This presentation is part of Are We There Yet? Preservation of Roadside Architecture & Attractions Symposium, Tulsa, Oklahoma, April 10-12, 2018.
By Mike Kertok
Phillips Petroleum Company of Bartlesville, Oklahoma was founded in 1917 by brothers Frank and L. E. Phillips. Originally an oil exploration company, it expanded into refining in the 1920’s and finally into retail with the opening of the first Phillips 66 station in Wichita, Kansas in 1927.
Phillips used a Tudor cottage style for the design of their first station, a small brick structure with a gable roof, a cross gable over the front door, and a chimney expressed on the exterior adjacent to the front door. Cottage style gas stations became popular in the 1920’s and 1930’s due to a public backlash against early gas stations which were often little more than unsightly wood or tin sheds. Other oil companies before and after Phillips introduced their own versions of the cottage style station, including Conoco, Pure Oil, Mobil, Wadhams, and Cities Service, but the Phillips design possesses an enduring charm – not too plain and not too garish.
Phillips tweaked their initial design and introduced their Standard Type B station with the fifth one built in Borger, Texas. Variations on the basic design and associated outbuildings were assigned letters sequentially up to Type U, but the Type B would be the most common of the Phillips cottage station designs, accounting for approximately 75% of the total built. All told, Phillips built more that 500 of the cottage style structures across the mid-section of the country over the period of a decade, stretching from Texas to Minnesota and from Colorado to Illinois.
The first stations were painted white, with brown shingle roofs, but Phillips quickly changed the color scheme to green with orange and blue trim and a multi-colored roof of green, orange and blue. In 1943 the blue was removed from the color scheme, replaced with a crème color on the roof. In 1947 the stations received a complete color makeover, changing to tan with maroon trim and an orange roof. And in 1959, with the introduction of the now-familiar red and white Phillips shield logo, the stations were painted white with red trim and a red roof.
Of the over 500 cottage style station buildings built, less than 100 have survived the ensuing years. What has become of these buildings runs the gamut from demolished to totally restored and everything in between. Only one is known to be still serving the function of a gas station. Many are vacant. Others have been converted to offices, retail establishments, restaurants, museums, even residences. Some have grown old gracefully, others have been horribly abused, and a precious few have been lovingly restored or rehabilitated.
Mike Kertok was educated at the University of Oklahoma, graduating with a Master of Architecture degree in 1982. After learning his trade while employed by several large architecture firms, he established his own office in 1999 where he specializes in historic preservation and renovation projects. He first became involved with the restoration of a Phillips 66 station in 2002 in Chandler, Oklahoma, and has since consulted on the restoration of stations in Cuba, Missouri, Baxter Springs, Kansas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Other Oklahoma roadside projects include the Firestone Station in Bristow, Cities Service Station in Tulsa, and the Rock Café in Stroud.