Sunday, June 26, 2016

2016-17 Franklin Pennsylvanian

Oil City PA

Pennsylvania’s Oil Region
Oil City

Campground:  Two Mile Run County Park.  $89 senior rate for 7 days.  Heavily wooded campsites on hilly dirt roads.  Two loops have full hookups and two loops have 30 amp electric only.  Grassy parallel parking areas near lake/swimming have 30 amp outlets for campers.  Those spots rarely used, call in advance to request there use if you prefer a pull-thru, level site (no shade).

Distance traveled:  78 miles

A short trip along the western side of Pennsylvania heading into the Oil Region.  Lots of history as this is the first place oil was successfully pumped out of the ground along with a few gushers.  Oh and the great barns and silo’s along the highway, but nowhere to pull off the road and take pictures, darn.

The roads leading to the campground kept getting narrower and seemed like I was climbing more hills as well.  As the roads narrowed, especially upon reaching the county property, the road actually was barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass.  Very carefully I might add. The forest also seemed to close in creating a canopy effect over the road.

campground loop A, I'm in there somewhere

roads leading to 2 mile run county park

The dirt road camping loops were a bit difficult to maneuver with those trees on either side, especially near the entrance to each loop.  After accidentally finding the fresh water faucet opposite the bath house, I was able to fill my holding tank and find a campsite.  This is an older park and the campsites are not particularly level or neatly defined in many newer parks.  A picnic table, an electric post and an opening in the woods and there’s your campsite.

I must admit, I’ve become less and less a fan of heavily wooded sites that are in shade most of the day.  Even though it’s nice during the summer months, I’ve gotten used to more open spaces, especially when I travel out west.  Fortunately, the dappled sunlight coming through the trees does look cheery.

Another oddity of Two Mile Run county park is the swimming area.  It is completely fenced in along with an adjoining volley ball court.  Both are locked during the week.  Doesn’t appear to get much use during the weekend either.

Office, 2 Mile Run park

Opposite the park office are two rows of additional
campsites w/30 amp service, rarely used
parking lot style

beach is locked up most of the week

odd to see so much fencing around lake front

earthen dam

RV Tip:  If you enjoy bike riding, there are many miles of great paved biking trails in this region.  

My first outing in the area was a drive into the town of Franklin.  The town has some interesting architecture and some wonderful older stately homes.  Oddly, all the side streets surrounding the town have parking meters, with the main street devoid of those pesky money grubbing inconveniences.  It appears the main businesses in town realize some folks (me in particular) dislike those coin chewing time keepers.  I had a nice walk around town and stumbled into the De Bence Antique Music World museum.  I was able to join a tour, half way through.  One of the many volunteers they have running the museum.  With over 250 mechanical music devices, it a showplace with a lot of loud playing music.  What fun.  The tour guide really knows his stuff and was able to tell us all about the history of each mechanical piece often going into the history of it’s life in various locations from amusement parks, bars and carnivals.  I even got to turn the handle on the G Capra street piano made in 1920 and was given a certificate of Proficiency as a Organ Grinder.  Yet another skill I can add to my resume.

Downtown Franklin PA

DeBence Antique Music World

very nice museum, Nickelodeon instruments 

downtown Franklin PA

water fountain in Franklin,
looks like she's talking on
her cell phone

Franklin PA

My second stop was to St. John’s Catholic Church.  It contains a complete set of Louis Comfort Tiffany Stained Glass windows.  Stunning to see in person.  Even though they advertise that the church is open daily, it is not.  I was fortunate to catch a nice cleaning lady who kindly let me enter church nave and take my time enjoying a peaceful serenity inside this warm sanctuary filled with stunning colored light coming through those Tiffany windows.  Back in 1917, a set of three windows cost $2,500.  Today that triptych is valued at over $16.5 million dollars.  The history of Louis Comfort Tiffany is fascinating.  He developed his skills and created an industry where he hired hundreds glass artists to create his visions in glass.  During the height of his career in 1882 Chester Author commissioned Tiffany to redecorate the Red Room, Blue Room  dining room and to create a large screen to divide the main hall of the White House.   When Theodore Roosevelt arrived, he so disliked the screen he had it removed and destroyed.  The other rooms were also redone.  Can you even imagine what an artist must feel like to have his art destroyed or go out of favor?

Still, he had many commissions.  Later, as the art nouveau era ended, Tiffany glass works were often sent to the attic.  Today, his works are cherished and appreciated for their fine art quality and command the highest prices.  Nice to have a chance to see an installation of his work in one place and in such beautiful condition.

 St. John’s Catholic Church.

Tiffany Windows

Young Jesus in the temple

Tiffany Windows

The town of Franklin is home to two main characters in the development of oil in this country.  One was Ida Tarbell the other was Samuel Todd.  Now Samuel was a general solicitor (that’s what lawyers were called back then).  He was the author of the Standard Oil Trust agreement and served as a model for future trusts.  Well what does that all mean.  It was the start of the huge oil and railroad monopoly.  Now at the same time a young woman was growing up in the towns of Franklin and Titusville by the name of Ida Tarbell.  She graduated from Allegheny College in 1876, the only woman in her class.  She went on to become a teacher, which was one of the few professions a woman could go into at the time.  She left after a few years and became a journalist realizing that writing was her passion.  Eventually becoming a writer for McClure’s magazine, her first serial stories on Lincoln doubled the publications subscribers and would later become a book.  She then went on to write the story of the Standard Oil Company and John D. Rockefeller.  Exposing the business practices and creation of the monopoly.  Her serialized articles and eventual book led to the antitrust legislation and breakup of Standard Oil.  Tarbell is believed to be the first to use “investigative reporting”.

Oil City PA

I drove over to Oil City PA since it is one of the towns where oil was first discovered.  It’s a sad town with lots of 4 and 5 story buildings in the downtown area that are closed or little used.  Not particularly a friendly town for the visitor.  Parking meters everywhere and a huge parking garage that’s closed and unused.  I was going to check out their arts building where artists apparently reside and have art shops on the lower floors.  The main entrance, at least I think it was the main entrance had signs saying use other door, but all was locked up.  As I crossed the street, I saw someone go in the door that had the sign, “use other door”.  Oh well, I only had one hour on the parking meter (I don’t usually have change with me) so I went to the local museum on the history of oil in the area, $5 senior rate.  Didn’t think is was worth it, had just enough time to stop in a local coffee shop before my time ran out on the parking meter.

Oil City, sits along the Allegheny River

wonderful large parking garage, closed for use

Oil Industry museum in the old Post Office bldg
hardly worth the entrance fee

the parking garage that will eventually be torn down?

cool alley

one of three bridges, main one leading into town
currently closed for repairs

beautiful buildings, but many are empty

oil city, pretty empty downtown

wonder what it is, no signage outside

Franklin PA

The town, on the Allegheny River, sits in a protected valley surrounded by heavily wooded hills that rise above the town.  Like most older towns, many of the chain stores and restaurants are built on the outskirts of the town.  The K-mart, Ace hardware, a few auto dealers and a half a dozen commercial restaurants.  What’s unusual is that many of the stores and restaurants, like Long John Silvers, Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken have all closed down.  Locals tell me the Long John’s was open one day, doing great business and the next day it was closed.  The old part of town is active and has lots of shops and stores.  Not all touristy, as there are insurance and lawyers office and other day to day business establishments.  I did find a number of really nice antique and thrift shops, some with really good merchandise and great prices.  The town has a charm about it and I look forward to attending a play at the local Barrow-Civic Theater.

Titusville PA

Drake Well Museum grounds

Drake Well, 1st Oil well ever dug
start of the Petroleum Industry

Drake Well Museum, great intro movie

lots of info on the Oil Industry and it's beginnings

imagine, they used wood barrels at first to
store the oil... of course they leaked

Over in Titusville I go to see the Drake Well, built in 1859 and was the very first oil well ever built.  The area was noted for having oil seeps.  The Seneca and Iroquois Indians used the oil found on the surface for medicines and hair products.

With the quickly declining whale hunts as a main source of oil for lighting, remember electricity wasn’t around just yet, folks needed another source to keep their oil lamps going.  With the discovery of oil in large quantities underground a whole new industry would form.  Poor Edwin Drake who built the first oil well, went broke after investing in the company that hired him to build the well.  It was too shallow and went dry after two years.  Drake’s stock in the company became worthless.  A short while later the same company drilled a much deeper well and made a fortune.

The main method for extracting the various products from oil is to heat the oil.  At the hottest temperatures to the coolest here’s what is extracted:

Asphalt and bitumen
Fuel oil for ships and factories
Wax and lubricants
Diesel fuel and heating oil
Kerosene, for aviation and oil lamps
Gasoline, plastics and chemicals
Petroleum gasses

Talk about a leap in technology advancement with the discovery and use of the many products developed from oil.  And it’s interesting to note that gasoline was not a product they wanted as the internal combustion engine for cars hadn’t even been invented yet.

It all started with the need to light those oil lamps. And one of the first businesses to flourish was barrel making.  Thousands were made to hold and ship the oil.  But it could easily leak.  Next came the 50 gallon steel drum.  From there, innovation,  technological improvements and here we are today 150+ years later, consuming on average 3 gallons of oil products per person each day.

opposite the train station is a train motel

caboose for rent

 I did take the Oil Creek and Titusville train ride on Saturday.  It’s a three and a half hour train ride which includes a 20 minute stop at one end before returning to Titusville.  $17 average price to $30 for the 1st class car.  I took the 1st class car, but except for the nicer seating, it had nothing extra to offer.  The a/c didn’t work, oh well.  Open windows provided a nice breeze.  The views along oil creek were mainly forested scenes with peaks of the creek.  A pleasant ride with a fair amount of narrative about the oil industries beginning in the area, but nothing to write home about.  So that’s about all I’m going to write about the train ride.

1st class compartment, a/c didn't work
no other perks

scene from the train ride

mainly lots of views of trees along Oil Creek

90 % of scenery seen

our train engine turning around

I did enjoy driving around the town of Titusville.  Seeing the oil barons’ Victorian homes vintage1870s as the new oil industry made many men millionaires almost overnight.  It’s now a small college town with a history to look back on.  Even got my truck washed by teenagers for $5.

oil barons home where millionaire were made overnight

millionaire row

typical summer flowers in the area

working man houses,
reminds me my hometown in N Mich

My last day I’ll be heading to a play in Franklin called “Into the Woods”.  A most appropriate title since I’ve literally been in the woods for the past couple of weeks.

Into the woods.  A blend of fairy tales
with a lesson, be careful what you wish for


2 mile Run Campground

Franklin PA Museum and Tiffany Glass

Oil City PA

Titusville PA and Drake Well museum

Titusville PA train ride

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