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Oil City, Pennsylvania
Oil City PA..JPG
"A Special Blend of People"
Country United States
State Pennsylvania
County Venango
Settled 1824
Incorporated (borough) 1862
Incorporated (borough) 1868
Incorporated (city) 1871
 • Total 4.7 sq mi (12.3 km2)
 • Land 4.5 sq mi (11.7 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.6 km2)
 • Total 10,557
 • Density 2,548.4/sq mi (984.9/km2)
 • Demonym
Oil Citizen
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code

Oil City is a city in Venango County, Pennsylvania, that is known in the initial exploration and development of the petroleum industry. After the first oil wells were drilled nearby in the 1850s, Oil City became central in the petroleum industry while hosting headquarters for the Pennzoil, Quaker State, and Wolf's Head motor oil companies. Tourism plays a prominent role in the region by promoting oil heritage sites, nature trails, and Victorian architecture. The population was 10,557 at the 2010 census, and is the principal city of the Oil City, PA Micropolitan Statistical Area.


Tarbell 1904 Fleet of Oil Boats at Oil City 1864
Fleet of Oil Boats at Oil City, 1864.
Allegheny River Ice Jam
Ice jam on Oil Creek near Oil City, during mid/late 1970s.

In the early 17th century, the Seneca nation first settled in the region; by, the late 18th century Chief Cornplanter was given three tracts of land as a "gift" from the state of Pennsylvania. In 1818, local prospectors purchased the land and built a blast furnace, which closed in the early 1850s. As population in the area began to decline, Colonel Edwin L. Drake drilled the first commercially successful oil well on August 27, 1859, in nearby Titusville. A number of boomtowns came to life in the region, including Oil City, Titusville, Petroleum Center, Pithole, and Rynd Farm.

Barges were used to transport the oil down Oil Creek and into Oil City, where it was transported to steamboats or bulk barges to continue on to Pittsburgh and other locations. Oil City was founded in 1860, The city was partially destroyed by flood in 1865 and by both flood and fire in 1866 and again in 1892; on this last occasion, several oil tanks that were struck by lightning gave way, and Oil Creek carried a mass of burning oil into the city, where some 60 lives were lost and property valued at more than $1 million was destroyed. Oil City grew into a thriving community through the later half of the 19th century and into the 20th century. By the 1990s, Pennzoil, Quaker State, and Wolf's Head had all relocated their headquarters elsewhere. However, some oil wells continue to produce a steady supply of quality petroleum.

Regional governments and public organizations promote tourism by thoroughly educating the public about oil history. Oil City's location along the Allegheny River in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains provides excellent opportunities for exploring Northwestern Pennsylvania.

The Oil City Downtown Commercial Historic District, Oil City North Side Historic District, Oil City South Side Historic District, National Transit Building, and Oil City Armory are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Oil City, Pennsylvania is located at the confluence of the Allegheny River and Oil Creek at 41°25′42″N 79°42′26″W / 41.428280°N 79.707327°W / 41.428280; -79.707327. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.7 square miles (12 km2), of which, 4.5 square miles (12 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) (4.65%) is water.

Many layers of rock and sedimentary material containing fossils can be seen on the bluffs in and around Oil City. Oil City is framed by the surrounding foothills with the Allegheny River winding through downtown.

The Allegheny River and Oil Creek freeze occasionally during the winter, sometimes causing ice jams; although remediation by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reduced ice formation via a floating ice control structure on the river and a fixed concrete weir on the banks of the creek. Flooding of the river flats is a possibility throughout the year due to ice jams, excessive snow melt, large volume storms and hurricane or tropical storm remnants.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 2,276
1880 7,315 221.4%
1890 10,932 49.4%
1900 13,264 21.3%
1910 15,657 18.0%
1920 21,274 35.9%
1930 22,075 3.8%
1940 20,379 −7.7%
1950 19,581 −3.9%
1960 17,692 −9.6%
1970 15,033 −15.0%
1980 13,881 −7.7%
1990 11,949 −13.9%
2000 11,504 −3.7%
2010 10,557 −8.2%
Est. 2015 10,137 −4.0%

As of the census of 2000, there were 11,504 people, 4,762 households, and 2,981 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,548.4 people per square mile (984.9/km2). There were 5,276 housing units at an average density of 1,168.8 per square mile (451.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.84% White, 0.89% African American, 0.26% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.11% from other races, and 0.57% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.63% of the population.

There were 4,762 households out of which 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.8% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.4% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the city, the population was spread out with 25.8% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 21.6% from 45 to 64, and 17.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,060, and the median income for a family was $36,149. Males had a median income of $30,072 versus $19,697 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,696. About 16.2% of families and 19.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.3% of those under age 18 and 12.4% of those age 65 or over.


In recent years, Oil City has undergone a renovation of the downtown area. Older sidewalks were replaced with new sidewalks along with a Victorianization of the architecture in the Historic District. Anodized bronze plaques have been mounted near historic areas to describe the event that happened there.

Main Street Program: The Main Street Program vitally contributes to the economic and aesthetic development of downtown Oil City. In 2014, as part of the Oil Region Alliance and Main Street's effort, Oil City became a part of the Trail Town Program ( Throughout the year, Main Street organizes various business related workshops, fundraisers, community events, and partners with the City and civic groups to sustain a vibrant downtown district.

Arts and Culture The Oil City Arts and Culture Commission, is the main entity that develops the local art and entertainment scene. It offers all year round public events for music, festivals, performing and visual arts. This commission was the first attempt that Oil City made to promote and foster the public interest and appreciation of all the arts. Two established galleries under this commission are: Transit Fine Arts Gallery and Graffiti Gallery. As a result of its decades long effort, many smaller cultural ventures have sprouted recently.

Arts Oil City Under the City, there is a new and growing effort to make Oil City an artist relocation destination. This program offers affordable housing and studios, and proximity to regional art markets. Artists from California, Chicago, New York as well as Pennsylvania have relocated, bought property and opened businesses and studios in Oil City.

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