Bradford, Pennsylvania, (population 9,500) is located in McKean County, in northwestern Pennsylvania near the New York state border.
The town was established in the early 19th century by settlers who came to the thickly forested region in search of land and timber. During the 1840s and 1850s, the settlement of Bradford held only 300 inhabitants, but when the first oil well was discovered mid-century, people poured into the area, and Bradford flourished.
Lewis Emery, Jr., brought the town to the peak of its success, producing, refining, and transporting oil throughout the world. The Bradford Oil field produced more than 633 million barrels of oil from 1871 to 1967. Today, wood and oil, along with glass products, continue to be the area’s leading industries.
In 2005, the Bradford Main Street Program established Main Street Mercantile in a vacant building. The Mercantile brought together area tradesmen, artisans, and merchandisers in a prominent retail location in Bradford’s National Register of Historic Places-listed Historic District. The Bradford Landmark Society also displays merchandise and memorabilia there.
The Landmark Society operates two main branches. The Herbig Bakery, which dates back to 1878 and is likely the oldest frame building still in use in the city of Bradford, contains historical and genealogical material. The Crook Farm Homestead includes an 1847 farmhouse; School House No. 8, built in 1850 (some say 1889); and the Bank Building, a recent addition with a façade similar to the original First National Bank of Bradford and a replica bank tellers’ cage. Other buildings that have been moved to or built on the site include a barn, carpenter shop, blacksmith shop, and railroad station. The Crook Farm and Homestead offers living history programs for Pennsylvania and New York grade school students every spring.
Bradford offers an audio self-guided walking tour of the historic downtown, as well as periodic guided tours. One featured building is the former headquarters of Lewis Emery’s oil and gas production company, built circa 1919, which has housed the Bradford Era newspaper since 1939. Also featured on the tour are the neoclassical revival Option House, designed in 1902, and the Carnegie Library, built circa 1900.
Designated a Preserve America Community in March 2008.