Oil, Tar and Giant Animals in Downtown L.A.
According to legend, Edward L.Doheny was in the downtown area when he noticed a cart with a black substance on its wheels. He asked the driver where he had come from and the man pointed in a northeast direction. Doheny investigated and soon borrowed money to buy 1000 acres of land in what is now the Echo Park area, but which was then outside the city.
Soon the well Doheny dug was producing 45 barrels of oil per day and he was on his way to becoming one of the wealthiest men in America. That original oil field, located along Glendale Boulevard between
Beverly Boulevard and Colton Avenue, has long-since disappeared. But in its heyday it was a remarkable collection of mostly rag tag derricks covering the hillside. Within a few years there were over 200 oil
companies and 2500 wells within the city limits. The Los Angeles area would become one of the major oil-producing areas of the world.
Doheny is usually credited with the discovery of oil in Los Angeles in 1892, and his oil well certainly set off one of the first land booms of the city. Nevertheless, the Indians were aware of the tar pits and so
were the Spanish explorers who came through in 1769.
Father Juan Crespi noted in his diary at that time that some members of the party "saw some large marshes of a certain substance like pitch; they were boiling and bubbling, and the pitch came out mixed with an abundance of water." What they saw, of course, were the La Brea tar pits, which are located several miles from this first producing oil field.
Between 1906 and 1915 thousands of Ice Age fossils were recovered from the pits; over 500,000 specimens have been recoved. A museum, the George C. Page Museum of La Brea Discoveries, has been constructed adjacent to the tar pits. It houses many of the major finds from the tar pits.
Visit an exhibit called "Teeth, Tusks, and Tarpits" to see how the La Brea Tarpits might have looked like 40,000-50,000 years ago.
Today, this spot is in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, eloquent testimony to urban sprawl, but the pools and deposits of asphalt still remain. For these are the La Brea tar pits, containing one of the
richest, best preserved, and best studied assemblages of Pleistocene vertebrates, including at least 59 species of mammal and over 135 species of bird. The tar pit fossils bear eloquent witness to life in
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