Essex, San Bernardino County, California

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Unincorporated community
Essex water tower in 2006
Essex water tower in 2006
Essex is located in California
Location within the state of California
Coordinates: 34°44′1″N 115°14′42″W / 34.73361°N 115.24500°W / 34.73361; -115.24500Coordinates: 34°44′1″N 115°14′42″W / 34.73361°N 115.24500°W / 34.73361; -115.24500
Country United States
State California
County San Bernardino
Developed ca. 1915
Elevation[1] 1,732 ft (528 m)
Population (2005)
 • Total 89
Time zone Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 92332
Area code(s) 442/760
FIPS code 06-22874
GNIS feature ID 1656508

Essex is a small unincorporated community in San Bernardino County, California. Essex lies on Old National Trails Highway – part of the old Route 66 – just south of Interstate 40 in the Mojave Desert.


Essex, a former oasis along historic Route 66 in California, was allegedly founded when a motorist suffered a flat tire only to discover there were no garages for miles.[2] It also lies along the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

In Essex's heyday, there were a number of important buildings utilized by motorists and local patrons, including:

  • Bell's Towing
  • The Wayside Cafe
  • Essex Post Office
  • Essex Elementary School
  • Essex Shell Tire Shop

Essex was notable along Route 66 for providing free water to travelers, thanks to a well installed by the Automobile Club of Southern California.[3] Over a dozen homes also serviced the small community.

In 1977, Essex got television for the first time with the assistance of a community antenna television system and a microwave link. To commemorate this, the entire population of the town, including well-known residents Doug Smith who was actually on the Tonight show with Johnny Carson & Jerry and Virginia Smith who were in attendance of the taping of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.


Essex California, 2006

With an estimated population of just 89 people in 2005[4] (down from 111 in 2000[5]), Essex is on the verge of becoming one of many ghost towns scattered throughout the Southwestern United States displaced by the creation of Interstate 40. Essex Elementary school (founded 1937), which once served the educational needs of both Essex and its neighbor Goffs,[6] has closed. It was once taught by a single teacher.[7] Its location remote even with today's technological capabilities, Essex lacks many comforts of modern day life, and was unable to receive television service until the end of 1977.[8]

Many of the homes and buildings in Essex have completely disappeared, almost 50 lie in abandonment, and of what was once a bustling roadside hub, only the post office,[9] Caltrans maintenance yard, school house, and outdoor telephone are still operational. There are no facilities in town.

Until 2013 the population declined to 8-10 people.

Essex has only one close neighbor, the equally abandoned Goffs, located to the north, just across I-40.

Three miles northeast of Essex, just north of Goffs Road, the remains of Camp Essex Army Airfield are still visible. This uniquely configured airfield has two parallel runways and twelve "hardstands," where aircraft could be parked.


  1. ^ "Essex". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved April 10, 2015. 
  2. ^ Digital Desert: Ghost Towns
  3. ^ California Route 66 Preservation Foundation
  4. ^ [1][dead link] Essex Community Profile
  5. ^ [2][dead link] Essex, California 92332
  6. ^ Desert USA: Goffs School
  7. ^ [3][dead link] Local School Directory: California
  8. ^ NBC News from the Vanderbilt Television News Archive
  9. ^ Touring the Mojave Desert