Wisconsin Historical Society

Property Record


Architecture and History Inventory
211 W COLLEGE AVE | Property Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Contributing: Yes
Reference Number:39057
Location (Address):211 W COLLEGE AVE
Unincorporated Community:
Quarter Section:
Quarter/Quarter Section:
Year Built:1931
Survey Date:1991
Historic Use:gas station/service station
Architectural Style:Art Deco
Structural System:
Wall Material:Cararra Glass
Architect:C.R. MEYER & SON
Other Buildings On Site:0
Demolished Date:
National/State Register Listing Name: College Avenue Historic District
National Register Listing Date:12/2/1982 12:00:00 AM
State Register Listing Date:1/1/1989 12:00:00 AM
National Register Multiple Property Name:
Additional Information:Additional map codes are: 5/31.

An extraordinary expression of the Art Deco style in Wisconsin, this building was constructed after a fire destroyed a former tire store in 1929. Alenor Gibson, Jr., turned disaster into opportunity by expanding into automobile sales and rebuilding in a style that was then quintessentially modern. Its sleek geometry and its shiny chrome details articulated the vocabulary of the Machine Age, so it was the ideal style for a business associated with the machine of the 1920s and 1930s: the automobile.

Gleaming black structural glass, a decorative opaque veneer better known under the brand names Carrara and Vitrolite, covers the facade, which terminates with a stepped parapet outlined by a stripe of white glass. Chrome pilasters in the form of speed lines (drawn from motifs found on automobiles, locomotives, and machines of this era) frame the sides. At the ground level, a central tripartite display window is flanked by an entry on one side and a garage door with a glazed-lattice pattern on the other. Above this, three display windows are beautifully detailed with a stepped profile around the sidelights filled with casement windows, all executed in chrome. Dividing the two stories is a spandrel of crazed black glass, ornamented at center with the owner’s name “Gibson” spelled out in geometric lettering and bordered in pink glass. On either side of the name, white-glass panels display a stylized geometrical motif, a pattern echoed in various forms in three frieze panels along the parapet wall. This remarkably intact building has been rehabilitated as an auto-themed restaurant.

2018- "C.R. Meyer & Sons, Contractors designed the building. Arresting in the sophistication of its design, Gibson's Art Deco Auto Exchange is the best-preserved example of the period in Appleton. Ironically, the site was occupied by a barn, well, grade and chicken coop until the land was sold to Alenor Gibson for construction of a car dealership in 1928. Completed in 1931, some fifty years after neighboring buildings, the symmetrical two-story design with its stepped roofline was well-integrated into the existing block. The Carrara glass facade with chrome-trimmed windows and mannered ornament compares well with the best designs of the era."
-"City of Appleton Meeting Agenda-Final Historic Preservation Commission", March 20,2018, Prepared by Appleton Historic Commission"
Bibliographic References:Appleton Post Crescent 5/14/2001. Buildings of Wisconsin manuscript.
Wisconsin Architecture and History Inventory, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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