National Heritage Area

(814) 677-3152

217 Elm Street

Oil City, PA 16301-1412


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 (See Left). 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. (See Right) 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. (See Left)

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 (See Left) 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.

Back to top