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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Capitol Refining: 1925

Capitol Refining: 1925

A glimpse at the industrial side of Washington circa 1925, labeled "Capitol Refining Co. plant." This tank farm, where the Pentagon stands today, was described at the time as being in "Relee, Alexandria County, just south of the highway bridge." National Photo Co. Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Day of Judgment

Could the "accidental" location of the "cloud" be any better placed in terms of composition? Actually makes the shot better, I think.

Relee, Va.

Is it possible that Relee stands for Robert E. Lee? His estate was nearby.

[You are correct. The use of Relee, Virginia, as a place name seems to have begun in 1909, with the establishment there of a post office, rail stop and telegraph office, all connected with the Columbia slaughterhouse and rendering plant in what used to be Alexandria County, at the current location of the Pentagon. By 1935, use of the name seems to have pretty much stopped. - Dave]

Washington Post, November 11, 1909

Finishing Big Plant

$450,000 Abattoir and Refinery Soon to Operate.

To Employ 200 Persons. Industry at Arlington Junction Will Help Virginians.

Within ten days the Columbia Cotton Oil and Provision Company will begin operation of its $450,000 plant, which has been building near Arlington Junction across the river for the last nine months, and will mark one of the greatest strides forward in the industrial development of Washington.

In the abattoir 4,000 hogs a week will be killed, and a strong demand will at once be created in Virginia and surrounding States for porkers. ... The cotton oil refinery and abattoir will be run in conjunction in the production of lard compound, which will be one of the most important outputs of the establishment.

... The plant essays the importance of a town which has been recognized already by the establishment of a railroad stop and a postoffice by the United States government. The name is Relee, in honor of R.E. Lee. It is Relee postoffice, Relee station, and Relee telegraph office, all of which are in operation.

Cattle, Cotton & Oil, Oh My!

I find it curious how this site evolved from a stockyard and abattoir (slaughterhouse) into a cottonseed oil refinery and then finally the petroleum refinery pictured. The cotton-seed oil may have been used for food or industrial applications such as lubricants and paint. I wonder if equipment for refining cottonseeds could be reused to refine petroleum?

[Were any of these petroleum tanks? - Dave]

Update: After seeing the later White Dome post, I am pondering if perhaps the "refining" refers only to vegetable and animal oils and not to petroleum products at all. I guess its my fossil-fuel-centric lifestyle that led me to the conclusion that this was a petroleum refinery - that and pre-conditioning due to the long series of photos of service stations on Shorpy.

Washington Post, Jun 5, 1908

Packing Plant For City

Washington's industries are to be increased here of a plant with an annual output valued at from $4,000,000 to $5,000,000. The company, to be known as the Columbia Cotton Oil and Provisions Corporation, proposes to absorb the Washington and Virginia Stock Yard and Abattoir Company and to enlarge the plant and add equipment, not only for slaughtering of cattle, but for the refining of crude cottonseed oil.
The proposed plant, it is said, will be the only one of its kind east of Chicago and south of New York, and the only complete compound plant on the coast between New York and Savannah.
The annual capacity, according to figures submitted to the manufactures committee of the Chamber of Commerce, will be 100,000 barrels of crude cotton-seed oil, 125,000 hogs, 10,000 cattle, and 25,000 sheep and calves which will be converted into lard, lard compound, lard substitute, cooking oils, lard stearine, oleo stearine, hams, bacon, sausage, canned meats, fertilizer, hides, and a variety of fresh cuts to be put on the market.

Washington Post, Jun 2, 1913

Refiners Buy Oil Plant

The Capitol Refining Company, which was recently granted a charter by the Virginia corporation commission, has purchased the plant of the Columbia Cotton Oil and Provisions Corporation, at Relee, near Arlington Junction, Alexandria county. The Capitol Refining Company is a subsidiary of the Jacob Dold Packing Company, an independent concern, whose main establishment is in Buffalo, N.Y., and its announced that about September 1, after extensive repairs to the plant, operations will be resumed.


I hate it when Giant Amoebas attack!

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