Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

Marina del Rey, California

Venice Beach Oil Fields

The short oil boom of Venice Beach, and its swift removal from the tourism-laden landscape. 

Venice, which was supported almost completely on the amusement industry, was not faring well during the Depression – at least not until the most wonderful thing imaginable happened for a town in danger of going under. That’s right, Venice struck oil, just in the nick of time.

On Dec. 18th, 1929, The Ohio Oil Company built a well just east of the Grand Canal, and soon the well was producing 3000 barrels of black gold a day. The news spread like wildfire, and oil fever commenced, with residents mobbing City Hall demanding re-zoning to allow for more drilling.

By June of the next year, the rapidly expanding oil field was producing $75,000 a week, and by September, 50 wells were in operation, blacking out the coastline and turning the view into an industrial nightmare. While the money was good, the environmental price was heavy, oil waste flooding the lagoons and blackening the once-lovely canals with sludge. Schools near the wells were closed for safety reasons and the beach was horribly polluted despite efforts by concerned citizens to protect it.

Despite the pollution and problems that came with it, Venice continued to drill as the opportunity was just too good to pass up. By 1931, the Venice oil field was the 4th most productive field in the state with 340 wells in use. However, in 1932 the wells were finally tapped and production dropped drastically – it was a good run but a short one, and now there was a big mess to clean up.

By the tail end of 1942 a total of 47,488,128 barrels of bubbling crude had been sucked out of the shoreline, and with the wells running dry the unsightly oil derricks were being removed as the population grew and the city yearned to get its beach back. By 1972 almost all of the wells had been capped, and by the early ’90s the field was dry.

Now, all that remains is one lone oil derrick camouflaged to look like a lighthouse, and the dirty remnants of an oil boom that came and went.

Contributed by
Rachel
Edited by