MILLION BARREL MUSEUM
When you hear of the Million Barrel Museum you might imagine a museum featuring a million barrels or perhaps a museum composed of a single giant barrel that displays a million artifacts. But neither would be true. The main attraction of the Million Barrel Museum, located in of Monahans, is its cement oil tank the size of three football fields. Built in the late 1920s during a big oil boom in the region, the reservoir was designed to store the mass quantities of crude coming in from the oilfields in an era with few pipelines or existing oil tanks. Construction workers used mule-drawn equipment to excavate the enormous hole in the ground then covered the packed earth with wire mesh before pouring concrete to create the floor and sides of the reservoir. A domed roof was constructed from creosote-soaked timbers, redwood, and tar paper to cover the tank. In theory, the reservoir, designed to actually hold five million barrels worth of oil, appeared to work but in application the weight of just one million barrels of oil created four hundred million pounds of pressure to bear down on the concrete. Leaking began almost immediately. And despite the covered dome, oil also evaporated.
The engineering marvel is now the heart of the Million Barrel Museum, a Monahans attraction opened in 1987. Today, the grounds include the mammoth reservoir as well as the historic 1909 Holman House, moved to the site for preservation, and the Rattlesnake Bomber Base Museum, telling the story of the nearby World War II-era Pyote Air Force Base. A section of the concrete reservoir wall also serves as the Meadows Amphitheater, venue for musical concerts and performances.