Remember when you pulled into a filling station years ago? Wiping his hands on a red cloth, a gas station attendant would come out of the garage. You rolled down your window and said, “Fill it up.” Maybe you also said, “Could you please check the tires?” He then knew you wanted a full tank of gas and you wanted him to check the air pressure in the tires. He always washed your windshield and checked the oil. You didn’t even need to ask for that. He always had time for a little small talk with you.
So what happened to this type of service? Now you’re pumping your own gas and paying for it at the pump with your credit card or with your Speedpass. Sometimes you don’t even see the attendant. Is this what they call progress?
Once in a blue moon you’ll come across one of those old fashioned gas stations. If you are down in French Lick, Indiana, be sure you fill up with gas. Don’t stop at the big gas station on the corner of Rt. 56 and Highway 145, across the street from the French Lick Casino. Instead, drive four or five blocks west on Rt. 56 until you get to Wells Street. There, at 110 SW Wells Avenue, is a nice, little, old-fashioned, full service gas station. You don’t have to get out of your car at all. A service station attendant will pump your gas and clean your windshield. He will even check your oil and tire pressure if you ask. If you have a problem with your car, there are mechanics available to do the work.
While many of the old gas stations have been demolished, some have been repurposed. Their locations on corner lots on main streets make the properties prime real estate. They have good visibility and great accessibility. They are good candidates for adaptive reuse.
For example, a Standard Oil gas station built in the 1930’s was converted to a wine bar and restaurant in St. Louis, Missouri. A 1921 Esso filling station in Warrenton, Virginia has become the Red Truck Bakery. Brian Noyes, who had worked as art director of Preservation Magazine, chose the building partly because of its potential customers. Noyes explained, “I liked that it was next door to the courthouse, across the street from the library, and adjacent to the county offices.”
To see a video of old fashioned gas stations, go to Compilation of Old Vintage Gas Stations YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TQVS5QALUg.
—By Karen Centowski