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Santa Maria, California

Betteravia Sugar Plant

Factory that once supported an entire company town of 350. 

The now defunct company town of Betteravia, a name that refers to the French word for beet root, at one time supported a community of 350 residents.

Many were employees at the Union Sugar Company (now a part of Sara Lee Corporation), which persisted in various forms from around the turn of the 20th century until closing permanently in 1993. The facility extracted sucrose from sugar beets, a highly engineered tuber from which thirty percent of the world’s sugar is derived.

It lasted until 1993 (five years after a major dust explosion resulted in the injury of several employees), but most of the residents moved out of the town of Betteravia in the 1950s after the Union Sugar Company decided that it didn’t want to remain in the renting business. The homes were sold for about $50 each.

While most of the town’s 65 cottages and other structures (a schoolhouse, a church, a hotel, a post office, a general store, a gasoline station, a fire department, and an amusement hall) were either moved or razed in the 1960s, the site still boasts two enormous hermetically sealed silos, a more or less intact refinery building, and a towering furnace stack.

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