Oil Refineries in Olean, NY

In the 1830's and 1840's, Olean continued to grow as a small commercial and agricultural center for the region. The coming of the Erie Railroad at mid-century, augmented Olean's growth with an emphasis on tanning and lumbering as the main industries. Following the discovery of oil during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Olean developed as one of the largest oil storage and refining centers in Western New York. As a result, residential construction increased significantly in the area north of State Street and west of Union Street.

The discovery of oil in Pennsylvania and Southwestern New York produced a booming new industry, whose effects were most felt in the Olean area between 1877 and 1890. In that period, large tracts of land around Olean and to the west constituted the largest oil storage fields then in existence. Oil refineries and associated facilities, established Olean as a principal oil center for the area, because of its railroad transportation network to outside markets across the country. On Thanksgiving Day, 1874, oil reached Olean as the result of the completion of a fourteen and a quarter mile pipeline constructed by the Olean Petroleum Company Ltd. from the Pennsylvania state line area of Cattaraugus County. Oil going through the pipeline to Olean grew from a few hundred barrels to 20,000 barrels each day by 1877. Terminal and transfer facilities were provided on the Buffalo, New York and Philadelphia Railroad, where oil tank railroad cars, numbering as many as 150 per day were loaded. Oil prospecting began in the immediate vicinity of Olean in 1876, north and east of the ridge, which separated the Olean oil area from the fields around Bradford, Pennsylvania. Within three years, approximately 150 profitable wells were operating in the Olean oil area.

In 1877, the Wing, Wilbur and Company established the first oil refinery in Olean, followed by Standard Oil (In 1881, the Standard Oil Company completed a six inch oil pipeline to carry crude oil from fields in western New York and Ohio to company refineries in Bayonne, New Jersey.), which produced stove gasoline, naphtha, white illuminating oil, fuel oil, coke and barrels for oil storage and transport. The Acme Oil Refinery moved to Olean from Titusville, Pennsylvania, after a fire destroyed their facility in 1880, followed by the Vacuum Oil Company (forerunner of the Mobil Oil Company), which purchased and enlarged the Eclipse Lubricating Oil Company in 1890. Mr. William M. Irish, Superintendent of Acme Oil Company resided at 219 North Third Street. Olean became one of the largest oil centers for both storage and refining in western New York State. As a result of the refining business, the population of the village doubled between 1880 and 1885 and in 1893, Olean was incorporated as a city with a population of over 10,000 people. The oil industry experienced a decline in western New York due to fires, a wildly fluctuating market and suffered from problems with production techniques that were limited by period technology.

-From LivingPlaces.com - the Oak Hill Park Historic District in Olean

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