Oil City South Side District

Welcome to Oil City, PA - a city with a unique history whose story spans hundreds of years!

Oil City South Side District

Oil City, Pennsylvania 16301, United States

Created By: Venango Tours

Tour Information

This tour will provide you with an overview of Oil City - from its three historic districts, collection of church buildings, remnants of its industrial past, to its numerous examples of Victorian style residential architecture. You will learn about the oil boom that helped shape Oil CIty into the place it is today. During the tour, you will see impressive architecture, stately civic buildings, magnificent houses of worship, former company headquarter buildings, and much more. While the Tour covers a lot of ground, there are still opportunities for you to further explore in Oil City! We invite you to stay as long as you need and rest as often as possible at a few of our great local businesses.

This tour is based on the Oil Heritage Alliance Oil City Walking and Driving Tour. The mission of the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry & Tourism is to manage the Oil Region National Heritage Area and to increase the prosperity of the Oil Region by enticing people to live, work, learn, and play in "the Valley that Changed the World" through the preservation, promotion, development, and support of historical, educational, natural, recreational, residential, commercial, and industrial destinations. This tour was adapted by members of the Venango Leadership Academy 2023-24 class, which is a program held annually by the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional points of interest were added based on local public input.

Tour Map

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What You'll See on the Tour

The Oil City Library opened in 1904 with funding assistance from Andrew Carnegie and a book collection started by the Belles Lettres Club. Go inside to learn more about the City's history, see what events are happening, and what else the li... Read more
"Chief Cornplanter and the Oilmen" by Michael Allison, of Hollidaysburg Native Americans inhabited the area for generations before the arrival of European settlers. Members of the Seneca Tribe were here when French explorers arrived in the ... Read more
Oil City includes several historic churches and two are very close to the library. Next door is the Christ Episcopal Church, designed by Enoch A. Curtis. The first Episcopal worship services in Oil City were held in 1862, in rented rooms in... Read more
The second church is the Grace United Methodist Church across W. 1st Street. In the year 1863 the Reverend John McCombs and the Reverend J. M. Groves began the work of establishing a congregation with a revival meeting at the schoolhouse ... Read more
The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) of Oil City was established in 1927 and operated with no formal meeting space until Fanny Perkins Reed, a Vermont native who moved to Oil City to teach, gifted the Central Avenue home in 1939 ... Read more
Established in 1899, this auditorium was dedicated in June 1928. The firm of Brenot & Hicks designed the building and L.O. Bouquin & Co. constructed it. The auditorium continues as event space for various groups and gatherings.  ...
Saint Stephen's School is a Roman Catholic elementary school that opened in 1955 to accomodate up to 600 students. While the school was established in 1945, it quickly outgrew the space, which let to the construction of this building. The s... Read more
The house at 205 W 3rd Street was built in 1898 by Henry Surh, who co-founded the Penn Refining and Germania Refinery companies. Through mergers, these companies became part of the Pennzoil Corporation in the 20th century. Surh is interred ... Read more
The bend in the Allegheny River at Oil City slowed the speed of the river's waters, providing a spot for barges and rafts to land easily. For many years, the Bannons and Halydays rented rooms in their homes and space in their barns to b... Read more
The house at 114 Moran Street (second house on the left side) was built in 1882 by Willis J. Hullings, an active politician who served in the PA House of Representatives from 1881-1886, PA State Senate from 1906-1910, and US House of Repres... Read more
W 1st Street includes stately houses on the right side of the street that were constructed by industrial leaders of the 19th century. Houses on the left side may be on smaller lots, but are also excellent examples of Victorian architectural... Read more
The Belle Lettres Club, formed in 1888 as a women's club to study literature, was integral to the establishment of the Oil City Library. Henry McSweeny gave this building, his former home, to the club in 1929. He also provided an endowment ... Read more
One modern building on W 1st Street is diagonal from Belle Lettres. The Tree of Life Synagogue was constructed in 1957, but the Jewish Community in Oil City dates back to at least 1891 when the first Jewish congregation formed in the city. ... Read more
The Second Presbyterian Church at the corner of W 1st and Reed Street was designed in 1913 by architect Emmett E. Bailey in the Late Gothic Revival style. The building features heavy stone walls, delicate stained glass windows, and an expan... Read more
The South Side commercial district stretches along E 1st Street between Central Avenue and State Street. Retail businesses and offices are in this block. A walk along the street will allow you to see unique architectural details, like the A... Read more
The opulent Latonia Theater on the city’s South Side was constructed by the L.O. Bouquin Co. of Oil City. It opened March 4, 1929, to coincide with President Herbert Hoover inauguration. It had a capacity of 1,460 patrons, seating that in... Read more
Saint Stephen's Roman Catholic Church was constructed in 1906 as the community outgrew the first parish of Saint Joseph's (a stop on the North Side Tour). This Mission style, stone building was designed by William P. Ginther, who designed c... Read more
Oil history mural (1998 student project), updated signs by Sign Designery (hand-painting of signs) and Caldwell Signage Solutions (materials, removal/installation) completed in 2018
“The Hub of Oildom,” by artist Michael Allison installed in 2021


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