Monday, June 13, 2016

The Delmar Pure Gas Station

I recently was reading an article in "Secrets of The Eastern Shore" about the English cottage type Gas station in Cape Charles Virginia.
http://www.secretsoftheeasternshore.com/wondrous-2-cape-charles-gas-station/
NOTE: The photo at top is by Jill Jasuta Photography

It happens that Delmar has a similar gas station.  It is on North Bi-State Blvd (next to the 3rd Wave Brewery).  Owned by Johnson and today is three apartments. It has been modified from it's original look.


This type of building is a design used by the Pure Oil Company and  was used from the 1920s thru the 1940s.  A more original photo of this type of gasoline station (not Delmar) is shown below;
Many of these cottage gas stations were pre-fabricated, being a steel unit that was assembled and then a stucco or brick exterior was applied.  I do not know if the Delmar one was a pre-fabricated unit.  The cost was between $7,500 to $10,000 (1929 prices, today prices would be  $103,000 to $138,000) for one.  Until about 1925 most gas stations were clap board box type building that were ugly.  In order to improve the image of gas stations and allow their placement in more residential areas the Pure Oil English Cottage gas station design entered the picture (along with the similar designed Phillip 66 Gas stations).  They usually incorporated end chimneys, Bay windows, home-like entry doors,  steep gabled roofs done in blue tile, and generally were  home looking.

In 1953 Hank Williams Sr pulled into a Pure Gas station in Oak Hill West Virginia of this design and died. Photo of it is above.  It has since been bulldozed.

Some points about the gas station design is given in a survey of a similar design in Greenville S.C.

The owners of the Pure Oil Company were well aware of the growing disdain to the image of the gas station.  Therefore, they planned to revitalize their structures.  President Henry M. Dawes sought after a new building style that could easily and distinctively be associated with the gasoline brand of the Pure Oil Company. Dawes hired supposedly self-taught architect Carl Petersen, whose ideas were rejected previously by the Gulf Oil Company.  Petersen worked at home to avoid distractions and unwanted ideas and strove to design a unique style to unify the Pure Oil Company brand.  Petersen came up with an easily built, inexpensive English Cottage style design that would redefine the gas station on the suburban landscape.  On the drawing board was a building with steeply pitched roofs, a side gable, rounded entranceways, prominently located chimneys, and decorative lattice and shutters that gave the building a “home-like” appearance.  Petersen thought the English Cottage would be accepted by residents of America's suburban neighborhoods.  Petersen was right.  The public grew to enjoy the way the Cottage style looked and eventually came to see the style as a symbol for Pure Oil’s quality products.  Whether the buildings sat on a busy roadside or in a quiet sub-urban neighborhood, the home-like structures fit in very well.  Dawes gave Petersen a $750 bonus check straight out of his own pocket because he liked the drawings so much.  A variety of models were then drafted and built all around the country.  The design proved economical to build and could be constructed from numerous materials.  The house structure then became an accepted architectural form for gasoline stations and adopted by many corporations.  It quickly became the most popular form of architecture for gasoline stations and became an architectural asset in residential neighborhoods.  John Jakle and Keith Sculle write in their book, The Gas Station in America, "
........


Michael Carl Witzel in his book, The American Gas Station, gives a beautiful description of the important role Carl Petersen took on to reform gas stations to a more pleasing, domestic design.  He writes, “From the vantage point of the motorist wheeling past, the pleasant trappings of a roadside house conjured up welcome feelings of friendliness and offered the atmosphere that was greatly missed by the traveler when venturing forth on the open road.  The mere sight of a white-shuttered window spilled forth memories of Mom and those delicious home-baked pies cooling in the sill.  A house meant quiet evenings by the fireside with one’s favorite dog or the whole family huddled around the radio listening on the exploits of Fibber McGee and Molly which was a safe, warm and happy place for many and a common association that would be exploited to maximize potential by hundreds of roadside motels and gasoline stations constructed in its image.”  (Witzel, p. 48) Such

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