Plumer Block

Franklin City, Venango County, PA

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The Plumer Block (also known as the Hancock Building; 1205 Liberty Street) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [1]

The three story Plumer Block sits on the corner of Liberty and 12th Streets, across the street from the Venango County courthouse in downtown Franklin. The flat roofed red brick structure is a local example of the Victorian Italianate style.

The first story is used for commercial purposes and has large radiating arches with massive keystone forming the window openings. Some of the shop entrances have been altered from the original by the addition of Victorian store fronts with rectangular windows. The first story brick and stone trim have been painted white setting it off from the up two story's which remain red brick.

The second story has elongated 2-over-2 windows with stilted segmental or straight-sided arches associated with the Victorian Italianate style. Between each window on the second and third story runs a raised panel of decorative brickwork which helps to tie these two stories together visually. At the top of each panel is a small decorative stone arch.

Between the second and third stories is a decorative belt course of stone and recessed rectangular sections. The third story windows are also 2-over-2 but have semi-circular stone arches. Above the third story windows the frieze and overhanging lip are highly decorated with large and small dentils. Alterations have been mainly interior except for the altered store fronts and addition of a fire escape. Originally all the trim was left, the natural brownstone color but today all the stonework has been painted.


The Plumer Block was built in 1866 at a time when Franklin was the booming county center for the infant Pennsylvania oil industry. Only seven years earlier, Drake had drilled his first oil well at nearby Titusville.

Built by Arnold Plumer, an outstanding citizen of the early oil period, the Plumer Block housed the first bank in Franklin, many commercial ventures and numerous lawyer's office.

Arnold Plumer served as sheriff, prothonotary, clerk of courts, recorder of deeds and register of wills of Venango County. He was a member of the 25th and 27th Congress of the United States, the United States Marshall for the western district of Pennsylvania, an Erie Extension Canal Commissioner and a State Treasurer. As a close friend of James Buchanan, his assistance helped in Buchanan's election to the Presidency, for which he was offered cabinet post, which he declined because of poor health.

Located across the street from the Venango County Courthouse, the Plumer Block has enjoyed an ideal location for business for over 100 years. Built in the Victorian Italianate style it predates the courthouse by three years which is also of the same style. Little altered over the years, the Plumer Block maintains the character and richness of the early oil period in Venango County.

Today the building is know as the Hancock Building, named after James D. Hancock who purchased the building in 1911. In 1866 when the building was completed, Mr. Hancock was one of the original tenants having occupied a suit of law offices for 46 years before he purchased the building. He was attorney for the Allegheny Railroad, the Pittsburgh-Titusville, and Buffalo Railroads, and the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad. Later he was attorney for most of all valuable oil properties in Venango County.

The Plumer Block with its attractive white trim adds to the character to the downtown area and the nearby courthouse.


Irwin, Alfred. "Hancock Building Predates Courthouse"

Newton, J. H. ed. History of Venango County. Columbus: J. A. Caldwell, 1879.

  1. YaSenka, Kathryn and Zacher, Susan,Plumber Block, nomination document, 1977, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

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