Timeline: History of a company town

Chevron (formerly Standard Oil) has operated an oil refinery in Richmond since 1902. (Photo courtesy Rich Walkling)

Chevron (formerly Standard Oil) has operated an oil refinery in Richmond since 1902. (Photo courtesy Rich Walkling)

Richmond’s relationship with Chevron Corporation hasn’t always been so contentious.

For much of the 20th century, after Chevron’s earliest predecessor, the Pacific Coast Oil Company, first bought a tract of land on Richmond’s shores in 1901, the company and the town grew together – if not hand in hand, then at least peacefully and cognizant of their mutual benefit.

The two world wars were especially productive times for both the refinery and Richmond, as wartime production levels fueled a transforming, thriving, increasingly diverse city. Between the wars, the refinery modeled a job-sharing program that kept workers employed during the worst of the Great Depression.

But when World War II ended, a decades-long population decline began; those who stayed, many of whom were African-American transplants from the South, were relegated to segregated parts of the city with few economic opportunities.

While industries left the city and downtown Richmond languished, the refinery at the top of the hill enjoyed unprecedented financial success. Chevron’s Richmond research facility continued to develop new methods of producing a more diverse line of products, with less apparent regard for the impact on its surrounding community.

Meanwhile, the multi-billion dollar parent corporation made highly visible mergers to acquire more holdings, cut deals valued in the tens of billions of dollars, and used its enormous influence to shape Richmond city politics in ways that benefited the corporation.

By the latter half of the 20th century, the refinery’s fate had diverged from that of the city it had helped to grow. For many residents of the city, contention became inevitable.

Click through to experience Richmond’s history with Chevron in an interactive timeline:

2 Comments

  1. richard poe

    Below is an example of how close the city came to working together three years ago , it’s never to late to begin again.

    A Day of Innovation Oct 6 , 2011
    Clean Tech Open
    Innovating Energy
    Sponsor by Chevron USA , location Ford Building. Crane way
    Testimonial by Richard R Poe
    Going into the Clean Tech Open, I thought I understood for early this year what Richmond had to offer to green tech. Our first Richmond green Tech meeting was in Marina Bay at 1450 Marina way south . As your keenly aware for the first time a small group of Green tech companies and other associated companies came together in a meeting held By Chevron, Virtual Development corporation , and the city of Richmond. Under the leadership of Jeff Riterman, a new day in Richmond was born. The second meeting was much larger, and was in the crane way .
    1) What I learned from our local two green tech meetings and carried forward to the Clean tech open of Oct 6, 2011 was the following.
    What Richmond has to offer: LBNL being located on the field station, is the fact the Lab can combine a unique array of synergistic disciplines in the Marina Bay area. The scientific synergism includes the Department of Health Services laboratories located on I-580 in Marina Bay Parkway, EPA methods lab , Kaiser Micro Fab. Facility, Bio-oils , paradigms’, three solar companies . Marina Bay does have some of the existing LBNL laboratories located on the UC field station. A growing number of growing green tech companies in Richmond are already spin-offs from UC and LBNL.
    The Day at the clean tech open of Oct 6th , was like going from the bush leagues to watching the San Francisco Giants win the world series. The energy in the room of those competing was unbelievable. The ability for our local Chevron corporation to reach out to foster and nourish , our Green tech companies to change the world is a attribute to their foresight. I for one was humbled by the experience .
    Please note how the tri-valley city of San Ramon , Pleasanton, Danville and Livermore market their area. “ here are amazing things happening in our valley. New initiatives from the labs promise to generate technology advancements and business opportunities on an unprecedented scale. More and more small companies with big ideas and big companies that lead their industry are finding home here. And our quality of life continues to improve.
    What can happen if we put forth a concentrated effort to make these amazing things work together? That is the question behind Innovation Tri-valley. (note that should also be the question Richmond asks)
    Innovation Tri- valley Sponsors , Sybase , Adept , Livermore Chamber of Commerce, Chevron, Sandia National Laboratories, Las Positas Collage and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
    What is striking to me, is what we learned even before the Clean Tech open, that Richmond is a huge draw for Green Tech, and spins off from UC and LBNL .
    The question I have even before we know about the final location of the second campus of LBNL, is how can we, as the playing field is today, begin the synergism with LBNL and UC. Can we be like the tri valley ? Can Richmond put behind the old fights, and begin anew to try and build jobs, green tech, fuel cell companies expand existing businesses ?
    I’m hopeful those that were unable to attend this event, will be able to view the video. These are the times we will look back and say , were we stood on healing old wounds , and rebuilding Richmond . We should be ahead of tri valley and part of the solution to bring jobs to our city. Being part of the solution is what I saw over the last year as the city came together trying to win the LBNL second campus. We also have a game changer here , as was witnessed in the Clean tech open , even if LBNL ends up in Emeryville, we should not lose site of what we have in our own back yard, and try to build our city together.
    Thank you for your time,
    Richard Poe

  2. to know Chevron you need to work out there.

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