When I was a kid in the mid 1970’s, my parents generously bought me a set of Childcraft encyclopedias just like the ones below …
I assume they did this to keep me quiet but I devoured them anyway, much to our mutual delight. My favorite volume was called “Places to Know”. I was fascinated by the Seven Wonders of the World. I would look at one particular picture in that volume called the “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” …
I just loved this picture and it’s funny to me now because the picture looks so “fake”, but at the time it seemed so sumptuous and very far away (not to mention -no longer in existence!) Longing to see this “Wonder”, I realized as a 5 or 6 year old that other fascinating places existed apart from my own small northwestern Pennsylvania town. This was a revelation, and an exciting one! As I got older, I discovered that my hometown has its own fascinating history as the former center of petroleum exploration and development – sounds exciting already, doesn’t it? Keep with me! My city – Oil City – has a gorgeous, wide river that tumbles through the Oil Region valley , splicing Oil City in two. It’s called the Allegheny River. As a matter of fact, the Allegheny was named the 2017 Pennsylvania River of the Year.
And a current picture of Oil Creek flowing into the Allegheny that I snapped a couple of years ago …
Interestingly, oil was discovered in Titusville, PA by Edwin Drake in 1859. However, our own hills were dotted with oil derricks in time and the Allegheny & Oil Creek provided the mode of transportation for barges floating the oil in barrels to larger cities, such as Pittsburgh.
The noise of the clattering oil wells reverberated off of the surrounding hills & was an “Oil City sound” for many years. I remember hearing working wells squealing & chattering from the hills when I was a kid in the 70’s. Now those once familiar sounds have been eerily silenced. When Oil City lost the headquarters of Quaker State, Pennzoil, and Wolf’s Head, the economy declined as well as the population. Years earlier, the “oil rush” caused many towns to spring up out of nowhere and then suddenly vanish , but none more popularly so than a town called Pithole City.
This town survived for only 4 years. Historical records indicate that at Pithole’s peak (we just call it Pithole around here) it boasted the 3rd largest post office in Pennsylvania, 54 hotels, 3 churches, a newspaper, a theater, a “red-light” district, a railroad, & the world’s first pipeline! With all of that commerce, you would have thought the city fathers would have come up with a more dignified name. Here is another picture of Pithole City in all of its muddy glory below,
and what remains of it today ….
Speaking of dignified names, I have always wondered why they ended up calling Oil City – well – Oil City. It leads people to believe oil was discovered in our town plus it just sounds somewhat rough. I’d rather tell folks that I live in say, “Petroleum Hollow” , “Allegheny Glen”, “River Vale”, or something other than “oil”.
I’d love to see Oil City revitalized like the little town of Helen, Georgia did in 1968. An artist sketched Alpine buildings with gingerbread trim and colorful facades. In 1969, business owners and carpenters began transforming that vision into reality. The town is now a “Bavarian” tourist destination and has vastly improved its economy.
Helen has hills and valleys which are similar to Oil City’s hills & valleys.
I envision a change like this for our town. I see lights twinkling off of Oil Creek at night along the Route 8 bypass from the many unique boutiques, cafes, & restaurants that line Seneca Street. I see horse drawn carriage rides along the north and south sides of town, perhaps crossing a “covered” Center Street bridge that gets old-fashioned twinkle lights and decorations at Christmas. I see a steam train thundering along the Allegheny and pulling into our train station on Elm Street. Oil City has A LOT of potential but that is NOT why I’m writing this blog. 😉
OK, enough of my daydreams. Let me explain why I’m writing this blog. I hope to have a lot of fun discovering other fascinating places all around the world. It could be an interesting restaurant, museum, mode of transportation – nothing is really off-limits. I just want to know what is “out there”. I hope you’ll enjoy learning along with me. I also aspire to visit these places myself one day and relay my experiences on this blog. I have done a little bit of “sightseeing” in the past and I’ll share some of those pictures and observations in the future. I’m so glad you are joining me! Let’s go have fun!
An example of an intriguing place I’ve just learned about …
Águeda, Portugal. Pinterest.
The Umbrella Sky Project. Started in 2011 as part of an art festival, these colorful umbrella canopies are strung from rooftop cables during the hot summer months as a way to cool roadways and create artistic geometric patterns above and undulating shadows below. What a great way to add more color and fun to life!