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SURVEY OF KEY STRUCTURES IN OAK HILL PARK AREA BOOSTS BID FOR DESIGNATION AS HISTORIC PLACE

One of the most well-preserved historic collections of architecture in the Southern Tier can be found surrounding Olean's Oak Hill Park.

That's the assessment of the authors of document designed to earn the neighborhood a spot on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

Tricia Henzel of Greater Olean Inc. and Claire L. Ross of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, compiled the information on 82 homes, two churches, a school and a park in an attempt to gain the designation.

The proposed 32.5-acre historic district is bounded by North First Street on the east, Laurens and West Sullivan streets on the north and on the west by the western edge of the park and North Fourth Street.

Most of the neighborhood's homes, dating from as early as 1849, are well-preserved examples of mid-19th-century, late-Victorian and and 20th-century revival architecture, and some homes have been owned by as few as three or four persons, Mrs. Henzel said.

The two churches, the Late Gothic Revival First Presbyterian Church and the Collegiate Gothic Immanuel Lutheran, are located on Laurens Street, within sight of the entrance to the five-acre Oak Hill Park.

The brick and limestone Olean High School, built between 1935 and 1937 at 410 W. Sullivan St., was designed by architects A.W.E. Schoenberg and Carl W. Clark.

It was constructed with Public Works Administration funding and is an example of early 20th-century art deco, according to the application.

Olean Point was founded in early 19th-century by Revolutionary War veteran Adam Hoops.

In the middle of the century, about the time Olean became an incorporated village, thriving railroading, lumber and oil industries created an economic climate that attracted entrepreneurs.

According to the application, the entrepreneurs built their imposing homes and mansions in the area northwest of the main business district.

The three-acre Oak Lawn Cemetery was at the core of the neighborhood. But it became overgrown by 1900, and the remains were moved to Mount View Cemetery.

City officials, the application notes, converted the area to a neighborhood "playground" called Oak Hill Park, but the original formal stairway entrance and mature hardwoods still can be seen.

The proposed district features wrought-iron fences, elaborate scrollwork and landscaping, slate sidewalks and brick pavers.

Mrs. Henzel said the state office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will make a decision on the nomination in early September, with a federal decision expected by mid-November.

"It's the culmination of a very lengthy process," she said.

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