Pioneer Oil Refinery Historic Photos


With thanks to the Santa Clarita Historical Society, the California Historical Society, and Don Ball.


This is the earliest known photo of the refinery behind Andrew's Station. It was still active at this time. There is no known photo of the refinery when it was at Lyon's Station. Jerry Reynolds states in the "Pico Canyon Chronicles" that the date of the photo is 1879, although most sources say that it is from the 1880's.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
American Petroleum Institute Photograph and Film Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Used by permission.



From the Standard Oil Bulletin of August 1918. Only still #4 is visible. A tree is covering still #3 and the older stills. The whole area looks pretty overgrown.



From the Los Angeles Herald of March 8, 1919. The Velie was manufactured from 1908 -1929.



About the same view. Very hard to recreate (11/21/2015)



This photo was obviously taken before the 1930 restoration. Still #1 (the gooseneck) is laying on the ground in the right foreground. No chimneys are standing. The smokestack for the boiler is also not standing.

Image courtesy of Don Ball and Chevron



Photo taken in 1930 during the restoration work. This was in the Standard Oil Bulletin of September, 1930, provided to me by Don Ball. Standard's Pico superintendent from 1927 to 1937, Charles Sitzman, led the effort with help from Charles D. Kellogg, one of the refinery's last refiners. Sitzman was the third superintendent after Mentry and Walton Young. After Sitzman, only John Blaney (1937-1938) was called a superintendent. After Blaney, there were only foremans, the last being Frenchy Lagasse



Photo description: "Charles Sitzman and the Pioneer Oil Refinery. Charles in center wearing a vest. His crew restored the Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall, Ca." Photo taken in 1930 during the restoration. The wooden trough for the condenser pipes in the background is not there and a pipe on the boiler (on the right) is not connected to anything yet. This photo was discovered by Lauren Parker on ancestry.com and posted to the Santa Clarita History Buffs facebook page where I saw it. I then received permission from the owner, Merle Cook, to show it here. Thanks Merle.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. It is owned by Merle Cook and was used with his permission. Charles Sitzman (1878-1950) was Merle's grandfather, the father of Barbara Sitzman Cook, Merle's mother.



Photo taken on November 5, 1930 during the dedication ceremony for the refinery restoration. The Los Angeles Times of November 6 reported that more than 300 people were present. The Standard Oil attendees were represented by L. B. Little, the Production Superintendent.

Also reported was that "some of the boys who worked there in the late '70's and early '80's were at the ceremony and spun a yarn or two of those stirring times." And "Walton Young of Altadena, Clay Reynolds of Newhall, J. H. Whitney of Signal Hill and J. W. Saunders of Long Beach, who worked in the field in the early days, were on hand to see the dedication and say a word to the crowd and take a bow." "Little, Sales Manager J. F. Jeffries of Los Angeles district and Supt. H. C. Hanna of the company's El Segundo refinery recited something of the history of the industry."

See the 11/3/1930 Los Angeles Times, the 11/5/1930 Los Angeles Times, and the 11/6/1930 Los Angeles Times for dedication stories.

From left to right are stills 4 (150-barrel), 3 (100-barrel), 2 (20-barrel), 1 (15-barrel), and the steam boiler (partially obscured). Stills 1 and 2 came from Lyon's Station. Stills 3 and 4 were added after the refinery was built here. All the stills have a brick base, with stills 1 and 2 sharing the same base.

Image courtesy of Don Ball and Chevron



Another great photo from Merle Cook. Photo description by Merle: "This photo shows the combined classes of the Mentryville School at the dedication of the Pioneer Oil Refinery. 2nd from the left is my mother, Barbara Sitzman, 5th from the right is my uncle Philip Sitzman." The back of the photo identifies them as: Leena Stearns, Barbara Sitzman, Josh Wooldridge Jr, Bud Dill, Jimmy Stearns, Nicolene Cheney, Phil Sitzman, Freida Brown, Ted Dill, Ruth Wooldridge, Elden Stearns. Photo taken on November 5, 1930, during the dedication ceremony. You can see where they stood from the previous photo because of the flag over the plaque.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. It is owned by Merle Cook and was used with his permission.



Photo of plaque on still 3

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California.
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Collection, CHS-11476. Used by permission.



Labeled in the USC Digital Library as circa 1925, but the 1930 plaque is clearly visible on still #3. This photo was also used in the California History Nugget magazine of January, 1938.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California.
Title Insturance and Trust/C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, CHS-12393. Used by permission.



Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California.
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Collection, CHS-12402. Used by permission.



Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California.
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Collection, CHS-12405. Used by permission.



From the Standard Oiler magazine of August 1953. The man in the photo was Guy Wiggins, a Production Relief Man for Standard Oil at that time.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Barbara Sitzman Cook Collection.



Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California.
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Collection, CHS-37709. Used by permission.



Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California.
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Collection, CHS-12403. Used by permission.





Rare view from the rear showing the wooden trough for the condenser pipes. It's dimensions were 5-ft x 5-ft x 125-ft.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
California Historical Society Collection at the University of Southern California.
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce Collection, CHS-12404. Used by permission.



View showing the condenser pipe setup on the side of the trough

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Historical Society of Southern California Collection - Charles C. Puck Collection. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Used by permission.



Circa 1940's. In this photo you can see two crude oil storage tanks on the hill above the refinery. They are not the original tanks for the refinery because White (1962) reported those as being between 20 and 100 barrel capacity tanks, and the tanks in this photo are much larger. Oil was stored here and transferred to the railroad up until 1943 (according to Don Ball). (Photo by Arthur B. Perkins)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society



This photo I took shows the storage tank above the refinery. It might the same tank as shown in the above photo, but it is not one of the original tanks for the refinery. It is too large and the pipes and tank connections for the pipes do not face the refinery. The same is true of the other tank out of view of this photo. The pipes from the tanks actually travel parallel to this photo directly toward the railroad tracks. Also, I was able to measure the two existing tanks and the one visible here is about a 2145 barrel capacity tank and the other tank out of view is about a 1935 barrel capacity tank.



Circa 1940's (Photo by Arthur B. Perkins)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society



Circa 1940's (Photo by Arthur B. Perkins)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society



Circa 1940's (Photo by Arthur B. Perkins)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society



First sign explaining the refining process. Circa 1940's (Photo by Arthur B. Perkins)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society



By no later then May of 1966 (I've seen a photo of this sign with that date), this sign was being used. Today's sign is unreadable. Note that there appears to be a fence around the refinery at this point.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
American Petroleum Institute Photograph and Film Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Used by permission.



Note the wooden fence around the refinery and the extra smaller tank just behind the larger one on the right

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Used by permission of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.


View of steps down to the stills

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Historical Society of Southern California Collection - Charles C. Puck Collection. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Used by permission.



Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Used by permission of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.


Looks like an old postcard

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Used by permission of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.


Photograph caption dated October 26, 1957 reads, "Refined old refinery - First oil refinery erected in Newhall by J. A. Scott in 1876 to handle Pico Canyon production is visited daily by tourists from all parts of the country. This early day plant is located in Railroad Canyon south of Newhall where oil has been produced for more than half a century." From the Valley Times Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


Unknown man in 1958

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Historical Society of Southern California Collection - Charles C. Puck Collection. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California
Used by permission.



From the Santa Clarita Valley History in Pictures website. See more photo information here. Photo from around 1960. The two stills from the Lyon's Station refinery (Still #1 and 2) on the right and the steam boiler were removed by Standard Oil and set up at the Standard Oil Museum in Richmond, California (which opened in 1961). That museum doesn't exist anymore, but the stills and boiler have been resently (4/2016) been found (by Leon Warden) to be still at the museum site. In the background you can see that some of the wooden trough for the condenser is missing. (Photo by Arthur B. Perkins)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society



This photo is similar to the above photo, except that the more of the brickwork for stills 1 and 2 is missing. In fact, the bricks under still #2 look like they have been totally removed. The wooden trough in the above photo has been repaired. Photo from after 1961 (when stills 1 and 2 were removed) but in the 60's. (Photo by Arthur B. Perkins)

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society



From the early 1960's courtesy of the Center for Sacramento History.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States
Center for Sacramento History, Aubrey Neasham Collection, 1982/078/3301. Used by permission.


Photo probably taken by Barbara Sitzman Cook in 1966.

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and was used by permission of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, Barbara Sitzman Cook Collection.


Similar view of previous image taken on 11/13/2016 by me



From a postcard



Cheese-box style still #4



Refinery from an 1985 DOGGR video. The refinery (and CSO 4) part of the video is shown here (mp4).



Photo taken in 1992 by Cary Moore

Copyright Note: This image is NOT in the public domain and is protected by the copyright laws of the United States.
Used by permission of the Security Pacific National Bank Collection/Los Angeles Public Library.