‘A story of extinction.’ La Brea Tar Pits recognized as a geological heritage site, located in the historic neighborhood of West Adams, in the heart of Los Angeles.
“This is the oldest open-air museum in existence in southern California,” said La Brea Tar Pits’ executive director, Eric Bischoff.
It has one of the largest collections in the Los Angeles area, including more than 3,000 rocks and minerals gathered from throughout the world.
In the 1930s, the family was in the hotel business in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, and the Bischoffs were looking for a way to bring their collection to the masses.
The site was donated by Mary C. LaBrea in 1960 by her husband, William Le Brea.
La Brea was a geologist from Arizona who traveled around the world on her collecting expeditions.
Her first expedition was to the Arctic and she had a knack for finding the rarest type of rocks on most of the continents. Later, she visited nearly every country in Europe and North America and had the ability to recognize the various types of rocks.
She traveled on her collecting expeditions by rail, but she also walked much of the way.
“She was very meticulous about not throwing anything out – she had to have everything that was in her boxes packed away because she had to walk and walk and walk to get her rocks,” said Bischoff.
Over her lifetime, La Brea gathered about 15,000 rocks and minerals. The rocks are preserved by her grandson in a dark room with no heat or light in the museum’s collection.
“She brought back many fossils. She brought back many rocks,” said Bischoff. “She brought back minerals here.”
The museum’s collection has a large selection of different types of rocks, including a number of the more unique geological formations like kimberlites. This particular type of rock is formed when water freezes into a solid ice.
“This is like going to see the world’s premier ice-skating rink,” explained Bischoff.
La Brea had such a deep connection with rocks