November 26, 2012
Walking Tour in Emlenton (from the Oil Region Alliance web site)
The quaint town of Emlenton hugs the eastern hillside of the Allegheny River, marking the downstream conclusion of the federally designated Wild and Scenic Allegheny River. Two exits of I-80 provide direct access to the east and west banks of this community which in 2006 had 748 residents.
This southern gateway to the Oil Region National Heritage Area has a proud history beginning way before the oil and gas industries which dominated its economy and architecture for many decades. For instance, by 1839 there were 20 iron furnaces in operation within a 16-mile radius of this center of riverine commerce. Several major energy providers trace their roots to Emlenton, including Columbia Gas Company which began in 1882 as the Emlenton Gas Light and Fuel Company, and Quaker State Oil Refining Corporation which was formed in 1931 as a merger of numerous regional firms. Today, Emlenton is known for its recreational outfitters, its bicycle trailhead on the smooth asphalt Allegheny Valley Trail, antique shops, a growing number of artists, and as the corporate headquarters of Farmers National Bank.
A 22-station set of colorful descriptive panels line a walking tour which takes the leisurely ambler about an hour to traverse, guided by the free walking tour brochure which is available through the Oil Region Alliance and found at the tour’s beginning point, the Crawford Center on Hill Street. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes for this stroll, because the tour covers much of the hillside residential and Main Street retail portions of Emlenton.
The walking tour showcases interesting architectural examples of oil family homes, houses of worship, and commercial buildings past and present. Each panel includes historic photographs, illustrations, and text regarding one or more topics, as well as a series of prior and current oil/gas logos associated with Emlenton history.
Originally installed in 2002 and 2003, some of the panels ‘aged’ rapidly in the bright sunshine in this valley. Therefore, in the summer of 2007, a fresh set of duplicate panels were put into place by the Oil Region Alliance with its partners the Pumping Jack Museum and the Borough of Emlenton.