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

  • Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

    Photos of the Week: Water Forest, Royal Barge, Abandoned Boxers

    A caged Nativity scene in California, the new prime minister of Finland, “big air” in Beijing, a volcanic eruption in New Zealand, Christmas lights in Philadelphia, and much more

  • Borut Zivulovic / Reuters

    A Visit From Krampus—Saint Nick’s Dark Companion

    While tales of Saint Nicholas feature him bringing gifts to good boys and girls, ancient folklore in Europe’s Alpine region also speaks of Krampus, a frightening beastlike creature who looks for naughty children to punish in horrible ways—or possibly to drag back to his lair in a sack.

  • 2019: The Year in Volcanic Activity

    Out of an estimated 1,500 active volcanoes, 50 or so erupt every year, spewing steam, ash, toxic gases, and lava.

  • Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Wayward Tee, Pollution Pod, Windy Wall

    Christmas lights in New York City, fall colors in Japan, a sandy traffic jam in Miami, the Tactual Museum of Athens, a Santa run in Glasgow, and much more