RICHMOND -- It isn't quite right to say that Chevron has been in Richmond for 110 years.

Although there was settlement in the area, the establishment of the facility now known as the Chevron Richmond Refinery came in 1902, three years before the city was founded.

The history of Chevron in Richmond is documented in the new exhibit "Other Days, Other Ways: A Refinery Saga," which opens Tuesday in the Seaver Gallery at the Richmond Museum of History, 400 Nevin Ave.

While its presence has remained constant, the refinery has changed considerably since then, as has its corporate parent.

Documents and artifacts illustrate the evolution of a presence that began in the 1870s as the Pacific Coast Oil Company, an independent concern that had a refinery in Alameda.

The big change came in 1902, when the operation was bought by the growing trust Standard Oil and administrator William Rheem was dispatched to choose a site for a new refinery.

Rheem chose to purchase a large swath of land along the Bay shoreline in Contra Costa County, and a new refinery was built and operating within nine months.

Documents that will be on display at the museum show that the operation kept the Pacific Coast Oil company name until 1906, when it was renamed Standard Oil of California just a month after the great earthquake and fire in San Francisco.

The name was changed to Chevron in the mid-1980s.


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Displays will feature aspects of the operation in its earlier years, including research, marketing, social life, people, products and equipment at the sprawling operation, as well as its role during World War II.

Documents include a 1912 telegram from Rheem to Richmond Mayor E.S. Garrard, a telegram from President Franklin Roosevelt to California Gov. Cuthbert Olson, company publications and early handwritten ledger sheets and receipts.

"One very interesting piece we have is a model for the (steam tanker) ship SS Richmond, built for the Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915," said exhibit curator Inna Soiguine.

The model, part of the museum's permanent collection, is upstairs in the main gallery, which is also worth a visit.

Admission is free for the exhibit's opening reception from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, when the refinery's 110th anniversary will be celebrated by Chevron and city officials and community dignitaries. That day will also mark the anniversary of Richmond's incorporation in 1905.

Music and light refreshments will be provided.