03 June 2009

Olinda Oil Field History: 1920s Gasoline Plant Explosion!

These four photographs capture a common and highly dangerous event at oil fields throughout history: fires and explosions at wells, refineries and other structures. In this case, the incident happened at the Olinda oil field sometime in the 1920s, judging from the cars, the clothing, the wooden oil derricks and the "Velox" paper by Kodak on which the images were printed.

What the photos show is a tin structure with the eastern portion heavily damaged by an explosion and dark smoke from the accompanying fire rising from the building. The only inscriptions, written in ink, on the reverse identify the location as "Hall's Hill" and the event as a "gasoline plant explosion."

There is no date, no company identified, and no specific name of the field, though it is clearly Olinda. This can be discerned from the hills off to the north and east, the fact that the Santa Ana Mountains can be seen way off in the distance on one image, and that there is mention on one image of the "Santa Fe" water tank and shed. This was the Santa Fe lease on what is now the Olinda Ranch subidivision (an access of which is Santa Fe Road.)

Given this, it is clear the location of the explosion and of "Hall's Hill" is to the west, perhaps to the west of today's Valencia Avenue, then called Olinda Boulevard. It is possible that this is somewhere north of the present location of Olinda Nursery, northwest of Valencia Avenue and Lambert Road and about where the Columbia Oil Company had its lease.

If anyone has a clearer idea of the location of this site and knows anything about "Hall's Hill," I would appreciate knowing about it. As always, clicking on an image will give a zoomed view with good clarity.

These photos are provided courtesy of the Homestead Museum, City of Industry.

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