Recently I mentioned an abandoned filling station spotted during a trip to see my physician in West Virginia. More pressing projects kept me from posting my photographs of the crumbling building, but I have them for you today.
This is a spot I’d seen before, but it rests just beyond a very sharp curve in the road; the first time I saw it the skies were already darkening and it was so hidden by brush I nearly missed it! You can imagine my happiness at being able to photograph it in spring, before it half-disappears into the wood again.
I’m not sure what oil company originally built the old filling station, though my guess is Pure Oil. Of course, this cottage-style gas station was quite popular once upon a time—you’ll note its similar bones to this one beside the Niangua on Missouri 66 and this, on 66 in Oklahoma; it could therefore be any brand at all. The charming, familiar style kept the neighbors happy.
As you can see, this mystery filling station rests on the edge of a hillock; West Virginia Route 88 takes up most of the flat portion of earth, but that was not about to stop some enterprising businessman! The door beneath the station itself appears to be large enough for an automobile, and there is indeed a (very overgrown) road leading down toward it from the pulloff right in front of the old station.
We did not head down, nor did I enter the station (wandering into abandoned buildings is not my MO). It is clearly in an “unsafe to enter” state, as you can see by all of my photographs, including this one taken through the front door from a safe distance—poison ivy and sumac guard the entry:
My photograph of it did not turn out well due to the distance, but amidst that detritus a ladies’ high-heeled shoe rests near the back wall of the station. How it found its way there, heaven only knows!
Aren’t all of the arches wonderfully gracious touches? That one retains its glass pleased me quite a bit, though people have clearly been taking (possibly literal) shots at it. The metal appears to be in good shape, too, and the wood which may have once anchored full shutters (West Virginia’s winters can be wild and wooly indeed!) still retains much of its bright green paint. If you look beyond the vines and branches, you can see sunlight streaming in through the roof.
Gas stations have undergone many iterations through the years—from the days when each brand had its own very recognizable style to the present, when they all look very much the same.
Of course, few now are in neighborhood settings beside houses as they once were (for examples, see the Odell Standard Oil, the Soulsby Shell Service Station, and the Ambler-Becker Texaco, all snugged right into pretty, Meet Me In St. Louis-style neighborhoods); the owners probably do not see as much of a need for a pleasing appearance to pacify the neighborhood. I do often wonder, however—and not merely about gas stations, but about drugstores and supermarkets and everything else—why we torture our minds and spirits with dull, cookie-cutter places instead of those meant to not only serve a purpose but have charm and true, human welcome built into them.
Granted, cottage-style filling stations such as this one dotted America’s (and Canada’s, and England’s) roadsides and were, I suppose, “cookie cutter” for their brand’s sake—but compare this to your local gas station-coffee dispensary-candy mart and tell me you would not rather see a cottage-style or Moderne filling station instead! I very often find myself thinking that we are very stupidly neglecting the need our minds and souls have for simple, everyday beauty, charm, and loveliness in the name of speed and saving money. Yes, even when it comes to the design of gas stations. If the stations of the Depression had architectural grace notes and human touches, why not today’s? Why must everything we build nowadays be ugly, dull, and cold, ignoring those whose purpose it serves?
We are serving our needs for convenience well indeed, but at the cost of ignoring and tamping down our very humanity; by rejecting the need and desire for the beautiful, what else are we ignoring? If goodness, truth, and beauty are irrevocably connected to one another, a quick look around at our big-box world may indicate that we’re in grave danger.
Yes, yes, on my “pleasing the eye is important” hobbyhorse again. That poor animal is so exhausted I’m surprised it’s still able to move. Thank you for bearing with me—and I hope you’ve at least enjoyed the photographs of this once-and-still-lovely abandoned filling station!