Friday, May 6, 2011

Notes from rural Pennsylvania

This week I went to Oil City for business reasons and it did not dissappoint my curious nature.  I am continually surprised by these rural PA towns.  Some of them are lively and cute, others are kind of grim and desperate looking, but they are all interesting to me.  We have been living here for nearly two years now, and I am just getting around to discovering all these neat little places.

The building I visited in Oil City is the Transit building.  It was built in 1890 and was used as a "headquarters for the oil/gas transportation network".  It is a grand building and has been maintained well.  Now though, you wont believe who uses it... artists!  The ground floor is an art gallery for local artists and the second floor has lots of different artists studios and one very nice yoga studio.  I was really enjoying just walking around in there and met one of the artists who just loved Fabian.  She told me about the building's history a little bit.  Very interesting.  Also the bathroom on the second floor is beautiful.  Most of the fixtures and tile are original, it just took my breath away.

I LOVE what they are doing with that building, and I am all for keeping the original buildings and using the downtown area, but what really gets me is thinking about how the towns used to be.

Pennsylvania was much more metropolitan back in the day.  All of these little towns were once bustling urban (for that time) areas. With the oil boom, coal and logging, PA was the place to be, even these tiny towns were happening.  For example, the apartment we rent in Callensburg was a cobbler shop at one point, then a tobacco shop, and the top level to our building here was a soft-pin bowling alley!  I can't believe that.  I love thinking about the people in the town coming here to bowl, or what the shop here in our living room must have looked like.

The building where we rent in Callensburg.  It used to be the town center and still houses the post office.

Now these towns are sad and somewhat impoverished.  Just skeletons of a once "urban" area.  There are some buildings and places being kept up (like the Transit), but many of them are not.  I remember when I was younger and wanting to leave PA, thinking it and these little towns were pathetic and boring.  Maybe they would seem that way to a teenager, but now I just love them.  I love learning about their rich history, and I love how they look.  You could view it as being sad, or you could just view it as change.  Anyway, they seem beautiful and exciting to me now. These towns are an interesting part of our young American history.


  1. Carla,
    I remember the Transit building and how I felt the first time I visited (as a young mother with just Teah)...Dennis was teaching classes there and Teah and I would go to get out of the house...I loved the building, the artists, the whole vibe of the place. I'm glad you are experiencing that now! Thanks for bringing that memory back for me:)

  2. Carla! I am tearing up over here in California!! Your blog is beautiful and I am enjoying reading about the history. Callensburg and Oil City were my regular places to go. Friends in Callensburg and the Dentist and my aunt living in Oil City. I love reading how enthralled you are with the history of it all and it makes me truly appreciate the area so much more and see a side of beauty that I didn't appreciate because yeah as I teen I couldn't wait to leave the boring "pathetic" towns. I love your view on it and you are right it is exciting and beautiful. I remember hanging out in Tionesta at my aunts house and thinking about all the people that came when oil was struck. What a time it was!!
    Sending you love from the west!! Shannon

  3. Yes, the history around here is so interesting. Since this post I have visited the historical society in Clarion and learned so much more. For example, I didn't know there were petroglyphs in Parker! I can't wait to visit them. The real moment that changed my view of rural PA was when I watched The Deer Hunter. It somehow made the scenery look beautiful. Thanks for visiting the blog, love to you too!