Columbia-Montour Quarterly Vol. 8: April-June 2023

A Labor of Love

the story behind the Pump House

by Jenn Puckett

What is a pump house? If you guessed it had something to do with a gas station, you would not be too far off the mark. Did you know that Pennsylvania has an oil pipeline history? Before I started my research, I had some idea of the Keystone State’s involvement. However, after doing some homework, I found myself going deeper down the rabbit hole of this fascinating piece of PA history. The Pump House property, located ten miles southeast of Bloomsburg along Catawissa Creek, is a labor of love. In 1989, Doug Hopkins was working across the creek when he first saw the abandoned property. Doug was an artist from New York City, and was keeping his eyes out for a new studio space. The buildings on the proerty were set to be demolished, so he stepped in. For decades since, Doug has been committed to restoring the site. It is now a gorgeous destination for weddings and other events, a bed and breakfast, an art studio and more. Now let’s take a look at the history of the Pump House. In 1878, three men hatched a plan for the world’s first long- distance underground oil pipeline which would transport oil from well to refinery more quickly and efficiently than the horse-drawn wagons of the time. Pumping stations were needed every fifty miles along this long route to keep pressure on the pipeline so that the oil could reach its destination. The Pump House Bed and Breakfast is one of the only properties in the country in which the both the original homes of the foremen and the large brick buildings

remain. Many workers were needed at each pump house, some living onsite and others living nearby. There were two foreman’s houses, one for each 12-hour shift. I received some additional historical background from Doug Hopkins: After the 1849 gold rush in California came the lesser- known but far more globally influential 1859 oil rush in Pennsylvania. After the first oil well was discovered in Titusville, the oil industry boomed. Men streamed into the state to strike their own oil and get rich from the profits, but by 1878, John Rockefeller was the only man getting rich. To break the Standard Oil Company’s strict monopoly on almost all oil drilling and refining, Bryon Benson, Robert Hopkins, and David McKelvy designed a new and apparently impractical system: a pipeline stretching more than one hundred miles across Pennsylvania, from

Historic photo of the Pump House property.


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