Richfield Tower, Downtown Los Angeles

Beneath the mesh radio tower in the right center of the picture is the Richfield building, the erstwhile headquarters of Richfield Oil of California.

Richfield was incorporated in 1905 and opened its first service station at Slauson and Central in Los Angeles in 1917. The building in the photo, a black and gold art-deco masterpiece, was completed in 1929 on the cusp of the Great Depression.

Richfield would bounce between receivership and prosperity during the 1930s, and in February 1942 had its Ellwood Oil Field in Santa Barbara County bombarded by the Japanese submarine I-17.

The company prospered with the war and the following boom, becoming one of the launch sponsors at Disneyland and discovering Alaska’s first major oil field.

The merger boom of the 1960s, however, would see Richfield combined with Atlantic Petroleum, becoming Atlantic Richfield and later ARCO. The headquarters building, an architectural jewel in the tiara of the downtown skyline, was demolished in 1968. Just as sad and permanent, ARCO’s purchase by BP, and its pending sale to Tesoro, removed yet another headquarters from Southern California.

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Author: David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.

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