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Bradford Downtown Historic District

Bradford City, McKean County, PA

The Bradford Downtown Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Portions of the content on this web page were selected, transcibed, and/or adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. []


The Bradford Downtown Historic District is a mixed-use commercial/institutional/residential historic district of fifty-three acres which encompasses the traditional core of the downtown of the City of Bradford, which is the largest municipality in McKean County, Pennsylvania. Bradford lies less than one mile south of the New York State border, along Pennsylvania's northern tier, in the central portion of the Commonwealth. The Bradford Downtown Historic District contains a total of 163 resources and three buildings previously listed in the National Register. Of the 163 non-registered resources, 136 (84%) contribute to the character of the district and 27 (16%) are non-contributing. Most non-contributing resources are modern commercial or institutional buildings including banks and a small number of general commercial buildings, along with several properties whose extent of alteration has resulted in a loss of historic architectural integrity. Two modern highway bridges are in the district; both are non-contributing. Of the 163 resources in the district, there are 152 buildings, 3 structures, 7 objects, and one contributing site; nearly all of the structures and objects are found in association with the district's only site, Public Square (now known as Veterans' Square), at the west end of Main Street. The three buildings in the district which are individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places are the Old City Hall, the Rufus Barrett Stone House, and the Bradford Armory. Fewer than ten percent of the resources in the district pre-date 1890, approximately eighty percent of the resources were constructed between 1890 and 1930, and the remaining approximately ten percent post-date 1930. In addition to the commercial architecture of the district, several large churches and secular institutional buildings are in the district along with a small representation of industrial properties. The scale of the architecture in the Bradford Downtown Historic District varies from modest two-story vernacular commercial buildings to the eight-story 1930s Hooker-Fulton Building. Most properties are of masonry construction; a few incorporate stone but brick is the preferred building material. Several exhibit pressed metal facades and cast iron storefront elements. The district retains integrity in each of its seven qualities: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.

The Bradford Downtown Historic District is arranged in a grid, with Main Street, the community's principal historic commercial thoroughfare, roughly bisecting the district in an east-to-west direction. Parallel to Main are East Corydon Street to the south and Boylston Street to the north. Moving from east to west, the following streets are perpendicular to Main Street: Davis, Webster, Kennedy, Chestnut, Chambers, Congress, Pine, Mechanic Street (which becomes South Avenue after crossing Main Street), Whitney Place, and Bushnell Street. Chautauqua Place and St. James Place are short east-to-west streets which lie west of Mechanic Street and South Avenue. East Washington Street runs westward from the Boylston Street Bridge across Tuna Creek to Mechanic Street. Library Place and Beulah Place extend less than a full block northward from East Corydon Street and Newell Court and Exchange Place extend northward from Main Street. The major public rights-of-way (Main and Boylston Streets), are sixty-six feet in width, while the secondary streets vary between fifty-five and fifty feet. All streets in the district are paved, and some retain historic brick paving material. The brick streets contribute to the overall historic character of the district, although they are treated as low-scale landscape elements and are not included in the resource count for the district. Sidewalks of brick and concrete are found on both sides of most streets and parking is permitted in nearly all areas of the district. Street lighting employs cobra-head fixtures powered by overhead lines throughout the district.

Due to the dominating commercial character of the Bradford Downtown Historic District, buildings in many areas of the district occupy their entire lots, with no front or side lot setbacks. Some commercial properties have paved parking areas along the rear of their lots. Institutional buildings, such as the several churches in the district, typically have some setback on all sides and may include lawns or planting areas. Landscaping throughout the district includes some properties with small lawns, several streets with mature shade trees, and ornamental street trees planted along Main Street as part of the community's downtown revitalization efforts.

Except for the "flatiron"-formed Rufus Barrett Stone House (all of the buildings in the district are of a conventional rectilinear form. Frontages range upward from approximately twenty feet. The commercial buildings are generally flat-roofed or have shed roofs which slope gently from front to back. Some historic chimneys have been retained, but most have been removed in the course of retrofitting heating systems and replacing roofs. The few residential buildings in the district are gable and hipped roofed, and the institutional buildings employ flat, hipped, and gable roofs. Due to the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century character of much of the district, most buildings exhibit tall and narrow patterns of fenestration. Some art glass, including prism-glass transoms, is found on commercial buildings and religious art glass graces the district's several churches.

The architectural styles represented in the Bradford Downtown Historic District include most of the design modes popular during the district's long Period of Significance. The earliest Bradford architecture consisted of modest frame buildings of Greek Revival and early Italianate derivation. The vast majority of this settlement architecture vanished in fires or floods or was replaced by more substantial architecture as the community matured. The earliest extant buildings in the district are Italianate in style; these were followed by buildings built in the Gothic and Late Gothic Revival, Neo-Classical and Colonial Revival, and Art Deco styles. A number of buildings within the district are derived from no formal architectural style, but rather reflect the vernacular building traditions of this community throughout the Period of Significance.

The Italianate style is represented in the building at 115 Main Street, the 1890 Bradburn Building (111-113 Main Street), 55 and 53 Main Street, and the F.W. Davis Building at 17-21 Main Street. Among the district's Romanesque Revival style buildings are architect Enoch Curtis' 1898 Bradford City Hall (15 Kennedy Street), the Masonic Lodge (c.1890; 79-81 Main Street), 11 Main Street (c.1890), and the 1912 Bradford Armory (28 Barbour Street; National Register, 1991). Neo-Classical Revival-style buildings within the Bradford Downtown Historic District include the c.1910 Catterina Building at 161 Main Street, the 1902 Schonblom Building (101-103 Main Street), the 1919 Emery Manufacturing/Bradford Era Building (43 Main Street), the 1903 Option House (39 Main Street), the Rothstein & Lippman Building of 1895 (7-9 Main Street), the c.1895 Aurenhaim-Forest Oil Building (76-78 Main Street), the 1926-1927 Moose Lodge (22 Pine Street), the first Telephone-Telegraph Building of 1910 (11 Chestnut Street), the c.1900 W.C.T.U. Hall at 33 Congress Street, and the L.S.I.A. Building at 19 Chestnut Street (c.1910). Colonial Revival style architecture in the district includes the 1899-1902 Hotel Holley (149-153 Main Street) executed in a vernacular adaptation, the 1928-1929 Emery Hotel (2 South Avenue), the James R. Evans Building of 1903 and the Bay State Hotel of 1897 (80-82 Main Street and 84-86 Main Street). Among these are the I.O.O.F. Building of 1932 (at the corner of Main Street and South Avenue; the (second) Telephone Exchange Building (30 East Corydon Street; 1930), and the 8-story 1931 Hooker-Fulton Building (119-125 Main Street), which towers over the eastern end of the district.

The Gothic Revival style was used in the design of St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church (88 Corydon Street; 1892) and its Convent (97 East Corydon Street; 1906). The Late Gothic Revival style is seen in the First Methodist Episcopal Church (23-25 Chambers Street; 1924-1927), the First Presbyterian Church (54 East Corydon Street) and the Sarah A. Hewitt Memorial Church of the local Free Methodist congregation (18 Boylston Street; 1924).

The c.1910 Central Fire Station (27 Chestnut Street) and the now privately-owned 1912-1913 Federal Building/U.S. Post Office (80 East Corydon Street) are built in the Colonial Revival style.

The most significant natural feature of the district is the West Branch of the Tunungwant Creek, whose Native American name has been anglicized to "Tuna" Creek. This waterway flows into the northern portion of the district from the west and meanders eastward toward the main branch of the creek, with which it intersects just east of the district. Tuna Creek is subject to flooding and has been the focus of flood control activities for decades.

Two concrete bridges span Tuna Creek within the district. One connects Boylston Street to West Washington Street and the other carries Mechanic Street across the creek to its intersection with East Washington Street. Both of these structures were constructed outside the Period of Significance of the District and are non-contributing features within the context of the district. Also associated with Tuna Creek is a series of evolutionary flood control retaining walls, reflecting mostly post-1950 work. They are continuous, extend well beyond the district, and are unevaluated landscape features within the context of the district.

The only site in the district is Public Square, which was re-named Veterans' Square at a date outside the Period of Significance of the district. This feature includes a landscaped pocket park at the west end of Main Street. Historically this area was used for public assembly and throughout much of the Period of Significance contained a bandstand. It presently includes historic light posts of rubble stone at each corner, as well as a miscellany of veterans' memorial commemorative objects and structures, including a 1917 Neo-Classical Revival-style limestone kiosk with a standing-seam metal bellcast roof and a modern gazebo. Some of these elements are contributing and others are non-contributing to the character of the district.

As noted in the introductory paragraph, the Bradford Downtown Historic District retains historic and architectural integrity. This fact notwithstanding, from the 1960s through the 1990s, historic commercial buildings in the district were replaced by contemporary architecture and, in one case, by a free-standing fast-food restaurant. It must be conceded, however, that the fast-food restaurant did retain on its lot the Cline Oil Co. Well No. 1, the oldest producing oil well in the City, which dates from the 1870s and is a contributing object within the context of the district. A modest amount of sensitive rehabilitation activity has occurred in the district. The former 1900-1901 Carnegie Library was adaptively re-used as a restaurant and the 1928-1929 Emery Hotel, first converted into a dormitory for the University of Pittsburgh Bradford campus in 1965, serves as senior housing at the time of writing. In 1998, the City re-acquired the 1898 City Hall, which had been in private ownership and was seriously deteriorated; the City plans restoration of the building.

Viewed in its entirety, the Bradford Downtown Historic District is an architecturally cohesive area which is situated on a grid of streets in this northern tier Pennsylvania oil town, contains well over one hundred substantial historic buildings of primarily commercial and institutional character, and retains integrity.


The Bradford Downtown Historic District is significant for its association with commerce and industry and for architecture. The district contains the traditional central business district of the city of Bradford, and, as such, is locally significant as the physical reflection of the commercial development of this leading northwestern Pennsylvania oil community. Most of the district's buildings are commercial in character and represent the range of architectural design popular during the Period of Significance, which begins c.1870, the approximate date of construction of the district's earliest extant buildings, and ends in 1950, corresponding both to the 50-year guideline for National Register eligibility and to the approximate date of construction of the latest of the district's historic resources. The district contains locally-distinctive examples of many of the styles of architecture popular from the later nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century. Among these are the Italianate, Gothic Revival, Neo-Classical Revival, Colonial Revival, Late Gothic Revival, and Art Deco styles, as well as vernacular adaptations of many of them and examples of purely vernacular architecture, which, although executed without reference to formal design modes, are important manifestations of local building traditions in McKean County. The district contains the work of regionally prominent architects and builders such as E.N. Unruh, Enoch Curtis, Frederic Merrick, A.P. Mount, F.C. French, and William Hanley. The Bradford Downtown Historic District is a representative example of commercial historic districts, "Historic Resources of the Oil Region of Western Pennsylvania, 1859-1945." The district has clearly demonstrable links to the historic oil industry, the vast majority of the resources in the district are more than fifty years old and are contributing resources. The Bradford Downtown Historic District retains the integrity necessary to reflect its appearance during its Period of Significance.

The area which includes Bradford was formerly part of the holdings of the Boston-based United States Land Company. The non-indigenous settlement era of Bradford dates from the 1820s, when several families arrived in the region. These first settlers failed to establish a permanent settlement and in 1837 the U.S. Land Company dispatched their agent, Col. Levitt C. Little to purchase and develop lands in rural northwestern Pennsylvania. Col. Little, his wife, and two step-sons entered the Bradford environs by canoe, traveling along Tunungwant Creek, the name of which translates from the Native American as "crooked" and has been localized as "Tuna." Col. Little took over a cabin which had been built by the earlier settlers, and as more families came to the area, the fledgling community became known as Littleton. The initial economy was driven by lumbering and few amenities were available, although a rudimentary school (long destroyed) was built at the corner of present-day Corydon Street and South Avenue, along the southern boundary of the district. The first significant industrial development began when a sawmill was erected at the head of Main Street, on the site of the former Hotel Emery; for this reason, Main Street extends no further westward than the hotel location. Daniel Kingsbury (1803-1870) built the first store in the settlement at the corner of Main and Congress Streets and in 1854 acquired the United States Land Company's 50,000-acre Bradford area real estate holdings. Four years later the settlers wished to establish a post office and the need for a name for the permanent settlement resulted in Littleton's name being changed to Bradford. The rationale behind the selection of this name has not been determined conclusively.

In 1859, Col. Edwin L. Drake drilled the first oil well at Titusville, southwest of Bradford, and Pennsylvania entered the age of petroleum. Communities grew overnight, and some disappeared with equal speed. The first oil well in the Bradford oil field was drilled in 1861 to a depth of seven hundred feet on the north side of Corydon Street near Tuna Creek outside the district; the advent of the Civil War occupied the attention of the prospectors and the well did not prove to be a successful venture. Over the next decade, dozens of wells were sunk in the Bradford area, but with little success. One account recorded that the owners of one drilling operation hoisted a sign on their derrick proclaiming, "Oil, Hell, or China."[1] They reportedly found none of the three.

The Olmstead Well on the Crook (some accounts use "Crooks") Farm at State Line, north of Bradford, was the first oil well in the region which accounted for significant production. By 1875, success in the Bradford field began and speculators, drillers, machinists and roustabouts swelled the population of the hitherto quiet community. P.T. Kennedy brought in a ten-barrel (per day) well near St. Bernard's Church within the district, Fred Crocker struck a one hundred-barrel well on the Watkin Farm, and "the Olmstead well on the Crooks farm at State Line, Lewis Emery's No. 1 on the Tibbets farm at Toad Hollow, and other heavy producers, brought to Bradford oil speculators from far and near and in an incredibly short space of time completely changed the character of the town."[2] Historian Rufus Barrett Stone, whose house is individually listed in the National Register and is within the district, wrote of the frantic activity of the early Bradford oil days: "Bedrooms and offices were one. The pioneer lawyer, George A. Berry, write leases, assignments, and drilling contracts in his nightrobe."[3] By 1881, the Bradford field reached all-time high production statistics and three oilmen established a refinery on the banks of Kendall Creek, north of the community. The Kendall Refinery became a mainstay of the area's economy for more than a century thereafter. The settlement was incorporated as a borough in 1873 and by 1879 the oil boom had spurred the growth of the community to the extent that its status was elevated to that of a city.

The pervasive nature of oil in Bradford is evidenced by the number of derricks which appear in historic photos within the town limits. This tendency was common in other oil boom communities such as Oil City, but by the early years of the twentieth century, as Bradford matured and became more urbane and sophisticated, operating wells were discontinued within the corporate limits of the City. The single operating well, the Cline Well No 1 is an anomaly within the district and has been retained in commemoration of Bradford's inextricable link to the petroleum industry.

The railroad which served Bradford added much to the growth potential of the community. The Erie line connected Bradford with New York, Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Chicago and built the National Historic Landmark Kinzua Viaduct southeast of the City. The Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh was completed through Bradford in 1882, offering additional connections to the north as well as transportation to Clearfield, Punxsutawney and points south. The railroads built handsome passenger and freight stations east of the district; all of these stations have been destroyed.

Oil Region historian Philip Ross, in Allegheny Oil: The Historic Petroleum Industry on the Allegheny National Forest, characterized the importance of the Bradford area to the heritage of the petroleum industry:

"The Bradford field set the pace for the American petroleum industry from the mid-1870s through the early 1880s. Even as other oil fields burst onto the scene and just as quickly faded, the Bradford field steadily contributed the majority of crude oil to the industry."[4]

The nineteenth-century Bradford boom peaked in 1881. This high petroleum production figure gradually declined until the Bradford area settled into a production of two million barrels annually, a figure which was maintained until the dawn of the practice of secondary recovery of oil. While production in Bradford declined, oil was still being produced in comparatively large quantities and the community nonetheless continued to mature. Its economic security assumed more permanent qualities as more stable petroleum production methods were established, the markets fluctuated less wildly, and the wildcatters of the 1870s and '80s became the gentry of the 1890s. With this societal maturity, a more permanent and higher style of architecture came to characterize the City. Stone described his community as "the metropolis of the oil region of northwestern Pennsylvania."[5]

During the forty years between 1880 and 1920 the majority of the buildings in the Bradford Downtown Historic District were built. This architecture — primarily commercial in character, but including some institutional (religious, social, and civic club-related) properties as well, reflects that maturation of oil era cultural endeavors, politics, and society. This maturity mirrors the wealth both of the community and the area, manifest in substantial mercantile architecture representing many of the design styles in vogue during the period.

The early history of downtown Bradford is incomplete without mention of the several major fires which changed the face of the area and gave rise to the scale, materials, and form of much of the architecture which characterizes the district at the time of writing. Much of the district was originally of wood construction, likely with wood-shingled roof surfaces, and was particularly susceptible to fires. The first major fire occurred in 1878 and even at that time, the district had been built up to the degree that forty buildings were lost. Two years later, in 1880, four acres of buildings were lost, in 1896 the original Bay State Hotel and seven more buildings were destroyed and in the winter of 1897, seven buildings facing the Public Square were lost in a major conflagration.[6] After the turn of the twentieth century, local legislation was passed requiring all construction within the downtown area to be of masonry construction.

After a generation of relative calm, in 1921 the practice of "water flooding" of wells was started,[7] and was soon perfected by Bradford's Forest Dorn and Dorn's Forest Oil Company. The 1920s and 1930s in Bradford witnessed a new prosperity as the petroleum industry was re-born in the wake of water-flooding. By 1928, annual production had topped 16.7 million barrels and the phenomenal 1937 strike at Music Mountain, south of Bradford, came in at 44 barrels per hour for that single well.

With reference to Criterion A, the Bradford Downtown Historic District's reflection of the industrial heritage of the city is clear. Virtually everyone in Bradford was involved with the petroleum industry, either as an oil speculator or investor, a business owner, as a laborer in one of the refineries, a roustabout in the fields, or a worker in one of the businesses (such as the Emery Manufacturing Company, the Oil Well Supply Company, or Bovaird and Seyfang, all industry giants) which supplied drilling equipment and myriad other supplies to the Bradford fields. Buildings within the historic district which were directly associated with the petroleum industry in Bradford include the present Bradford Era newspaper building (formerly one of the branches of the Emery Manufacturing Company), the Pringle Powder Building (supplier of blasting material for the oil fields), the Rufus Barrett Stone House (home of a prominent oil industrialist which was listing individually in the National Register in 1982), the Aureheim Building (later remodeled as the offices of the Forest Oil Co.), the Healy Petroleum Building (and the Dresser Building (later associated with the South Penn Oil Company and ultimately with Pennzoil).

The Criterion A significance of the Bradford Downtown Historic District for commerce is illustrated by the fact that the district contains the historic commercial core of the city. Of the nearly one hundred fifty resources in the district, all but twenty are commercial buildings; the entire length of Main Street is lined with mercantile architecture, nearly all of which dates from the Period of Significance. This architecture includes buildings which housed a diverse array of shops and businesses, hotels, and offices which were directly linked to the district's position as a local and regional commercial center.

In addition to the commercial buildings found throughout the district, several public and private institutional buildings were built in the downtown and augment the overall historic character of the district. This institutional architecture includes five churches, the Bradford City Hall, and the Central Fire Station. Secular institutional maturity is reflected in the district in two I.O.O.F. buildings and the Elks Lodge.

The district's Criterion C significance is established by the architecture of the Bradford Downtown Historic District, which includes examples of many of the formal styles which were in vogue throughout the long Period of Significance of the district. Bradford's earliest commercial architecture were primarily of wood construction; the vast majority of these buildings were replaced by more substantial brick buildings, either reflecting the increase of prosperity of the community or in the wake of the major fires described above. The earliest commercial buildings in the district are Italianate in style, with tall, narrow fenestration and overhanging cornices of pressed metal or, less commonly, of wood. Buildings designed in the Romanesque Revival style were built in the district from the 1880s through the turn of the twentieth century. The immediate successors to the Italianate and Romanesque Revival styles include both the Neo-Classical Revival and the Colonial Revival styles, which occurred concomitant with each other from the late 1890s through the 1920s. Neo-Classical Revival style buildings incorporate design elements from classical antiquity, including porticos, the use of columns and pilasters, and formal, typically symmetrical, plans. Colonial Revival buildings draw upon design tenets from the pre-Revolutionary period in American architectural history, and may use Renaissance motifs, Palladian windows, etc. The purely twentieth-century Art Deco style was born of the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes and employs linear and angular composition, with low-relief ornamentation, decorative brickwork which often emphasizes verticality of massing. Since Bradford's fortunes were still intact during the 1920s and 1930s, several major Art Deco-style buildings were built in the district.

The institutional architecture of the district includes buildings executed in a variety of the architectural styles which were popular for such building types during the Period of Significance. The earliest extant institutional buildings in the district are executed in the Romanesque and Gothic Revival styles. The advent of the twentieth century in Bradford brought with it the use of Late Gothic Revival style design and that of the Colonial Revival.

The formally-derived architecture of the Bradford Downtown Historic District occurs concomitantly with vernacular local building traditions executed by unidentified carpenters and builders. These buildings are co-equal in importance with the more elite-styled architecture which characterizes much of the district.

Additional Criterion C significance for the Bradford Downtown Historic District is derived from the district's association with several regionally-prominent architects and master builders. The earliest attribution is to Bradford's William Hanley, a contractor and founder of the Hanley Brick Company, whose "Bradford reds" became the brick of choice throughout the region in the early years of the twentieth century. Hanley built the St. Bernard's Roman Catholic Church in 1892 (88 Corydon Street) and the Federal Building/U.S. Post Office (80 East Corydon Street) in 1912-13.

Operating concomitant with Hanley was Edward N. Unruh (1852-1926), whose family was one of the first to settle the Bradford environs. E.N. Unruh worked as assistant superintendent of woodwork on the Atlantic & Chicago Railroad and returned to Bradford c.1892. He spent thirty-two years as a builder in Bradford and also practiced as an architect, in the days prior to formal professional registration requirements. His obituary recorded that "the Bradford Theater (1907; 19-23 South Avenue; destroyed) and many other prominent business buildings and residences in Bradford were constructed by him."[8] Within the district, Unruh was responsible for the 1899-1902 Holley Hotel (149-153 Main Street), the Phoenix Building (1-3 Main and 2-6 Mechanic Street), the Parker Building (16-18 Main Street), and Elosky Building (26-28 Main Street) and the 1912-1913 Federal Building/U.S. Post Office (80 East Corydon Street). Unruh also built the 1914 Elks Lodge (14 Main Street), from designs by Corry, Pennsylvania architect A.P. Mount; Mount also designed the 1912 Bradford Armory at 28 Barbour Street (NR 1991).

Architect F.C. French designed three buildings within the district. His 1903 James R. Evans Building (80-82 Main Street) is executed in the Colonial Revival style, while the 1902 Schonblom Building (101-103 Main Street) and the 1903 Option House (39 Main Street) are Neo-Classical Revival in style.

Pittsburgh architect Frederic Merrick was responsible for the First Presbyterian Church (54 East Corydon Street) and the firm of Laurie and Smith, of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, designed the Hooker-Fulton Building (119-125 Main Street).

A noted nineteenth-century architect, Enoch Curtis was responsible for the design of the 1898 Bradford City Hall at 15 Kennedy Street. Curtis practiced from Fredonia, New York, and was active in the Oil Region of Pennsylvania in the 1890s, designing the National Transit Building and the Episcopal Church, both in the early 1890s in Oil City.

The district's largest building, the 1930-1931 Hooker-Fulton Building, is the work of the prominent Harrisburg, Pennsylvania firm of Lawrie and Green. Established in 1922, the firm principals were Richard Lawrie, Jr. and W. Edwin Green; Lawrie was recognized as the business and engineering aspects of the firm, while Green was the partnership's lead designer.[9] Lawrie and Green was responsible for a broad array of public and private buildings throughout Pennsylvania. During the same period of construction of the Hooker-Fulton Building, the firm was also designing the 1929 North Office Building, the 1931 Pennsylvania State Farm Show Building in Harrisburg, and the 1932 Central Y.W.C.A., all in Harrisburg. In addition to the Hooker-Fulton Building, in Bradford the firm also designed the Bradford Country Club.[10]

Viewing the district in the context of the region, the Bradford Downtown Historic District compares with several historic districts within an eighty-mile radius, many of which reflect the boom-to-bust cycle of petroleum in Pennsylvania. The Warren Historic District, located west of Bradford, is considerably larger and contains a large residential neighborhood associated with its commercial core area. The downtown area of Ridgway, about forty miles to the south, contains a rich collection of commercial architecture and a significant assembly of residential buildings. Three mixed-use National Register districts in Oil City (the Downtown, North Side, and the South Side Historic Districts) contain significant resources, but not of the overall quality that is seen in Bradford. The Johnsonburg and DuBois Historic Districts, about thirty and sixty miles to the south, respectively, are considerably smaller (about sixty resources each) and do not posses the overall cohesion seen in Bradford. The downtowns of Kane and Smethport, also in McKean County, developed during the same general era as did Bradford's and are linked to the fortunes of petroleum in the Bradford field. Both of these are much smaller communities, although Smethport is the county seat. Kane contains a rich collection of commercial buildings; Smethport's architectural inventory is smaller and less ornate. The Bradford Downtown Historic District compares favorably to the listed districts in Warren and Ridgway, to the eligible Ridgway Historic District, to downtown Smethport, and possesses a significantly larger and more impressive collection of commercial architecture than is found in the Oil City district or in the Johnsonburg and DuBois Historic Districts. Bradford is clearly a significant representative of the pattern in commercial prosperity which was born of the oil boom of northwestern Pennsylvania. The district retains its historic architectural integrity and contains examples of many of the styles of design which were popular during its eighty-year Period of Significance.


  1. Hatch,Vernelle, Illustrated History of Bradford, McKean County, Pennsylvania (Bradford: Burk Brothers, 1901), p.23.
  2. Ibid., p.24.

  3. Stone, Rufus Barrett, McKean: The Governor's County (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1926), p. 113.
  4. Ross, Philip Allegheny Oil: The Historic Petroleum Industry on the Allegheny National Forest (Warren: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, 1996), p.17.
  5. Stone, op. cit.
  6. "Famous Fires of Bradford," unpublished and undated MSS in the collection of the Bradford Landmarks Society.
  7. Water flooding refers to the practice of secondary recovery of petroleum by which crude oil is forced to the surface by artificial pressure-flooding the sand with water which forces the oil to the surface.
  8. Unruh obituary, Bradford Era, February 26, 1926.
  9. Green had been a World War I pilot whose architectural education at the Carnegie Institute of Technology was interrupted by the War. He flew in France with the 94th Aero Squadron and designed the famous "hat-in-the-ring" insignia by which the 94th was known.
  10. Information on Lawrie & Green was taken from the 1993 National Register of Historic Places nomination for the Dauphin County Court House. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which was another of the firm's commissions.


Costik, Sally Ryan Around Bradford 2 vols. [Images of America Series] Dover, New Hampshire: Arcadia Publishing, 1997, 1998.

Greater Bradford Bicentennial Committee. Greater Bradford Bicentennial 1776-1976. Bradford: 1976.

Hatch, Vernelle A., ed. Illustrated History of Bradford, McKean County, Pennsylvania . Bradford: Burk Brothers, 1901.

History of the Counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron, & Potter, Pennsylvania. 2 vols. Chicago: J.H. Beers, 1890.

Johnston, Mary Ann. A Pocket of Peace: A History of Bradford, 1879-1979. Bradford: Pennbank, 1988.

National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Dauphin County Court House, 1993.

Riseman, Joseph, Jr. History of Northwestern Pennsylvania. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1943.

Ross, Philip. Allegheny Oil: The Historic Petroleum Industry on the Allegheny National Forest. Warren: U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, 1996.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, Bradford Pennsylvania, New York: Sanborn Map Company.

Stone, Rufus Barrett. McKean: The Governor's County. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1926.

Taylor, David, Taylor and Taylor Assoc. Bradford Downtown Historic District, nomination document, 2000, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Barbour Street • Boylston Street • Davis Street • Main Street • South Avenue • West Washington Street