Richfield Tower, also known as the Richfield Oil Company Building, was constructed between 1928 and 1929 and served as the headquarters of Richfield Oil. It was designed by Stiles O. Clements and featured a black and gold Art Deco façade. The unusual color scheme was meant to symbolize the "black gold" that was Richfield's business. Haig Patigian did the exterior sculptures.[1] The building was covered with architectural terra cotta manufactured by Gladding, McBean, as was typical of many west coast buildings from this era. In an unusual move, all four sides were covered since they were all visible in the downtown location.

Richfield Tower
From cover of The Richfield Building 1928-1968 by David Gebhard (1970), published after the building's demolition.
General information
Architectural styleArt Deco
Address555 South Flower Street
Town or cityLos Angeles, California
CountryUnited States of America
Coordinates34°03′03″N 118°15′25″W / 34.050799°N 118.256966°W / 34.050799; -118.256966Coordinates: 34°03′03″N 118°15′25″W / 34.050799°N 118.256966°W / 34.050799; -118.256966
Construction started1928
DemolishedNovember 12, 1968[1] - spring 1969[2]
ClientRichfield Oil Co.[2]
Height372 feet (113 m)
Technical details
Structural systemSteel skeleton
Floor count12
Design and construction
ArchitectStiles O. Clements

The 12-floor building was 372 feet (113 m) tall, including a 130-foot (40 m) tower atop the building, emblazoned vertically with the name "Richfield". Lighting on the tower was made to simulate an oilwell gusher and the motif was reused at some Richfield service stations.[1]

The company outgrew the building, and it was demolished in 1969, much to the dismay of Los Angeles residents and those interested in architectural preservation, to make way for the present ARCO Plaza skyscraper complex. The elaborate black-and-gold elevator doors were salvaged from the building and now reside in the lobby of the new ARCO building (now City National Tower).[3]

The central figures of the Tympanum (Navigation, Aviation, Postal Service and Industry) over the main entry were donated by the Atlantic Richfield Company to the UC Santa Barbara Art & Design Museum, negotiated by Professor David Gebhard, noted UCSB architectural historian. He published a small illustrated volume on the building before demolition: The Richfield Building 1928-1968. Atlantic Richfield Co., Santa Barbara, 1970. After languishing in university storage for over a decade, they were mounted outside the UCSB Student Health Center in 1982, where three of the four figures remain today (34°24'56.47" N 119°51'08.39" W). The fourth figure was incomplete and remains in storage.

Richfield Tower was starkly featured in a few scenes of Michelangelo Antonioni's 1970 film Zabriskie Point, shot shortly before its demolition.



  1. ^ a b c "Richfield Oil Company Building". Pacific Coast Architecture Database. University of Washington. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Richfield Oil Building, 555 South Flower Street, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, CA". Historic American Buildings Survey. Library of Congress. Retrieved December 10, 2017.
  3. ^ Harrison, Scott (June 13, 2016). "A beloved L.A. tower — and the winged 'army' that stood guard — is gone but not forgotten". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 21, 2017.

Further readingEdit

  • Gebhard, David (1970). The Richfield Building, 1928-1968. Santa Barbara: Atlantic Richfield Co. ASIN B0007HRZ6S.
  • "Downtown Structure to be Guide". Los Angeles Times. August 25, 1929. p. E2.
  • "Oilman Killed in Plunge From 12th Floor Office". Los Angeles Times. August 30, 1950. p. 17.
  • Hebert, Ray (March 9, 1967). "Plaza Complex Slated for Richfield Block". Los Angeles Times. p. B1.
  • Hebert, Ray (August 18, 1967). "Admirers Would Save 1929 Richfield Building". Los Angeles Times. p. A6.
  • "Crews Move In to Dismantle Landmark Richfield Building". Los Angeles Times. November 13, 1968. p. A1.
  • Felton, Dave (April 10, 1969). "Building's 'Guards' Now Lie Strewn in Wrecking Yard". Los Angeles Times. p. C1.
  • "A Backyard Cheops Visits His Pyramid". Los Angeles Times. April 19, 1970. p. E1.
  • Weaver, John D. (April 18, 1971). "The Miracle of Sixth and Flower". Los Angeles Times. p. P9.