In 1876, oil was discovered in Pico Canyon making it the first successful oil strike in California. Charles Alexander Mentry discovered the well and became the superintendent of an oil company that would later become Chevron. A town was constructed around the well and took on the name Mentryville, named after Charles. The well itself was dubbed Pico No. 4.
With expert drillers arriving from Pennsylvania to work on the well, the population of the town exploded and so did the number of structures. The town grew to include bunkhouses, barns, machine shops, houses, a dance hall, and a schoolhouse. Around 100 families called Mentryville home, including Mentry himself, who maintained a 13-room mansion in town.
As oil production slowed during the 1920s, many of the town’s residents left the following decade. However, caretakers continued to live onsite until the 1990s. This made Pico No. 4 the longest continually producing oil well in the world.
Today, Mentryville is located in a conservancy area, with trails and several structures still standing including Mentry’s mansion, the schoolhouse, and a barn. There is also a camp and recreation area further up the canyon.
Exploring the area gives visitors an opportunity to discover the remnants of a once-thriving town and take a journey into the past. Mentryville has also been used over the years for scenes in various movies and television shows.
Know Before You Go
There is a $5 fee for parking. An automated kiosk is located in the parking area. There is a paved road that provides access to most Mentryville areas. There is a portable restroom in the parking lot. Unfortunately, the structures are not open but you can peek through many of the windows. Trail maps are available online.