The Urban Oil Fields of Los Angeles

In the 1890s, the small town of Los Angeles (population 50,000) began a transformation driven by the discovery and drilling of some of the most productive oil fields in history. By 1930, California was producing nearly one quarter of the world's oil output, and its population had grown to 1.2 million. In the decades that followed, many wells closed, but even more opened, surrounded by urban and suburban growth. Machinery was camouflaged, loud noises were abated, methane pockets were vented, as residents learned to live side-by-side with oil production facilities. To this day, oil fields in the Los Angeles Basin remain very productive, and modern techniques have centralized operations into smaller areas or moved offshore. Gathered here are images of some of the sites and machinery still in use among the homes, golf courses, and shopping malls of Los Angeles.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Omar Torres / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Earthquake in Mexico City

    Earlier today, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake shook Mexico City, rattling skyscrapers and sending millions into the streets.

  • Stewart Tomlinson / U.S. Geological Survey

    A Photo Trip Through Yellowstone National Park

    Yellowstone, now 145 years old, was the first national park established in the world.

  • Scott Olson / Getty

    A Weekend of Protest in St. Louis

    On Friday, a judge in St. Louis found Jason Stockley, a white former St. Louis police officer, not guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a black man named Anthony Lamar Smith.

  • Edgard Garrido / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 9/9–9/15

    Hurricanes Jose and Irma, an earthquake in Mexico, Cassini’s grand finale above Saturn, and much more

Join the Discussion