First successful oil refinery in California undergoing stabilization efforts

City of Santa Clarita logoBuilt in the 19th century, the Santa Clarita Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall played a pivotal role in the early development of the Santa Clarita Valley. As the first successful oil refinery to be built and operated in California, the refinery was recently added as a Historic Site in the National Register of Historic Places and has been listed in the California Register of Historical Resources.

The Pioneer Oil Refinery was built by California Star Oil Works (later Chevron) in 1876 and was used to process oil discovered in Pico Canyon until around 1888 when its use was changed to instead provide water to the oil drilling operation at Pico Number 4 in Mentryville. The first historical recognition for the refinery came in 1930 when the site was recorded as California’s first commercial oil refinery.

In 1975, the site was identified as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark as well. Chevron donated the Pioneer Oil Refinery site to the City of Santa Clarita in 1997, and since then, the City Council has worked to preserve and restore this one-of-a-kind piece of American history.

The City Council recently approved more than $250,000 to stabilize and restore the structures located on the Pioneer Oil Refinery site. While the site is not currently open to the public, future plans include the creation of an educational park to share the history of the refinery with residents and visitors of all ages.

Residents can view the National Register of Historic Places by visiting To learn more about the Pioneer Oil Refinery, please contact Lance O’Keefe, Recreation and Community Services Manager, at (661) 250-3716.