The Evolution of the Petrol/Gas/Filling/Service Station
May 8, 2016 4:51 AM   Subscribe

The Evolution of the Petrol/Gas/Filling/Service Station Gas stations might be boring or even ugly places, but for the most part, you can’t avoid stopping by one on a long trip. However, they have been so many more beyond the basic design of columns, roof and shop over their history. The following 60+1 filling stations encompass almost a century of architectural progression, showcasing some of the best Art Deco, Bauhaus, futurist, brutalist, minimalist, modernist, Googie building designs of the motorist history. Enjoy the ride!
posted by modernnomad (35 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, this is great.

The biggest surprise has to be the photo of the Japanese hanging pump nozzles garden in the comments. Are they on to something...?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:17 AM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Nice. Akin to the station is the rest stop--a mall-like place where one always sees a gathering of strange people on the road, usually for a long distance, and a mix of visitors from other lands. These places all are filled with franchises (ie, Starbucks etc), and so a quick sampling of our nation and the choices we are offered.
posted by Postroad at 5:37 AM on May 8, 2016

List omits the R.W. Lindholm Service Station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Cloquet, Minnesota. It's one of the few examples of his Broadacre City vision that was ever implemented.
posted by theory at 6:00 AM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

To the Lubritorium!
posted by sneebler at 6:04 AM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

No love for the classic Texaco?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:07 AM on May 8, 2016

Posts like these are always great but make me sad. We used to care more about design than we do now. Even our ads had style back then. We lost that somehow.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:09 AM on May 8, 2016 [8 favorites]

The shell-shaped Shell gas station that they say is in Raleigh? It's actually about an hour and a half west, in Winston-Salem.
posted by NoMich at 6:21 AM on May 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Let's not forget our Lego counter-parts: Lego Exxon Gas Station 6375
posted by Fizz at 6:25 AM on May 8, 2016

My favorites were some of the Italian ones, though the concrete roof suspended on cables looked like high wind could be a problem.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:31 AM on May 8, 2016

The biggest surprise has to be the photo of the Japanese hanging pump nozzles garden in the comments. Are they on to something...?

Only full service stations do this. Self-serve stations look just like US pumps.
posted by Talez at 6:33 AM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Montreal's famous gas station, designed by Mies Van Der Rohe in the 1960s, has recently been restored.
posted by Cuke at 6:52 AM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Nice post!
I like this one that I saw in Willemstad, Curaçao.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:59 AM on May 8, 2016


I love that design too. I think there's something about the up and down pattern of the roof that draws the eye. It's aesthetically pleasing. I would guess that there is some utility to the design of the roof as well, though I'm not sure as to what that might be. I could be wrong, if an architect or a designer with more knowledge wants to chime in, I'd be interested in knowing the true answer.
posted by Fizz at 7:05 AM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The dome and actual filling station of the "Gasoline Mosque" are gone, but the rest of the building including the two spires is still there as a HIGH SPEED BARBERSHOP.

The Colker 76 station in Beverly Hills is one of the few places in the LA basin where you can get still get full service without ever leaving the comfort of the front seat of your Bentley.

I realize it's a personal thing, but the Helios House rubs me the wrong way. It feels claustrophobic for such an open, drive-thru structure.
posted by carsonb at 7:16 AM on May 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

Glorious images; the ones from the '50s and '60s make me intensely nostalgic. Thanks for the post!
posted by languagehat at 7:26 AM on May 8, 2016

Great collection of photos; great post. The neon lettering in this one (Italy, 1954) is stunning.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:21 AM on May 8, 2016

I kind of want a short-story collection to be written based solely on these photos.
posted by Fizz at 8:26 AM on May 8, 2016

This was so great, even more so for the hometown mention - I didn't know we had the first self-service pumps in the UK!
posted by terretu at 8:29 AM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

My mother's side of the family owned a small chain of Sinclair gasoline stations in southern Illinois up until about 1970 or so. This photo was taken in front of what we called the "North Station" in Casey IL in 1953 when my parents got married. In the late 60's I hung out there in the summertime, learned to drive in the station pickup truck, worked the pumps, etc. i was all of about 13. We didn't know or care from drivers' licenses, apparently. I can remember being given a can of white paint and a ladder and being told to paint the exterior woodwork that summer. Small pirce to pay for learning auto mechanics and driving all over town as a pre-teen.
posted by pjern at 11:27 AM on May 8, 2016 [4 favorites]

One of Victoria, BC's main landmarks used to be a service station. It's a hell of a piece of real estate.
posted by klanawa at 1:06 PM on May 8, 2016 [2 favorites]

klanawa, I grew up in Victoria and had no idea about that! I'd love to see a historical photo of that.
posted by borsboom at 1:18 PM on May 8, 2016

I have this matted B/W photo of my grandfather in front of a Sinclair station. He is overalls with a bow tie and one of those belted change-makers. The photo is labeled: "First Job". I'm guessing 1919-1920.
The station is like this one. (Scroll down to the east Warren pic taken in Dearborn)
It had no canopy and judging by the oil stains, less then a year old. Tinned gasoline by the pile. Two globed pumps, model-T in the background.

The Preservation and Reuse of Historic Gas Stations.
posted by clavdivs at 2:28 PM on May 8, 2016 [3 favorites]

Another nice fuel station in the Netherlands: this one by Dudok (old photograph)
And here's another one by the same architekt, being transported to a museum. And the one station of that same model that remains in business today.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:43 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

The relocated fuel station on display in the automobile museum. All's well that ends well.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:51 PM on May 8, 2016

What does the sign say on #24?
posted by bendy at 3:07 PM on May 8, 2016

The Council Plaza one in St. Louis was, for a very long time, a Del Taco. When it closed up, there was talk of demolishing it. Luckily the local architecture preservationist got the word out. It's now a Starbucks. But *man* is it cool looking.
posted by notsnot at 3:29 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I loved this overview. I road trip a lot, so I'm always on the alert for cool old gas stations, and old gas stations reimagined (I've seen: antique shops, art galleries, a donut shop - I was tempted to get the spare tire!, homes, drug stores, garden stores, churches, etc).

My favorite was a very typical 1950s box and swooping canopy in Montana where we pulled and a team of bowtied attendants swarmed the car with mini-vaccuum cleaners and squeeges and polishing rags. It felt like we had slipped back in time.

That said, I will pay the an extra 6 cents if the gas station still has a Sinclair dinosaur (or any other large sculptural figure, to be honest. The station that turned a small Bob's Big Boy into Sprout in Minnesota will always get my business when I stop off to see the giant statue of the Jolly Green Giant).
posted by julen at 4:02 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Not sure of the long term viability of the filling station. Currently 10,000 miles on my new car (not quie 18 months), and I have made a single visit to a filling station in that time. It was time for the annual state safety inspection. Yes, it had to make a visit to the dealer, because the manufacturer doesn't do over the air software updates...

The reason: I bought an EV this time. My regular "filling" station is a wall outlet in my driveway. No oil changes, no muffler to rust out, and because of regenerative braking, the friction brakes should last the life of the car...
posted by rjnerd at 7:32 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

If, like me, you can't see the Googie design stations, here is one and another pic of the Jack Colker Union 76 station. And here's the Orbit station.

Thanks for the post!
posted by bryon at 8:48 PM on May 8, 2016

Borsboom here is a photo, though they have one posted nearby that's a better aerial view this is the best I can find right now.

More info.
posted by klanawa at 11:10 PM on May 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

We have this really cool BP station in Chicago. Apparently you can still get full-service there!
posted by SisterHavana at 12:30 AM on May 9, 2016

@notsnot: Before that building was a Del Taco, it was a Naugles for many years. (Extinct chain, somewhat like Del Taco but much worse food.) My friends and i STILL call it the Starship Naugles. It's a beautiful, hilarious building.
posted by adrienneleigh at 12:39 AM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

klanawa: thanks! Interesting that the Black Ball ferry terminal appears to be next to it as well.

Interesting timing considering that the only gas station on the land mass where I now live has been broken down for the last ten days. Glad I mostly rely on my bicycle to get around.
posted by borsboom at 2:46 AM on May 9, 2016

Gosh, those Southern California hacienda-style stations really took me back. Circa 1960, I totally remember being in the back, rear-facing seat of our pink Oldsmobile station wagon, watching the attendant fill-er-up at the Flying A on Verdugo Blvd in Glendale.

Thirty-five cents a gallon.

(At the time, I wished we used Union 76, because they gave away those cool orange balls you could put on top of your radio antenna, but my mom preferred Flying A, because they gave S&H Green Stamps with every purchase.)
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:09 AM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I remember we had to drive around to different stations buying half-tanks of gas so my parents could have a full set of Esso smoked-glass tumblers. And the water glasses.
posted by sneebler at 6:22 AM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

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