Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Refineries (Oil)

View from the Passyunk Street Bridge, 1980

Full color photograph of oil refineries, center city can be seen in the background.

Philadelphia’s oil refineries, shown here in a 1980 photograph taken from the Passyunk Street Bridge, were a staple of industrial Philadelphia. (Library of Congress)

Library of Congress

As Philadelphia went from being a major oil exporter to being an importer, the city’s oil facilities continued to work, even as production, distribution, and consumption patterns completely changed; as oil companies reinvented themselves with the emergence of the car as the main consumer of oil products; and as companies figured out how to produce a multitude of other products from oil. In the early twenty-first century, they even attracted oil business back into the city, exemplifying how oil logistics shape urban development, producing distinct spatial frameworks, infrastructure, land-ownership patterns, and fixed production sites that linger well beyond their original function.

The title of this 1980 photograph from the Carol M. Highsmith collection notes that the “Passyunk Street Bridge offered an excellent view of Philadelphia’s oil refineries that were a staple, and eyesore, of industrial Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

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