Posts Tagged ‘gas station’

Drive-In Gas Station’s 100th on Lincoln Highway

December 2, 2013

On December 1, 1913, the Lincoln Highway had only celebrated its dedication a month earlier when the world’s first architect-designed drive-in gas station opened along the new coast-to-coast road in Pittsburgh.

Gulf’s pioneering station in Pittsburgh.

Gasoline had been sold for years at hardware stores and other businesses serving the burgeoning auto industry. There were also places selling only gasoline, even drive-in stations.

Gulf logo

But the fuel was often kept in barrels and poured from large cans. And unlike those existing buildings or informal shacks, Gulf Oil had an architect design the new building to efficiently and elegantly pump gas and provide other services. In fact, the following year, the station would start giving away the first free oil company road maps.

The station featured a canopy to shield motorists from weather, new Bowser hand-cranked pumps, large incandescent-lit signs, attendants on duty day and night, and the checking of fluids — all new to the industry.

The station was on Baum Boulevard (the Lincoln Highway) at St. Clair Street. Baum was quickly becoming Pitsburgh’s “automobile row” (common in all cities), filling with garages, tire shops, and car dealers — even the local auto club. Baum already served the carriage trade so this was a natural outgrowth. That itself made sense since Baum connected the city to the mansions being built to the east along on Penn Avenue in Point Breeze — also  the Lincoln Highway.

An informal station was already operating on the site when landowner James Mellon contracted the new station. The Mellon family was Gulf’s first and foremost investors, intertwining their Mellon Bank and Gulf Oil for decades. Gulf was an early proponent of branding gas, especially with its bright orange circle logo, as opposed to generic gas that was also often of lower quality; a branded station was a natural next step.


The station didn’t last long, perhaps as late as 1950. Since then it’s been a parking lot. In 2000, the Gulfoil Historical Society campaigned for, and helped erect, a state historical marker to the station. I visited the site today, on the station’s 100th birthday, in the Lincoln Highway’s 100th year.

Petroliana auction of Preston’s gas station in Iowa

July 11, 2012

An auction is set for Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 9 am for highway memorabilia from the famous gas station once run by George Preston in Belle Plaine, Iowa. Not to worry — the signs on the station and adjacent garage are not being sold.

The station moved to 1301 4th Ave (west end of Main Street, green line on map) in 1921 when the Lincoln Highway’s route was changed through Belle Plaine. George started working there in 1923 at age 13 and soon purchased the Standard Oil station for $100. It later became a Phillips 66 and remained operational until 1989. George and wife Blanche also operated a 3-room motel.

After his passing in 1993, the site was cared for by his eldest son Ronald with the same passion and intuition, and he continued collecting memorabilia until he passed away in 2011.

Ron’s daughter Mary Preston wrote to say, “We have no intention of selling the corner but in the same breath we must sell some of the ‘clutter’ on Preston’s Corner.” The family is working with the Lincoln Highway Association and Belle Plaine Historical Society to preserve The Corner for travelers to step back in time.

Objects for auction include gas pumps, toys, furniture, books, farm equipment, a 1927 Model T  … and lots of signs.

For additional information about the auction see

EPA advice for Sutherland NE gas stations

April 26, 2012

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 announced that the Village of Sutherland, Nebraska, recently was given technical assistance in the form of a comprehensive report for redeveloping a number of former gas stations in its downtown. Most notable is c 1930 cottage station. There is a beautiful photo of it online by photographer Jeffrey Bebee; click his photo to access it, and go to his site to see more:

According to the EPA:

At the core of the technical assistance are four abandoned gas stations located along U.S. Highway 30, which runs through downtown Sutherland and is the former Lincoln Highway. The abandoned gas stations may pose potential environmental and public health hazards due to underground storage tanks that remained after the stations closed. By addressing the tanks, including potential contamination and liability issues, these sites can be made viable for reuse that benefits the community while removing community eyesores and transforming the sites into community assets. The redevelopment of these sites can spur further revitalization in the area.

“The technical assistance provided to the Village of Sutherland allows the community leaders to restore four Brownfields properties to beneficial use for the community,” said Karl Brooks, EPA Region 7 Administrator. “This is a clear example that shows how being environmentally conscious can bring positive growth and development for our small rural communities.”

Pure Oil filling station threatened in Illinois

February 22, 2012


UPDATE 3/27/12: LHA Vice-President Kay Shelton reports “City Council of Geneva voted tonight not to allow the demolition of the Pure Oil Building.” She spoke there in favor of its preservation.

A former gas station along the Lincoln Highway in Geneva, Illinois, may be demolished. An article in the Geneva Patch (and other sources) says the landowner has proposed to replace the 1937 station with a branch of St. Charles Bank at the West State Street site. The well-maintained cottage-style station closed in 1995 and has been home to The PURE Gardener since 2006 when former owner and auto repair operator Joe Kuchera sold the building.

As the writer in the Geneva Patch stated:

On one hand, we have a historic building that is shown proudly in Geneva Chamber of Commerce brochures. It’s a building style that goes back to the 1930s and one that’s considered a milestone marker of the Lincoln Highway. On the other hand, it’s a former gas station. And the bank’s plans represent new development at a time when the tax base—particularly in downtown Geneva—is shrinking….

The public, always split on such matters, is leaning towards preservation. The writer continued….

But in these economic times, can the city afford to do that? Can any government in good conscience say no to good-faith development in an economy that makes it more and more difficult for anyone to build or expand?

The garden center owners who lease the blue-and-white station posted a letter to the editor HERE pleading to save the building. Comments overwhelmingly favor preserving the building because it makes sense, both aesthetically and economically.

NOTE: A follow-up article stated that last night, “With the applause of about 50 passionate spectators, Geneva’s Historic Preservation Commission voted 5-1 Tuesday to deny demolition of the former Pure Oil gas station.” But the commission is only a recommending body; the developer can still take the issue to the city’s planning commission and council.

Old photo shows station in Townley, Indiana

April 4, 2008

Another vintage photo from the Ternet Collection at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, shows a Cities Service station with a sign for cabins, this one in Townley, Indiana.


Collection donor Lois Ternet explains that the site is now the location of Triple T’s (Todd’s Townley Tavern), 21313 Lincoln Highway: “It is on the northeast corner of Lincoln Highway and 101. Townley was once booming until the Tornado of 1920.”

Vintage gas station photo from eastern Indiana

March 31, 2008

LHA president Jan Shupert-Arick sent along some images from eastern Indiana courtesy of the Ternet Collection at the Allen County Public Library (downtown Fort Wayne, a block north of Washington Boulevard and in the midst of three different routings of the Lincoln Highway). The renovated library includes a cafe, bookstore, auditorium, art gallery, computer center, and underground parking.

The photo below shows Oberley Lunch and Standard Oil Station, 1941, on the Lincoln Highway at Zulu, Indiana, a tiny town just west of the Ohio border.


Restored Colo Motel Reopens in Iowa!

January 26, 2008

Closed for 12 years, the Colo Motel has reopened, giving Lincoln Highway tourists a new-style, old-fashioned lodging option in central Iowa. It is part of the Reed/Niland corner complex that includes a cafe and gas station, both also restored. The cafe is operating and is a must-stop itself; the 1920s gas station is for display only but is set to house a country-style store.


The motel’s six rooms rent for an affordable $49.99 per night or $175 for five consecutive nights. Scott Berka, Colo city clerk, says that other than “waiting for some of the furniture to arrive,” the rooms are complete with cable TV, wireless internet, central air, pillow-top mattresses, and room service from the café. The Colo is on the forefront of restoring mid-century motels for 2-lane tourists, and also gives locals a lodging option for out-of-town guests.

Above: Stuart Huse, one of the owners of Flat-Top Concrete & Construction, the prime contractor for the project, finishes the woodwork. Above photos courtesy Scott Berka.

The roadside one-stop opened about 1920 at the corner of Lincoln Highway and US 65, the old Jefferson Highway, but declined in recent decades as the old road was bypassed. The restoration is a project of Colo Development Group and the City of Colo; it has cost nearly $1 million including $663,000 in grant funding (from the Iowa DOT’s and Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement Funding) and about $270,000 in local donations.The one-stop

Niland’s outside new

An article in the Nevada [Iowa] Journal reported on the opening, and quoted Berka and Sandy Wilfong, manager of Niland’s Café and now the Colo Motel. She praised the retro-stryle rooms and appointments such as wrought iron headboards and curtain rods, and quilts on the beds. Come Spring, Wilfong hopes to have a farmers market at the corner on Saturdays.

The motel is at 18 Lincoln Highway in Colo. Reservations are taken through Nilands Cafe: (641) 377-3663. To learn more about the complex, go to the Colo Iowa web page and click Reed/Niland corner at the bottom of the left-hand column.

Suzie Burger rehabs rare Sacramento gas station

January 17, 2008

Just a block from the official route of the Lincoln Highway in Sacramento, Suzie Burger is a new restaurant in an old gas station (see red circle on map below). The double-canopy station at 29th and P streets was previously an Orbit station, but looks like it was probably built as a Phillips 66 in the 1960s (see the Spring 2005 Society for Commercial Archeology Journal for more on their history).

The above photo from Tom Spaulding, as seen on Flickr, shows the station’s two canopies, somewhat rare. Tom has more than 7,000 images on Flickr, and check out Tom’s blog for tons more great photos and info from that region.)

The station was later converted to Tune-up Masters, then closed and declined into a local eyesore. Locals are thrilled with the rehab, though early reviews on the food are mixed (though in fairness, three months is a normal period of adjustment). The building is not listed in any historical register so the new owners are to be commended for saving, reusing, and reviving architectural details. They have other high-end restaurants in the area. The original Suzie’s drive-in at 24th Street decades ago; Benny Ogata, son of the founders of the original, is an investor and was helping cook opening day.

CA_LHA Sac Map

The Sacramento Bee reports that a basic Suzie Burger is $1.95, cheeseburger $2.95, each one served with dill pickle and carrot sticks. Grilled onions, pickled jalapenos, sauerkraut, pastrami, chili, and a fried egg range from 45 cents to $1.95 each. The menu also includes hot dogs, chili, and cheesesteaks Milkshakes and soft-serve cones also are served. The cafe red-and-white color scheme includes “Suzie” caricatures by Sacramento artist Matt Rallens. The Suzie’s website has nothing yet but the address. The map is from the LHA Driving Maps CD, available through the LH Trading Post.

Postcard 4: Red Top Diner & Shell, Fort Wayne

January 13, 2008

The front of this postcard says it all – Red Top Diner and Shell Station, Highways 24 & 30 East — City Limits, Fort Wayne, Ind.

IN_RedTop, Fort Wayne

Three train tracks can be seen behind, and the diner looks to be a converted railcar. The automobile is a mid-’30s coupe. Can’t imagine this part of the Lincoln Highway being quite so rural now. Could that be Maumee Avenue right behind the station, and E Washington Blvd in the foreground? The setting looks right and a couple business as seen in this Google aerial view at bottom center and right seem to fit the layout


Anyone know more about Red Top? The picture was taken some 70 years ago, so it’s critical to ask those who might remember before all traces and memories of such places disappear forever.

Marker for Wiggin's Trading Post in Lathrop – pt 2

January 10, 2008

More than 50 officials, friends, and members of the Wiggin Family and Lincoln Highway Association braved chilly temperatures to dedicate a marker that honors both the Lincoln Highway and Wiggin’s Trading Post that opened there in 1924. The ceremony was held Saturday, December 8, 2007, at 15600 S. Harlan Road in Lathrop, California.

Above: At the Lathrop marker dedication, from left to right: Bob Dieterich, James Lin, Gary Kinst, Paul Gilger, Norm Root. Lloyd Johnson, Mike Kaelin, and Carolyn Lignos. The plaques read: (top) Lathrop Sunrise Rotary; (middle) America’s First Coast to Coast Road Established 1913; (bottom) 1924-1967 Site of Original Wiggin’s Trading Post Serving Travelers Along The Lincoln Highway.

Francis Wiggin’s Granddaughters, Janet and Patti, presented photos to master of ceremonies John Serpa (SEE BELOW), a member of LHA and the Lathrop Sunrise Rotary Club. Marine Corps League Detachment #109 from Modesto presented the colors, and Boy Scout Troup #425 from Lathrop led the singing of the National Anthem and the unveiling of the monument.


A Marine Corps League Certificate of Appreciation for Loyalty and Patriotism was presented by John Treantos, Commandant of #109, to Mr. Dalwinder Dhoot for flying the American flag continuously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 14 years at Joe’s Travel Plaza. Dhoot and family own the new Best Western Hotel at the site, and graciously allowed the Rotary to erect the marker. Mr. Dhoot then invited all guests to join the grand opening festivities for the 3-floor, 81-room hotel and provided complimentary food and beverages.Speakers included:Kristy Sayles, Mayor of Lathrop.Norm Root, President, California Chapter of the LHA (SEE BELOW).


Thanks also go to:Gabe Young, cement and engraving of stone monument.Brian Green, Signarama of Tracy.Stephen Dresser, President, Lathrop Sunrise Rotary.Dolores Delgado, Chief of Police, City of Lathrop.Charles Edwards, Boy Scout Troup #425 Leader.Richard Wiggins, Grandson of Francis Wiggins.Mary Kennedy, President, Lathrop Chamber of Commerce.And I again thank Gary Kinst for helping with info and images for this report.