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Domestic Form

"House with canopy" filling
station form, likely built
during the 1920s, as it
appeared in 2002.Mead &
Hunt photograph, 2002.
The term "filling station" refers to stations that pumped gas but did not have service bays.  These small stations were typically located on corner lots immediately adjacent to commercial downtowns, and situated at a 45-degree angle to capture traffic from both streets.  The smaller stations consisted of an operator's room and an adjacent concrete pump island.  As traffic increased, washrooms were added.  The men's room was typically accessible from the inside, while the women's room was discretely located on the side or rear through an outside entrance.  Many of these stations were later modified with service bays, additions, and exterior renovation.

"House with bay" filling
station form executed
in stone. Courtesy of Jim
Draeger, personal collection.
During the 1920s, oil companies began constructing gas stations in residential neighborhoods, where aesthetics were important and the appearance of the shed station was objectionable.  The "house" and "house with canopy" forms were developed in order to reduce the objections to neighborhood service stations.  As the name suggests, the house form looked like a small residence, except that it had a large front window or group of windows for displaying automotive products.  Reflecting the popular residential architectural styles of the period, the Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and cottage variant of Tudor Revival styles were favored for exterior detailing.  The typical house station plan consisted of an office, a storage room, and public restrooms.  The "house with canopy" was similar to the house type, but a canopy extended over the pumps to shelter customers and employees in inclement weather.

By the mid-1920s, the "house with bays" gas station type had evolved.  Service bays were included in the design or added to the side or the rear of the existing house station.  At first, the bays were equipped with grease pits for lubricating and washing automobiles.  By the late 1920s, air compressors with rotary lifts were installed in the bays so that repair services could be provided.  The "house" and, less commonly, the "house with canopy" and "house with bays," were erected into the mid-1930s.

Roadside Highlight: Oatman Filling Station

The Oatman Filling Station
as it appeared in 2001.
Courtesy of the Division
of Historic Preservation.
The Oatman Filling Station (listed in the National Register January 16, 2001) is located at 102 Ferry Street in the city of Eau Claire, in close proximity to USH 12.  It was erected for Frank Oatman in 1931.  At the time of construction it was one of 45 filling stations in the city.  From the time of construction through the late 1980s, the station was affiliated with the Texaco Company.  Between the late 1980s and its closure in September of 1996, it was a Sinclair affiliate.

The Oatman Filling Station exhibits the appearance of a small house with Tudor Revival cottage styling.  It is a one-story frame building finished with wood shingles with a steeply pitched gabled roof accented with exposed rafters.  The interior plan consists of an office and a small restroom entered by an exterior door, typical of the house form.  A small sign on the restroom door reads "Cleanest restroom in town."  Few intact examples of this property type remain.  Of the 45 gas stations existing in Eau Claire in 1931, the Oatman Filling Station is the best remaining intact filling station that exemplifies the domestic form.

Roadside Highlight: Gregario Gallo Station, Kenosha

The Gregario Gallo Service Station (determined eligible for the National Register June 22, 1995) is located at 2122 60th Street in the city of Kenosha.  It is believed to have been constructed in two phases, with the gasoline and accessory sales portion completed between 1923 and 1925, and the service garage added by 1934.

The Gregario Gallo Service
Station as it appeared
in 1995. Courtesy of
the Division of Historic

The Gregario Gallo station exhibits the cutting edge of mid-1920s gasoline station design.  The sales area follows an L-form and is located near the rear corner of the lot.  The main entrance is located in a canted wall that is centered in the ell.  Large display windows flank the door.  Brick is the primary building material.  The Classical Revival style is evidenced in the prominent Tuscan pilasters and entablature, a plain frieze, raised cornice, and a centered keystone/egg combination ornamental element.  A two-bay brick service garage, likely an addition, is located on the side of the building.  Classical details are carried over in the cornice.  Originally, the operator's room was centered for good sight lines and easy access to multiple pump islands and oil and accessories are easily visible with large display windows visible from waiting cars.  Much of the interior has been altered with new wall covering, partitions, and the covering of windows and doors.  The property was rehabilitated several years ago and now serves as a retail florist and gift shop.

Interested in learning more about Wisconsin gas stations? Check out the new Wisconsin Public Television program that looks at vintage gas stations as icons of architecture, economics and pop culture. Fill'er Up: The Glory Days of Wisconsin Gas Stations is a collaborative effort of the Wisconsin Historical Society and Wisconsin Public Television.
And watch for the Fill 'er Up Companion Book  from WHS Press by Jim Draeger and Mark Speltz. This book visits 60 Wisconsin gas stations still standing today and will be available in 2008.
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