(pop. 14,452) is the largest city in Cattaraugus County (pop. 80,317) and has an Urban Cluster population of 23,497. Located within the Allegheny Plateau and along the Allegheny River's 30 mile foray through Southwestern New York, Olean is about 1 1/2 hours drive south of Buffalo. Just a few miles north of the Pennsylvania border, Olean's major transportation link is I-86 (Southern Tier Expressway), which ties together the major centers of NY's Southern Tier and Erie, PA.
The small area surrounding Olean is the only part of New York not covered by the last glacial maximum, resulting in a dissected plateau region more rugged than the rounded hills of the rest of New York's portion of the Allegheny Plateau.
Olean was founded in 1804 and grew in the mid-1800s as a timber town and regional transportation center. In the late 1800s, Olean grew further as the oil pipeline hub for the oil boom in Northwestern Pennsylvania. Olean's population peaked in the 1950s at 24,000, which is when the oil industry left the city. Olean has maintained importance as a manufacturing center (Dresser-Rand), HQ of Cutco Cutlery, regional commercial hub and home of St. Bonaventure University.
Allegheny Plateau Vista a few miles southwest of Olean... the Southern Tier of New York is the northernmost extent of Appalachia.
The Allegheny River just south of Downtown
What's this... a centrally-located, walkable, architecturally significant small city high school? That still functions as a high school? A rare sight indeed... normally these buildings end up demolished or converted into office space... replaced by suburban mega-campuses on the edge of town... beyond city sidewalks. Kudos to Olean.
St. Bonaventure (enrollment 2,400) is a Franciscan university on the west side of Olean. Its men's basketball squad made the Final Four in 1970. Notable alums include Fox News business analyst Neil Cavuto.
The Village of Allegany (pop. 1,816) is located just a couple miles west of Olean on the other side of St. Bonaventure's campus. I was expecting to just drive through this area on my way to I-86 and other destinations... assuming these area would be mundane suburbia, but Allegany's gorgeous business district compelled me to stop.