Westend Plant — Photo by David Stevens Copyright 1996
Since the chemical plant known as Westend is located on the south side of Searles Lake, You might wonder why the name “Westend.” “Borax” Smith, Founder of the plant named it after his “West End Mining Company” of Tonopah, Nevada. F. M. “Borax” Smith was a leading figure in the exploration for borax, and he became well known for the twenty-mule team borax wagons he is credited with originating, although John Searles used smaller twenty-mule wagons before Smith. Smith organized the Westend Plant in 1920, and the chemical plant has been in operation since that time.
In 1956 Westend was merged with Stauffer Chemical Company. It ran as a separate plant until 1962 when it became known as the Independent Chemical Division, Westend Plant of Stauffer Chemical Company.
Continuously enlarged and improved during the years the plant production was greatly increased by Stauffer by the addition of a multi-million dollar borax plant in 1965.
A familiar sight to local residents here are the large Westend trucks traveling back and forth on the Death Valley Highway hauling loads of lime rock from the Westend Lime Quary some 38 miles away in the Panamint Valley. The lime rock is burned in a rotary kiln to release carbon dioxide for use in the product manufacture.
The lime, both quick and hydrated, is also sold as a by-product, along with soda ash, borax and sodium sulfate. The late Hellmers is the man given credit for development of the original process used in in the manufacture of the chemicals. The Westend plant was purchased by Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation October 1, 1974.