew, founder of Sun Oil.
In America, English medieval influence on domestic architecture was expressed in more than just one fashion. Distinct from the vernacular Queen Anne which was usually clad with some form of wood, a more historically accurate medieval English form of masonry construction emerged in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. This was an English revival architectural style we today call, Tudor. Most Tudors in America were built after the First World War, but a good number of early examples were constructed toward the end of the Victorian period.
In Warren, a particularly interesting example of Tudor architecture can be found at 307 Market Street.
Built about 1890 by Archibald Scofield, the large house represents a relatively early and complete interpretation of this style. The long roof ridge gives the structure a horizontal character and establishes clean control over the gables and dormers constructed below and perpendicular to the long axis of the house. The Market Street facade is a powerful gable end with extensive half timbering, stucco and brick. The two story attic is lighted with two horizontal ranks of windows; the windows of the upper rank are diamond paned. The right side of the building shows a cantilevered stairway and half timbering on the second floor. The left side of the building features a gable dressed with timbering and stucco and situated over a rectangular three story bay clad with wood shingles. Piercing the roof to the right of this gable, a prominent chimney calls attention to its presence. Below the chimney and to the left of the three story bay, a semicircular one story window bay reaches out and gives light to the dining room within. Unlike later, more historically accurate Tudor examples, this house was built with a large veranda, part of which is now gone. Scofield was a successful oil producer and the grandson of Archibald Tanner, a prominent citizen of early Warren.
The Tudor home located at 623 N. Perry Street in Titusville is representative of the style at the end of the Victorian period and before the First World War.
Built in 1908, this structure features a roof ridge line presenting its long axis to Perry Street and subordinating the perpendicular gables and dormers beneath. The upper stories are covered with stucco and half timbering. Built without a veranda, this structure features a simple covered stoop at the entrance, very English and historically accurate. Like so many Tudors in the Victorian Region built in the first decade of the twentieth century, the chimneys remain merely utilitarian and without emphasis – a practice which would change after the War. This house was built by another son of E. O. Emerson, Edward Emerson, Junior.
A variation of the Tudor house with its English medieval influences is the English Cottage with its false thatched roof. Examples are not common, anywhere. In the Victorian Region it is likely the examples that can be found were built after the Victorian period. This being said, a traveler to the region would be foolish not to note these interesting cottages when they have the opportunity to do so.
In Franklin at 1540 Liberty is an excellent example of English Cottage architecture.
The roof of the house has the general form of a thatched roof with the roof covering curving about its corners and edges. The wall surfaces are stuccoed. A limited amount of half timbering over the simple entranceway adds an additional old English touch.