The Titusville home where journalist Ida Tarbell grew up was filled with people, including many dignitaries and two U.S. Congressmen, on Friday morning as U.S. Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-5) announced the introduction of federal legislation to recognize northwestern Pennsylvania’s historic role in the founding of the petroleum industry.
The Oil Region National Heritage Area recognizes and celebrates the region’s historic role in the founding of the petroleum industry, beginning in 1859. Originally designated by Congress in 2004, Thompson’s bill would reauthorize this important National Heritage Area, which has had a significant impact on Venango and Crawford counties’ economic development activities, through 2026.
Thompson made the announcement during a news conference that took place Friday morning in the historic Tarbell House, at 324 E. Main St., in Titusville.
He was joined by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-3), along with state Reps. Kathy Rapp (R-65) and R. Lee James (R-64), Crawford County Commissioner Francis Weiderspahn, leaders of the Oil Region Alliance of Business, Industry and Tourism (ORA), and residents of the community.
Thompson said he and Kelly introduced the National Reauthorization Act.
“Teamwork is so important,” Thompson said. “This has been a team project.
“I am really pleased to be here at the Tarbell House,” he added. “Ten years ago, I came here and this project was in bad condition and now to be back here 10 years later for this jewel.”
Thompson added that he appreciated all those who worked on the Tarbell House project.
He said northwestern Pennsylvania has a rich history, and it provides for a diverse economy.
Thompson added that many of the attractions, like the Tarbell House, are centered around one theme — the drilling of the first commercial oil well by Col. Edwin L. Drake on Aug. 27, 1859.
“Now, we see the Marcellus and Utica shale boom (for energy),” he said. “And it started here (in Titusville). We still celebrate these historic communities.”
He said that with the legislative leadership, in 2004, of Congressman John Peterson, the 25th National Heritage Area was established.
Thompson said ORA was given three tasks at that time: heritage development, tourism and marketing.
He said ORA has invested $6.8 million in heritage development, and 239,000 people visit the Oil Region annually.
Thompson, who has represented Titusville for 10 years, then asked Kelly to step up to the podium. Kelly, if elected in November, will be the new U.S. representative-elect for Titusville due to the recent congressional redistricting.
Kelly said when people think of Ida Tarbell, and the conversations that took place in her East Main Street home, “we understand the importance of keeping things (these buildings); and the oil industry and the evolution of that industry.”
He said those visiting the Tarbell House can imagine still hearing those voices of Ida and her family.
“The idea behind all these homes is that they are self-sustaining and we never want to lose that history,” Kelly said.
Next to speak was John Phillips, CEO and president of ORA.
Phillips said he is very proud of the investment in the Tarbell House project, and it is one of many ORA projects.
“I’ve come to love this project and the way this community has received it,” he said.
Following Phillips, Thompson introduced Barry Cressman, chairman of ORA’s board of directors, and retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Titusville; by saying, “Every team needs a leader to kind of take the chaos and put it in order.”
Cressman said he depends on people like Phillips, Marilyn Black, ORA’s vice president of heritage development; Toni Kresinski, ORA project manager; and the congressmen to assist him.
“This is the latest historical gem of ORA,” Cressman said about the Tarbell House. “This (house) was about to be leveled, and lots of people (and) lots of grants helped make this a gem.”
He said Ida Tarbell grew up in the Oil Region, and her father, Franklin Tarbell, was an oil man.
Cressman told the audience that Ida and President Teddy Roosevelt had a mutual admiration for each other, and they were pen pals.
“It was Teddy, in 1906, who was the driving force behind the National Antiquities Act to preserve places like this (the Tarbell House),” he said.
Cressman then added that President Ronald Reagan, (on Aug. 21, 1984, signed legislation) creating the National Heritage Areas. The Oil Region National Heritage Area is one of 49 heritage areas in the U.S.
The historic Tarbell House hosts many events each year, including the popular teas.
Juliet Hilburn, ORA analyst-educator, is the new coordinator at the Tarbell House.
Hilburn said she has been the home’s coordinator since June.
She said she oversees the Tarbell House and coordinates all the events.
Hilburn is looking forward to the fall teas.
She said the teas will be served by student re-enactors from Titusville High School.
Hilburn said the fall teas are four-course teas and during the tea, the re-enactors will be interacting with the public.
And following the tea, tours of the Tarbell House will be held.
“We have a high demand for the teas (the summer teas are sold out), so reservations are required,” Hilburn said.
There is a fee for the teas.
For more information, Hilburn can be reached, at (814) 677-3152, ext. 121, or by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hill can be reached by email at email@example.com.