Restoring a Piece of Oil City History

By Ricki Chaikin, Co-Owner Reclaimed Relics as Featured on Abandoned

This magnificent flag pole once towered from the top of the Oil City National Bank. Little known today, Oil City, Pennsylvania, was once a sprawling oil boomtown. In the 1800s, when the first commercial oil well was dug up nearby, this town was where Rockefeller and other business titans chose to expand their vast wealth.

The bank was organized in 1863 as the Oil City Savings Bank; in 1899 the name was changed to the Oil City National Bank. In recent years, the town has declined. As local oil wells have dried up, major companies like Pennzoil and Quaker State have moved their headquarters from Oil City; the local economy has suffered and the bank has been vacant since 2001.

This flag pole remains a powerful symbol of the town’s story and proud American spirit. Built masterfully, its pivot and counterweight still move effortlessly, even after years of disuse and neglect. Jay was able to restore it back to its original glory. Decades of exposure meant that he had to take its base apart bolt by bolt, refit or manufacture broken pieces, sandblast and paint every piece, and then put it all back together. After the pole received one coat of epoxy primer and one coat of white epoxy paint, the globe was repaired, painted gold and reattached. We then put on a new halyard and brass snaphooks and raised a 6 by 10 ft. American made, American flag! Included with the flag and flagpole is a water color that we feel belongs with this flagpole. This painting was commissioned by Emmett C Bailey Architects from Oil City, Pa as a rendering of their proposed building project. Included in that rendering was a large flagpole atop the bank!

Throughout our young country’s history, American pride has shined. Oil City represents the economical success possible in our great country and embodies the American dream. But even during our most difficult times, our patriotism has prevailed. We are extremely proud to give this flagpole a new life and it our sincere hope that you enjoy this beautifully restored piece of Americana that embodies the rich and beautiful history of both Oil City and the United States of America. Find out more about the flagpole on the Reclaimed Relics site.

Tonight at 9P on Abandoned: Oil City, Pennsylvania Bank Jay’s salvaging crew seeks riches in an old abandoned bank that was built to hold the spectacular fortunes of Americas big oil barons. Since this was once a high-class establishment, Jay believes treasures may still be hidden inside. Top picks include an antique cash counter and an elegant mail chute that extends through the upper stories of the building, as well as a grand, giant flagpole that once stood proudly and prominently atop of this beautiful building. To see some of their discoveries (and find out how you can own them), visit the Abandoned Finds From Oil City gallery.

Winner Winner Steak Dinner: Jay promises a steak dinner to whoever finds the best salvage in under an hour.

Breaking into the Vault: Jay gives Mark the herculean task of cracking into a ten ton bank vault in hope of hidden treasures.


  1. Steve Lockhart
    Central PA
    September 13, 2012, 7:35 am

    Thanks, Megan for this great article. It is bitter sweet however as I am a native of Oil City. It is really nice to see my old home town again and the landmarks that I am familiar but at the same It does hurt me to see these things picked over like a carcass. I guess they are doing no good just abandoned as they are. Kind of kicking myself that I never approached these property owners myself to do this! haha Thanks again for this nice piece

  2. Carol Rhoades
    Atlanta GA
    September 13, 2012, 6:00 pm

    Megan, I too am from Oil City, as were my ancestors . I’m so grateful for this wonderful nostalgic” piece on the City we love so much. I’ve been away for 50 years, but Oil City will always be “home”. I store many extraordinary memories (,too many to mention in this short space) in my heart, among which is the bank building. The sound of the money transactions, the smells, and many of the things shown on the program such as the scales and the long gone brass tellers cage. Last night was a lovely walk down memory lane. Thanks

  3. Kymm Beaver
    Virginia Beach, VA
    September 13, 2012, 6:43 pm

    Nice to the town on TV but sad to see the condition of the bank and the other buildings that used to be busy businesses. I remember the bank, my grandfather used to work there before he passed away in 1972.

    The opening scene of the show looks very familiar, wish I knew where it was shot.

  4. jessica pearce
    September 14, 2012, 10:22 am

    lived in yougnstown,ohio for 30 years and going up to oil city,pa was something we did every fall..the drive is absolutely gorg! this episode made me miss home..and as for that reznor heater,my brother in law is one of the engineers there 🙂

  5. Gail Bentzinger
    September 14, 2012, 2:49 pm

    The owners are so reluctant to sell, why do they call in the first place? Will they, or their children, ever use half the stuff they want to hold on to? I’d much rather have the cash.!

  6. George
    Central New Jersey
    September 14, 2012, 11:02 pm

    Sad to see people like this buy pieces of history that should be kept in Oil City. That bank building would be a great place to renevate for some kind of business. I have been looking for a small two or three story brick building to use for an Art Gallery, Photo Studio, and Graphic Arts Business but they are hard to find since I live in New Jersey and most old factory buildings like that have been domolished or renevated into expensive office space…

  7. Gretchen Bish
    Pace FL
    September 16, 2012, 2:05 pm

    My husband is from the “OC” and most of his family is still there. He joined the USN in 86 because of the economy and it is sad to see the poverty that exists in this once boom town! If a developer would bring in some industry to the hard working people of PA–not overseas- these small towns would thrive again. I have been going to the OC since 89–and it is depressing- but the people are kind and the “salt of the earth.” I find it hard to believe people grow up there and stay there–but it is pretty country! Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

  8. Dan Nester
    Albuquerque, NM
    September 22, 2012, 8:42 pm

    I lived in OC 1956-1960. My first after-school job was in an office that was one of several that occupied the top florr of the OC National Bank Building. It was the Pennsylvania Grade Crude Oil Association, an organization that existed to protect the use of the label “Pennsylvania Grade” to true oil deposits and the use of the attribute by only registered PA-grade oil workers and firms. My friend, Lou Adelson, went to Titusville for the first day cover issue of the stamp and cancellation that celebrated 100 years of the first drilled well. We bought stamps and envelopes from the Tituville Post Officeand went to a nearby hotel (the Drake, I suppose) where we stamped all of the envelopes while watching Dave Garroway broadcasting the Today show from the well site. We completed many hundreds, for the PA-Grade Crude Oil Assoc. members and promotional sets, and then lugged them all back to the Post Office for the official first-day-issue cancellation.I still have my envelope and additional stamps.

  9. Sandy Hawks Lange
    Decatur, Ga
    October 30, 2012, 9:57 am

    Watching the NatGeo special brought back so many memories and a bank official by the name of Carl Carey use to lift me up on that wonderful Toledo scale and I remember going to the Thrift Drugstore which was across the street from the bank and drinking rootbeer floats and eating fries I celebrated my 50th h.s class reunion in OIl City this past summer and I always love the feeling of going home. Oil City was a great place to grow up and I have so many happy memories.