Latitude / Longitude:
1,316 ft (401 m)
Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
Pithole, or Pithole City, is a ghost town in Cornplanter Township, Venango County in Pennsylvania, about 6 miles (9.7 km) from Oil Creek State Park and the Drake Well Museum, the site of the first commercial oil well in the United States. Pithole’s sudden growth and equally rapid decline, as well as its status as a “proving ground” of sorts for the burgeoning petroleum industry, made it one of the most famous of oil boomtowns.
Oil strikes at nearby wells in January 1865 prompted a large influx of people to the area that would become Pithole, most of whom were land speculators. The town was laid out in May 1865, and by December was incorporated with an approximate population of 20,000. At its peak, Pithole had at least 54 hotels, 3 churches, the third largest post office in Pennsylvania, a newspaper, a theater, a railroad, the world’s first pipeline and a red-light district “the likes of Dodge City’s.” By 1866, economic growth and oil production in Pithole had slowed. Oil strikes around other nearby communities and numerous fires drove residents away from Pithole and, by 1877, the borough was unincorporated. The site was cleared of overgrowth and was donated to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1961. A visitor center, containing exhibits pertaining to the history of Pithole, was built in 1972. Pithole was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
The site was purchased in 1957 by James B. Stevenson, the publisher of the Titusville Herald, who later served as the chairman of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission from 1962 to 1971. Stevenson cleared the brush from the site, and donated it to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1961. Today, only a few foundations and mowed paths mark the buildings and former streets of Pithole. The site of Pithole was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on March 20, 1973. A walking tour of Pithole’s 84.3 acres (34.1 ha) of streets can be completed in 42 minutes. The visitor center was constructed in 1972.
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission operates the visitor center as part of the nearby Drake Well Museum, adjacent to Oil Creek State Park, outside of Titusville. The visitor center contains several exhibits, including a scale model of the city at its peak, an oil-transport wagon that is stuck in mud, and a small, informational theater. The visitor center is usually open, annually, from the Memorial Day weekend, at end of May, through Labor Day in September. The season is kicked off with the annual Wildcatter Day celebration featuring music, tours, demonstrations and other activities.