Point Breeze, 1935



Much of the tidal Schuylkill is scarred by the the remains of an overbuilt petroleum distribution system whose scale is evidenced by the above photograph from National Geographic in 1935.  Perhaps ‘scarred’ isn’t the apt verb to describe the subterrenean impact of this petroleum drosscape: much of the damage affects soil and groundwater.  In retrospect, the calamitous Depression that created these vast sinuous tank centipedes portended the more sustained slowdown that would eventually render virtually all of this Fordist oil-moving infrastructure obsolete.

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The coming petroleum drosscape: Socony-Vacuum Oil Company ruins as case study


These are ruins of an industrial complex once owned by the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company south of Bartram’s Garden in the vicinity of 56th street. The area is described as Gibson’s Point on a 1923 nautical map in the NOAA archives. The facility was designed to supply tank trucks oil and gas for distribution around Philadelphia. It is unknown whether the fueling station was connected to the Atlantic Refining Company across the river but chances are good that the Socony-Vacuum facility made use of its location within the South Schuylkill refining district that developed in the early 20th century is still a presence today.

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