Yeah, that name…I know what you’re thinking….but, it’s not what you think, despite it being in California. It’s something completely different. And suitably weird.
Reefer City was a small community in the high desert of California, midway between Rosamond and Mojave. Its name came from the fact that the “dwellings” of Reefer City were repurposed railroad refrigerated cars (i.e., “Reefers”) that were used by the early residents, primarily local miners, as insulation from the Summer heat.
Reefer City, established in the 1930s, continued on until the early 1970s, when it was obliterated by its new owners.
I’ve known about the place since I was young, but I really can’t say for sure why I knew of it. Perhaps I read about it in one of Russ Leadabrand’s legendary Southern California guidebooks and this kind of weird shit in the desert burrows deep into my brain. In any case I thought it might be an appropriate addition to his website, seeing as how there’s very little info on the background of this place.
The best (and only!) historical rundown I’ve come across is a Los Angeles Times article from way back in 1971. I do take issue with part of the story where it states that Reefer City was established in 1933. Further below I have an excerpt from an aerial photo taken February 29, 1936 showing undisturbed desert where the community eventually was. So Reefer City’s true date of inception had to be 1936 or later.
In doing research on the site I did come across a couple of other old newspaper articles, shown below. Looks like fire was an issue for the place:
The evolution of Reefer City over time:
In June of 2019 I paid my first and only visit to the site, despite having passed nearby many times. Took a few pics. Not a lot to see beyond a cleared patch of desert.
So not much to see these days, but a wonderfully, strange place that might be ideal for opening up a cannabis dispensary…..
Should you be foolish enough to want to visit the site (ya know….it’s all about the ‘gram!), access is easy. I believe the site itself is private property, but the adjacent road is public. Exit Hwy 14 at Silver Queen Road (Exit #64, Fleta). Head west 1.5 miles to Holt Street, then turn north. After 0.6 miles the site of Reefer City will be on the right (east).