Oil Heritage Region

Oil Region National Heritage Area in northwestern Pennsylvania witnessed the birth of the oil industry and a legacy of petroleum that continues to shape industry, society, and politics. Edwin L. Drake drilled the world’s first commercially successful oil well in Venango County near Titusville, Pennsylvania on August 27, 1859. Oil-related businesses grew quickly afterwards, to drill and transport the product down Oil Creek or via the rapidly-growing railroad system. Stories of the early oil industry are visible everywhere, in the photography of John Mather, or in office building murals in Titusville, Oil City, and Franklin. In the 1860s, oil fortunes were quickly made and lost, as Coal Oil Johnny and residents of the boomtown of Pithole could attest. But even as the industry flourished to power late-nineteenth century progress, it was accompanied by disasters that frequently marked this dangerous and dirty business: Pond Freshet in 1864, fires, and floods. Investigations of muckraker journalists like Ida Tarbell challenged the business practices of oil tycoons like John D. Rockefeller. Visit the Drake Well Museum (admission) to learn the story of early oil industry. Explore the oil artifacts, industrial landscapes, and scenic communities of this area sometimes called “The Valley that Changed the World.”

Woodlawn Cemetery, Titusville

To the west of the town center, the Woodlawn Cemetery was the burial spot for many town notables, including the families who rose to prominence and fortune during the early development of the oil industry. The cemetery centrance is dominated by the…

Drake Well Museum

Located on the spot where Edwin L. Drake first struck oil on August 27, 1859, the Drake Well Museum (Admission fee required) tells the story of the birth of the modern oil industry. The reconstructed Drake Well demonstrates the first practical use…

Titusville Trust Company

The historical site marker explains: "There are few bank buildings in America which equal this in permanence and quality of construction..." remarked architect Arthur Zimm. The Titusville Herald reported in 1919 that "...few were prepared for the…

John A. Mather's Photographic Studio

John A. Mather (1829-1915) was the pioneer photographer of Pennsylvania’s Oil Region, providing pictorial coverage of this innovative nineteenth-century technology and creating the most comprehensive picture of the early growth of the oil industry…

Oil Creek & Titusville Railroad

The OC&T RR began operation in 1986 as a tourist attraction, traveling through 13 1/2 miles of the scenic Oil Creek valley to visit sites associated with the history of the oil heritage region. Stops include the Perry Street Station…

Ida Tarbell House, Titusville

At the age of thirteen, Ida M. Tarbell moved to Titusville, Pa. with her family. She lived here until 1876, when she enrolled at Allegheny College in Meadville. This childhood home at 324 East Main Street is now preserved as an historic site.

Pithole

The story of Pithole began in the spring of 1864 when Isaiah Frazier, James Faulkner Jr., Frederick W. Jones, and J. Nelson Tappan formed the United States Petroleum Company. The company soon leased 64 acres of the Holmden Farm on which they quickly…

Coal Oil Johnny

Raised in this house, Coal Oil Johnny grew up to be one of the most notorious examples of the get-rich-quick lifestyle made possible by the oil boom. Born John Washington Steele in Sheakleyville, PA in 1843, he and his older sister Permelia were…

Great Flood and Fire of 1892

During the early years of oil drilling, people didn’t fully comprehend the possible dangers of oil. Many hundreds of lives were lost during the first few decades after the Drake’s first oil well. One such disaster was the Fire & Flood of…

McClintock Well No. 1

The McClintock No. 1 is the oldest functioning well, having produced oil continuously since it was drilled in 1861. The success of this well helped make the fortune of "Coal Oil Johnny," who was adopted by Sarah McClintock.

Pond Freshet Disaster

During the early years of oil extraction, problems in transporting oil might lead to economic and environmental disasters like the Pond Freshet Disaster of May 31, 1864.

National Transit Pipeline Company, Oil City

The National Transit Building, 206 Seneca Street, Oil City, PA was once the hub of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. Built in 1890, the main block is a four-story stone and brick building joined to an 1896 annex by an enclosed…