Though organized as a borough in 1852 under Venango County, Tionesta was not made the county seat of Forest County until 1866. At that time the population doubled with the discovery of oil to the south and the corresponding boom in the lumber trade. The town, laid out in a grid pattern on a flat, wide curve of land on the east side of the Allegheny River, offered a natural site for a riverboat camp, and the village was often populated with crews from Warren or from New York on their way to Pittsburgh. Tionesta Creek (the name “Tionesta” means “it penetrates the land”) was a good site for a lumber mill and building flatboats since it had direct access to the Allegheny River.
The borough's dependence on the lumber industry attracted competent woodworkers whose talents are displayed in several residential properties, including the Greek Revival house (1850) at 129 Elm Street with corner pilasters, wide cornice, and simple porch columns on a large lot facing away from the Allegheny River, and the two frame houses with wood siding cut to emulate stone at 301 Davis Street and 607 Elm Street. An imposing brownstone Gothic Revival church (1908; 208 Elm Street), built for the United Methodist Church of Tionesta, adds to the substantial buildings along the main street.
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