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Updated: Funds Pumped Into Historic Refinery's Restoration

After years of lobbying from members of the Santa Clarita Historical Society, restoration of the historic Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall appears imminent after receiving $40,000 from the City.  

The funding comes courtesy of Hank Arklin, who owns the property surrounding the refinery – property that is also part of the proposed “Needham Ranch” business park.  

For the last decade, Santa Clarita residents have awaited construction of the business park, which would sit on 584 acres bounded by Pine Street, San Fernando Road and Sierra Highway.  


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Needham Ranch developers, which include Arklin and Mark Gates, had previously promised to match any grant toward the refinery’s renovation.

However, a lawsuit filed by the Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Evironment and two oaks conversation groups has stalled construction.

Thus, Pioneer Oil Refinery has continued to wither, bearing the brunt of the 1994 earthquake and gradual erosion.  

But the recent funding spells hope for the state landmark.  

“We can now make an educated plan,” said Duane Harte, Parks Commissioner for the City of Santa Clarita and member of the Santa Clarita Historical Society.  

While Harte is pleased with the $40,000, he said that the money will simply ignite the planning process.  

“The planning will get underway shortly, but it’s going to take more than the Historical Society currently has.”  

According to Harte, funding will restore the oil stills, add needed brickwork and level out the land, all in hopes of replicating the refinery’s look and feel from its days of operation in the 1800s.  

In addition to the renovation, Parks Director Rick Gould said the City plans on also adding a passive natural park -- an area of developed land conducive for light recreation.   

When restoration is complete, the refinery will be included as part of the walking tour undertaken by third-grade classes from Santa Clarita schools.  

General visitation hours would be determined at a later date.  

From 1876 to 1888, the Pioneer Oil Refinery in Newhall was the leading of supplier of oil to cities along the South Pacific Railroad in California. The oldest refinery in the Western Hemisphere, it is credited as the birthplace of the state’s oil industry.