Venango County Historical Society Hosts Tour of River Ridge Mansion

The land in Cranberry Township that was purchased by Joseph C. Sibley on November 15th 1911, had previously been Robert Lamberton’s Argeon Farm. Soon afterward, Sibley purchased the land surrounding the farm for a total of 1,200 acres. In May 1913, seventy-five Italian stonemasons began working to build the mansion and 22 other buildings on the farm entirely out of stone quarried on the property. Sibley moved into his new home on November 29th 1913, and shortly afterward, married his second wife and niece through his first marriage, Ida Rew.


Sibley claimed in 1914 that River Ridge Farm was the most modern and self-sustaining farm in the eastern part of the country, and that claim was undisputed. The outbuildings on the property housed a variety of farm and wild animals, and three times a year, Sibley held Farmer’s Days when anyone could come to learn about innovations in agriculture. He also hosted skating and sledding parties every December 23rd that were open to anyone in Franklin and Oil City who cared to attend. Shortly after breakfast on the morning of May 19, 1926, Joseph Sibley died. His wife, Ida, continued to live in the mansion, and in 1948, most of the contents of the house were sold at auction by his daughter, Josephine Sibley Heathcote. In 1953, the mansion became a seminary for the White Fathers of Africa. The current owner, Life Ministries, Inc., has operated the mansion as a retreat and learning center since 1974.


The Society will host two tours of River Ridge Mansion this year on Tuesday, June 7th and Tuesday, June 28th 2016. Both tours will begin at 6:00 p.m. and will be followed by refreshments. The cost of each ticket is $25.00 per person, and reservations must be made in advance.


For more information, a map with directions to River Ridge, or to make tour reservations, please contact the Society at 814-432-8260 or at