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Author Topic:   Barnsdall-Rio Grande Oil Company
the poor mans museum
Active Member

Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 04-07-2006 09:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message

For this historical post I have to give credit where credit is due. A friend gave me this little book about the Barnsdall-Rio Grande Company and service station located about 30 miles to the south of me just off Highway 101 on the outskirts of Goleta, California. nochevys posted a picture of this station that he found on the world wide web and I promised that I would share some historical info on this historic station building, so here it comes...

With due credit to the authors of this brochure.

Anybody listening out there?

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 04-07-2006).]

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Bob Richards
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Posts: 473
From: Longview, WA
Registered: Feb 2005

posted 04-07-2006 09:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Bob Richards   Click Here to Email Bob Richards     Edit/Delete Message
Curt of course we're listening. I wish that the history lesson's in school had been this intertaining. Of course hard to see the rock the teacher wrote on whenever a large dinosour went by, not bad when a small one blocked my view, but a big sucker could take most of the day to move. And as some of the older students know, it was hard to make a pictograph of a important event. Especially if you couldn't see when the teacher became a T-Rex's lunch.lol

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Ken Bird
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Posts: 284
From: Carstairs, Alberta,formerly Saskatoon,Sk.
Registered: Feb 2006

posted 04-07-2006 09:52 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ken Bird   Click Here to Email Ken Bird     Edit/Delete Message
We're listening up here Curt.Fire away!Ken.

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the poor mans museum
Active Member

Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 04-07-2006 10:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Thanks Guys!

Note: I liberally cite the authors of “Sentinel at Ellwood” and credit them for their excellent work.

The Barnsdall Rio Grande service station was built in 1929 and is one of the most architecturally significant service station in California and perhaps the United States. Constructed in the popular Spanish colonial revival style of its time, it was designed by the same architectural firm that was responsible for many of the attractive Richfield service stations of the same time period.

One of the most notable features of the station was its vertical elongation (sounds like a phallic term or the promise of an herbal remedy). It covered only 450 square feet at the base but soared 40 feet into the air. The third floor of the tower held a 2,000 gallon water storage tank which provided pressurized water to the station.

The station was situated at the entrance to the oil field owned by the Barnsdall-Rio Grande Oil Company and was intended to be a corporate showpiece. The first operator of the station was D.M. Tinsler. Under his management the station received a beautification award from the Garden Club of Santa Barbara and the Montecito Roadside Committee. The Montecito Roadside committee was particulary concerned about the unsightly accumulation of signage around service stations and along the roadways. The contest judges declared the grounds to be “finely kept” and relatively free from signs. In the years to come the station would receive many other awards for “excellent appearance”.

Today the station is located on a side road, but when it was originally built is was on the Coast Highway (now 101) and undoubtedly attracted the attention of the highway traveler. Even if the motorist was not in need of services they would be compelled to stop just to admire the architectural beauty of this unique station. If the service station didn’t stop them, the adjoining restaurant would.

More to follow (tomorrow)...

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Thunder II
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Posts: 1675
From: Elbert County Colorado
Registered: Jan 2006

posted 04-07-2006 10:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Thunder II   Click Here to Email Thunder II     Edit/Delete Message
Thanks Curt... Excellent, as always....

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nochevys
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Posts: 855
From: Sherrill NY
Registered: May 2004

posted 04-07-2006 10:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for nochevys   Click Here to Email nochevys     Edit/Delete Message
Curt,
Thanks.As always an excellant job.I really appreciate it.I can't wait for more.That's one awesome station.

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Gas Pump Rob
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Posts: 373
From: Fillmore Ca. U.S.A.
Registered: Mar 2002

posted 04-07-2006 11:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gas Pump Rob   Click Here to Email Gas Pump Rob     Edit/Delete Message
Curt now you really hit home for me , living in Goleta Ca. for years!! Great story! I have some of the pumps and the oil bottle stand used as props in the movie The Postman Always Rings Twice filmed at the station years ago.Resently picked them up from two local collecters. If any one is interested in seeing the station on film rent the movie sometime. Looking forward to more of the story!

Rob

[This message has been edited by Gas Pump Rob (edited 04-07-2006).]

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Pablo
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Posts: 481
From: Sugar Land, TX
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 04-07-2006 11:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Pablo   Click Here to Email Pablo     Edit/Delete Message
Rob,
Which version of "The Postman Always Rings Twice" has the Barnsdall station? The 1946 release with Lana Turner and John Garfield or the 1981 remake with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange?? Thanks.

Curt,
As usual, great Job!!!!

Paul

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the poor mans museum
Active Member

Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 04-07-2006 11:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Paul,

That would be the later version with Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson.

Here's a production shot from the filming.

More story so stay tuned...

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the poor mans museum
Active Member

Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 04-08-2006 08:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Part II, Barnsdall-Rio Grande Service Station
On the History Highway with Curt Cragg

Before we stop for lunch at the restaurant next to the station, a little history on the Barnsdall-Rio Grande Company and their discovery of oil on the shores of Ellwood Beach.

There was no doubt that oil existed off of the shores of Santa Barbara. It had been discovered in Summerland just to the south in 1894 triggering a dramatic boom in population and speculation in this seaside town. In fact, “Seaside” was one of the brand names adopted for the company behind this succesful oil speculation.

It was Kate Den Bell, the daughter of Nicolas A. Den, a grantee of the Dos Pueblos Rancho, that predicted that oil would be found on the Ellwood shores in 1920. Kate would not allow her prediction to be explored during her lifetime, but after her death in 1928 a geologist named Frank Morgan convinced his employer, the Rio Grande Oil Co. to obtain exploration rights from Kate Bell’s heirs.

Seeking a partner for this wildcatting operation, the Rio Grande Company combined with the Barnsdall Oil Co. to explore this unproven location. They began drilling on June 1, 1928. They had agreed to drill to 3,000 feet at a cost of about $10.00 a foot and if the well didn’t prove out at that depth to give up. At 3,160 feet, the drilling supervisor asked for permission to pull the plug. As a last ditch effort before giving up they asked the geologist Morgan to have one last look at the final coring. Morgan detected traces of petroleum.

They drove the bit ten more feet and struck a gas pocket, at just over 3,200 feet they found the oil. It was a gusher generating 180 barrels per hour.

Note the headquarters building just past the station.

The petroleum was so prolific that the company did not have the capacity to refine all of it as it was produced. While the storage and delivery facilities were being built Barnsdall and Rio Grande made arrangements with Seaside Oil Company to take all of the surplus flow.

The speculators behind the Barnsdall and Rio Grande Oil Companies were rich, paying $650,000.00 in taxes on their first year strike alone. Although the cost and design of the small flagship station seemed extravagant, the expense was nearly insignificant relative to the earnings of the rich oil reserve behind it along the shores of Ellwood in Santa Barbara County.

Don’t leave, we haven’t eaten yet. The story of the restaurant next to the service station is coming soon…

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 04-08-2006).]

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blackteetexacogold
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Posts: 917
From: Saline, Mi USA
Registered: Jan 2005

posted 04-08-2006 10:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for blackteetexacogold   Click Here to Email blackteetexacogold     Edit/Delete Message
Curt:

VERY COOL, MY BROTHER USE TO LIVE IN VENTURA AND SOMEDAY I HOPE TO REVISIT THIS AREA. THANKS FOR YOUR TIME ON THIS...

DOUG

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ranchpump
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Posts: 52
From: Los Angeles, CA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 04-09-2006 12:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ranchpump   Click Here to Email ranchpump     Edit/Delete Message
Curt, thanks for posting the great old pictures of the Rio Grande gas station.
A couple of very interesting aspects of the site in Ellwood, California (now part of Goleta)were describe by Dave Cole in his "Check the Oil" article. I liked learning that Ellwood Cooper, who established the ranch in 1870 on which the oil field was found and the station sits, was a horticulturist who introduced eucalyptus trees to Southern California. So the abundant trees around the Rio Grande station and along Hollister Avenue (formerly US 101) are direct descendants of those initial imported trees. Also of interest is the shelling of the Ellwood oil field by a Japanese submarine in 1942 behind this station.

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Dick Bennett
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Posts: 6015
From: Santa Paula, Calif
Registered: Oct 2000

posted 04-09-2006 01:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dick Bennett   Click Here to Email Dick Bennett     Edit/Delete Message
In last picture [& others], that's a BOYLE DAYTON or KEESEE oil pump in the center of the island, between the visibles.
DB

------------------
**PUT A LID ON IT**
1qt RE-LIDDING

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+Chris Holt
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Posts: 2211
From: St. Clair MI USA
Registered: Mar 2002

posted 04-09-2006 02:30 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for +Chris Holt   Click Here to Email +Chris Holt     Edit/Delete Message
Great Job Curt, it Might not be Michigan ,But I do enjoy it. Thanks

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the poor mans museum
Active Member

Posts: 1650
From: Solvang, CA, USA
Registered: Oct 2004

posted 04-11-2006 09:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for the poor mans museum   Click Here to Email the poor mans museum     Edit/Delete Message
Didn't mean to leave you all hanging like that. Just took a couple of days for a "Spring Vacation" with the family and got back today.

Part III, The Wheeler's Inn at the Barnsdall-Rio Grande Station

The Goleta station was the flagship of the operation but there were other less elaborate vessels flying the Rio Grande flag in Santa Barbara as well as at points north and south in Santa Barbara County.

Like many stations along the coast highway, it made sense to add a diner to feed the travelers making their way up and down the coast of California. Initially the little eatery was called the “Spud Inn” as a play on the oilman’s term for starting a new oil well. Eventually, Laurence and Hilda Wheeler took over operation of the eatery and the name was changed to “Wheeler’s Inn”, a perfectly appropriate name for a restaurant attached to a service station.

The Wheeler’s lived on the property and after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, added a liquor store to the operation so that drivers could gas up and “get gassed” at the same time.

Another significant change occurred during the depression in 1932 when Barnsdall-Rio Grande merged with the Sinclair Consolidated Oil Co.. Five years later, as the Depression set in, the conglomerate would become a principal stockholder of the previously bankrupt Richfield Oil Corporation. Despite these changes there was little change at the Barnsdall-Rio Grande station at Ellwood, still operating under the original colors with its original design intact.

Perhaps the most interesting event surrounding the Ellwood service station occurred in February of 1942 when a lone Japanese submarine lobbed a shell onto the shores of Ellwood beach, the only attack on American soil during World War II. This attack primarily had the effect of almost entirely eliminating the use of gas pump globes on the West Coast due to mandatory blackouts along shores of California. This elimination of what would later become a Petroliana commodity would frustrate western collectors for decades to come. (There are practically no globes to collect in California!)

Although the Rio Grande Companies logo was rather bland, they had one of the most architecturally significant service stations ever created. Their early maps were also artistically beautiful featuring a rendering of the “Queen of the Missions”, the Santa Barbara Mission of California.

After World War II the highway was re-routed, as in many parts of California, and this historic station was left on a siding too far from the business that it needed to survived. The station ceased operation in 1950, but was used as a small bulk plant and card lock station after that until the early 70’s ending the run of the Rio Grande on the shores of Ellwood in Santa Barbara County.

What will become of this station now? Stay tuned for a current status report and the end (or is it the beginning?) of the story!

[This message has been edited by the poor mans museum (edited 04-11-2006).]

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