This presentation is part of the Are We There Yet: Preservation of Roadside Architecture and Attractions, April 10-12, 2018, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Presenter standing at podium

Mike Kertok

Mike Kertok: A little background. Phillips 66 was founded by Frank and L.E. Phillips brothers. It was originally an oil exploration company. They drilled the wells. They pumped the crude out of the ground. That’s all they did. Then in the 1920s, they got into refining, and in 1927 they built their first Phillips 66 station in Wichita, Kansas. They chose to go with a Tutor cottage style for the station. The cottage style was very popular in the 1920s. It was kind of a reaction to a backlash, a public backlash against gas stations in towns that were usually very ugly little tin sheds.

The gas companies started building nicer-looking buildings and cottages were one of the popular styles. Phillips is not the first or the last to use a cottage station. Conoco had a cottage station, and Pure Oil back in the East Coast, eastern region of the country, built a lot of cottage stations. Mobil did their cottage station. City Service had a very snazzy-looking one. And Wadhams, up in the northern part of the country, Wisconsin, did a lot of these oriental style. That’s not all of them. There are a bunch more.

Opening day, first Phillips 66 station, Wichita, Kansas

But Phillips started building these stations, and they built the first few, and their second one was in Topeka, and there was a couple more. They were tweaking the design. Today, we would call this the beta design, and they lumped all these first few stations together and called them Type A, but they were all actually different from one another. But with about the fourth or fifth station, they settled on a design, and they called that the Type B station. This became their workhorse station. In the late ’20s, early ’30s, they built lots and lots of these through the middle part of the country. There were other types.

In fact, Phillips went all the way through the alphabet up to Type U. But some of these are outbuildings. Some were just one-off stations. A few were … some that had more built the Type I, up there on top, was one they built on corners that had two major arterial streets, so they dressed up the gable on one end to make it look a little nicer and added some to the back. The Type K. I think that’s the K. Yes, that’s the Type K. And on the bottom, there’s one they built in rural areas, a little bit smaller, a little simpler station.

A few others where there’s the Type B, and on the right there is a Type J, a one-bay garage. On the bottom, we have a Type B, with a two-bay garage, which was a Type G garage. Some others, a kind of mashups, Type H was sort of a Type B and a Type G stuck together. Type S, same kind of thing but turned 90 degrees. That Type S was here, in Tulsa, across from the Old Farmers’ Market. It was demolished a long time ago, unfortunately. So the Type A station, the first station was painted white with brown shingles, pretty conservative color scheme. But Phillips very quickly, with the station in Bartlesville, changed to a new color scheme, and that color scheme was green with orange and blue trim. The roof shingles were a combination of all three colors, randomly arranged. It’s pretty garish. But I guess they wanted to just stand out and attract your attention as you’re driving down the highway. Then in 1943, they got rid of the blue. Just had the orange trim and they painted the blue shingles a cream color. I’m not sure why they did that. Maybe it had something to do with the war and shortage of blue paint. I don’t know. It’s just a theory.

Four drawings of Phillips 66 gas stations showing different color schemes

Station paint schemes: top: 1928, 1943, bottom: 1947, 1959 (author’s drawings)

In 1947, they totally changed the scheme, tan – maroon paint, orange roof. They felt like that showed up better. And 1959, they changed from the original orange and black shield sign to the now-familiar red and white sign, and along with that, they painted the stations all white, with a red stripe over the windows and door. Not my favorite one, but there it was. These stations were built through the middle part of the country, covered a pretty wide swathe of the Great Plains. I thought it would be interesting because we have a lot of the same type of building in a big part of the country and urban areas and rural areas.

It’d be interesting to take a look at what has happened to these buildings in the ensuing 85, give or take, years since they were built. I thought it would be informative and possibly entertaining. There were originally over 500 of these stations and outbuildings and et cetera built. Today, just over 100 are still out there that I found. So a lot of them have been demolished. We’re going to go through these. I’ve put them into categories, and just for fun, I assigned the name of a television show to each category.

The first category is Lost. These are some recently demolished stations. Kinsley, Kansas, and like I say, we are doing 66 of these and you’ll see up there in the corner. This is number one of 66. Kinsley is a nice Type B. At some point, it got a stucco coating over it. But still, a pretty nice station. It got its original windows and door, but it was in the way of progress. There was a group in Kinsley that wanted to save it, but they just didn’t have the resources to do it. So, it came down, and they built a high school gymnasium. That was in 2014.

Des Moines, Iowa, this station, you’ll notice it’s a Google view because I got there too late to photograph it. I went up there two years ago and found out it was gone. It was right across the street from the campus of Drake University, and Drake University decided they wanted to put a new basketball arena up. So, the station came down. I don’t know this for sure, but I suspect eminent domain was involved. Number three, Turpin, Oklahoma. This was … I was sad to see this one go. This was the last Type N station. It wasn’t in very good shape in 2003, but it was still there.

The Type N stations were a combination station. That’s what Phillips called them. They were a combination of a filling station and a bulk station. If you don’t know what a bulk station is, a bulk station is a distribution point. They bring all the gasoline and supplies to one place and then distribute it out to the stations all around. So the bulk stations were usually built on railroad sidings, and the tank cars would come in and offload the gasoline up into those aboveground tanks. Then they would be emptied into tank trucks and trucked out to the stations.

They also brought in dry goods, tires, batteries, et cetera, and had a warehouse for those and trucked those of the stations. They built a few of these combination stations in very rural areas that weren’t very many built. And so, Turpin was the last one that was still standing. There in 2011, you see the warehouse had been removed. It was just a shell left. Then in 2016, well, there’s nothing left. I think that was just a demolition by neglect in that case. This one, in St. Louis, was not in very good shape. Another one that I didn’t get there in time to photograph, and that was in 2014, and there it is 2016, or there it isn’t I guess would be a better way to put it.

We are still losing these stations, unfortunately. But hopefully, things are going on to save them. Next category, The Walking Dead. These are endangered stations. This is in Valliant, Oklahoma. It may not be there anymore. I was there 2015 and photographed it. I don’t know if it’s still there. This was a chance discovery. I was driving past this on the highway and went, “Oh that was a Phillips station.” I didn’t even know about that one. I didn’t know about it because it had an addition in front of it for many years, hiding it. They tore that addition off. But when they tore the addition, it left holes in the roof, and again, I don’t know what the fate of this one is.

Little York, Illinois. I’ve got this in the endangered category. You may look at that and say, “Well there’s a scaffold out front. Somebody’s doing work on that. Why is that endangered?” Well here it is in 2016, and here it is in 2012. There’s a scaffold. So, nothing’s going on there, and that’s a shame. The bricks are falling out of the chimney, and they’re just … you know, piece by piece, it’s falling apart.

Exterior view of gas station

Vacant Phillips 66 station in Jones, Oklahoma

So next category is Survivor. These are stations that are vacant. They’re still there. I’m taking the glass-half-full approach. They are survivors. Got Chanute, Kansas. This station, that’s 2016, and 2003 you see the chimney was still there, and they took the top off the chimney. When they re-roofed, I think the roofer came in and said, “You know, flashing around that chimney is … You’re just going to have leaks. Why don’t we just take that off?” So I think that’s what happened there. They took the chimney off and that’s a shame. There are several of these you see like that that don’t have the chimney anymore.

I have a name for these. I refer to them as emasculated stations. Jones, Oklahoma – another one in the emasculated category. Vacant. Brunswick, Missouri. This one I think was a restaurant at one time. It’s got some stuff in front, but the basic station’s still there, except the chimney again is gone. Omaha, Nebraska – his one, it’s kind of interesting because you can see the paint schemes. You can see the original green paint. Then you can see the white with the red stripe over top of that. So it’s kind of a history of the paint there.

Clarendon, Texas – this one’s next to a barbershop, Kenny’s Barbershop. I don’t know what they do at the building. It’s vacant. Stratford, Texas, another one. This is a Type K. The Type Ks, most of them, not every one, but mostly the Type Ks have the shorter gable on the front. The Type B’s have the taller gable, and mostly, there are exceptions. Omaha, Nebraska. Someone painted this recently. So, they’re taking care of it somewhat at least. This has a Type J garage, Type B station. Kansas City, Kansas, another Type J garage, Type B station.

Follett, Texas -out in the panhandle, again, someone’s painted it. So they’re taking care of it to some extent. Oh, this is more sensitive than I’m used to. Okay. Pueblo, Colorado – another vacant one but in pretty good shape. And Arkansas City, Kansas. So, hopefully, someone will find a use for these and not tear them down.

Counting Cars is the next category. A lot of stations are still being used for automotive-related businesses. There is to my knowledge only one that is still selling gasoline, and that is in O’Donnell, Texas. A Type K there. Put a canopy over it. First time I went there, they were still selling Phillips 66 gasoline, which was pretty cool. But the last time I went there, they were selling unbranded. A guy told me that Phillips put a quota on them that was unrealistic, and so, they had to go with unbranded. Richmond, Indiana, Who’s Your Battery … works out of that one. Blackwell, Oklahoma, is a muffler shop. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, acar repair shop. You can see here, the original Type B station, you’ve got a change in the brick, change in the shingles there because there was an addition put onto that, which is pretty common. They did a lot of these additions in the early 1940s to these stations.

Front view of gas station with two gas pumps in the foreground

Philllips 66 building still in operation as a gas station in O’Donnell Texas (2015)

Las Vegas, New Mexico -a car detailing shop. Emporia, Kansas – used cars. St. Louis, Missouri – Southside Motors. Wichita, Kansas, this is the original, very first Phillips 66 station, and it is still there. They got a little lump on the front there, and they put some additions on it. That was the photo I showed you earlier on opening day, and a little later photo when it was painted in the green color scheme. There it was in 2003. It was a scrapyard then. But now, it’s a car sales lot and so, hopefully, it’ll still be there for a long time.

The Office. Some stations have been converted to offices. Here’s a law office in Pampa, Texas. Now, they planted these trees in front, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time. That was 2011. There it is in 2015. So, I don’t know. Atoka, Oklahoma – Chamber of Commerce uses this building, and they’ve put some gas pumps out in front and treated it real nice. Main Street Woodward occupies this one.

Superstore. Some of these buildings are used for retail purposes. Oklahoma City – his has been several things. It was a catering business in it for a while. There was a curtain showroom, I think, and window coverings for a while. The latest thing, I think they sell coffee, but it’s not a coffee shop but they just sell bags of coffee or something. I’m not sure.

Pampa, Texas – this one is different from the law office. Another one in Pampa. They sell garden equipment and supplies out of that building. Sunfire Ceramics in Lawrence, Kansas and St. Louis. Okay, I cheated on this one. When I took the photo, it was a gift shop, but it’s not anymore. Last I heard there was a daycare in the building. But it’s a pretty cool building. Beauty and the Beast. I had to go back a ways for this one.

Do you remember Beauty and the Beast?  Some are beauty shops. Bethany, Missouri, is a beauty shop, Type K station. Here in Tulsa, down in Cincinnati, another one, beauty shop. And Hale Center, Texas, another beauty shop. Unfortunately, it’s got a metal roof on it and stuccoed.

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. We have quite a few use for restaurants. There’s a coffee shop in Denver, Colorado. A barbecue joint in Carlisle, Illinois. Oklahoma City, BrickTown 29 Pizza. And Wichita, as Mort’s Cigar and Martini Bar. I should have done Cheers for this one but I threw it in with the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Davenport, Iowa, get your fried egg sandwiches there in Davenport, Iowa. Pueblo, Colorado. This is Burrito’s Betty, a takeout, Mexican restaurant, and I’ve got just a little story about this one. I’ve been to Pueblo several times, and every time I go back by this station to photograph it, and every time there’d be cars parked in front of me. Every single time.

The last time I went to Pueblo, I stayed there overnight and I thought, “Okay. I’m going to get up early in the morning. This station faces east. I’m going to get there. I’m going to get the morning sun on it before they even open the doors. No cars will be in front.” And so, I got up, and I went out there. Well, they serve breakfast [inaudible]. There were cars in front of the station, and I didn’t get the shot I wanted. So I went off and did some other things — photographed some other buildings, checked out of the hotel, and I was about to leave town, and I thought, “Well, I’ll run by there one more time.” It’s about 9:30 in the morning, 10:00 maybe, and I came around the corner, and there was no cars in front of the station.

I pulled just down the block, parked the car, jumped out, grabbed my camera, ran over there, and took a picture, and a car pulled up in front of the station. But I got my picture. So there it is. Artesia, New Mexico, another restaurant. This one looked like that before they … well not restored but rehabilitated or renovated. That would be a better word maybe. Maybe rehabilitated. I’m not crazy about the roof. Okay,

Exterior view of the home

Phillips 66 station turned into a residence in Larned, KS (2014)

This Old House is the next category. Some of these have actually been turned into residences, and there’s one in Dresden, Missouri, which looks like it could use a visit from This Old House. I’m not sure about the chimney on that one. Wellington, Texas, another residence. And Omaha, that one, I couldn’t tell the person who lived there to move their car. Larned, Kansas. It’s a pretty nice one there.

Home Improvement. This one in Ponca City is a cabinet shop. It was vacant for many years. I’m glad to see it being used now. Junkyard Empire. Raton, New Mexico, and they recondition and resell used appliances.

Front view of the station with antique restored gas pumps in the foreground

Phillips 66 station restored as a roadside attraction in Turkey, Texas (2015)

Mysteries at the Museum. Some of these stations have been turned into roadside attractions. So, there’s one in McAlester. Got the sign, got the pump. They’ve cleaned it up real nice. One thing about these stations though that you always see a lot is that the paint has been removed, and they haven’t been repainted. I think a lot of people who buy these get the buildings and think, “Well I’ll remove the paint and restore it to its original look.” But these buildings were never without paint. Turkey, Texas, another one with the gas pumps. Ralls. This owner just made up their own paint scheme. Oberlin, Kansas. This one is actually on the grounds of a museum there, the Last Indian Raid Museum in Oberlin, Kansas, and there it is in its heyday, and it was not located where the museum is now. It was actually picked up and moved not very far. I think about a half-mile, give or take but with a brick building, that’s a pretty substantial undertaking. They’ve got it on their grounds now, and I did give them information on the paint schemes. I don’t know if they ever did anything with it, but maybe someday.

Dead Like Me. What could that be? All right. Here’s a station in Pratt, Kansas. Really nice station here. This station is one of my favorites because it has just about everything original. The only thing that’s not original is the garage door. All the windows are original, the front door’s original, all the bricks there. It even has the original lantern light fixtures, which you never see on these stations. They’re always gone. So you may wonder, “Why Dead Like Me?” Well it’s owned by the business that occupies the building next door to it, which is a mortuary. They told me they use the station for storage. I didn’t ask what they store there. I don’t want to know.

Breaking Bad, all right. Well these are the worst. Erick, Oklahoma. What were they thinking? I mean, slapping this cedar shingle roofs on the front. It’s a bar. I guess they’re happy with it. I don’t know. Clovis, New Mexico, I don’t know why you would put siding over top of brick. I have no idea, but they fixed it. They put stucco over it and a metal roof. Enid, another metal roof. They took the door and made it a window. They took the window and made it a door. Seymour. This is a Phillips station. You wouldn’t recognize it because they took the chimney off. They took the cross gable off. They basically took an interesting building and made it boring. Jackson, Minnesota. Okay, ignore the airplane. This actually is pretty good. It’s got something you could work with here. The brick is good. The roof is there. The windows have been replaced, but you could fix that. So somebody could take this and make a nice rehabilitation or restoration out of it. Instead, what they did was this.

Audience:  Wow.

Mike Kertok:  Yeah, yeah. I don’t think there’s a jury in the world that would convict me if I found the person responsible for this and beat them senseless. Marquette, Michigan. Yeah, well, I don’t know the stone really doesn’t do it for me and the Spanish tile roof. But wait, it gets worse.

Audience: Whoa.

Front view of stations showing many alterations from original design

Phillips 66 station with stone facade in Hays, Kansas (4024

Mike Kertok: Hays, Kansas – Let’s just encapsulate the whole thing in stone, and yeah, I don’t know. Some people. Okay, you’ve seen the worst.

We’re going to go for the best now. Rehab Addict. This is the educational portion of the program. Rehabilitation is compatible use. It uses compatible materials. Sensitive to the original through repairs and alterations. Preserves what’s there, but it doesn’t recreate the original, whereas restoration is something where you’re recreating the original and using all original materials and bringing it back to a specific time period. So rehabilitation, this, I think, in my opinion, is a very good rehabilitation project. A little coffee shop in Westwood Hills, Kansas, which is actually in Kansas City.

But I had Kansas City on the slide. Last time I presented this, and I was told, “No, that’s Westwood Hills.” So it’s a little unincorporated area inside Kansas City, I guess. But they replaced the roof here. These original roofs on these buildings were cement asbestos shingles. You cannot get those anymore. So you don’t have the option of putting original material back. I thought this was a nice choice. The slate, they use multi-tones, which recalls the multi-colors of the original roof. They replaced the windows, but the new windows are like the old ones, casement windows, multi-light, with transoms. So, very appropriate, not like a lot of the plate glass we’ve seen in some of the other examples. So just a very nice rehabilitation job, I think.

Arrested Development. This station in Chandler, the first one I ever consulted on. The owner intended to restore this station exactly like it was the day it opened, and it looked like that when he started. He tore off the later addition there on the side, 1950-something addition, and he started the restoration process. That’s what it looked like originally. It’s been sitting there like that for quite a few years now. He got to that point. I think he’s had some health issues, is what’s happened there. But hopefully, someday, it’ll be completed, As it could be a very nice one when done.

American Restoration. These are restored to some extent or another. This one in Wellington, Kansas, pretty nice station. Got the original paint scheme on it. Looked like that before. And basically, they just painted this one. They didn’t really have the original windows and doors. So they didn’t have to do a lot. It’s incredible what just a paint job will do. You don’t have to go to a lot of expense or anything just to make it look a lot nicer. This one in Tulsa, another one that I consulted on, was a full restoration. However, we didn’t paint it to one of the original color schemes. You probably noticed because Avis leased the building and insisted that it be painted in their corporate colors, as a condition of leasing it.

Sometimes, you have to make a compromise, and it’s just paint. You can always paint over it later. The brickwork there was original. Brickwork windows are still there but needed a lot of TLC to bring them back to life. This one had a Type G garage, two-bay garage. They call these wash-and-grease houses, because one bay was for washing cars and one was for … had a hoist in it and they greased the undercarriage of cars, which they used to have to do. They don’t do that anymore. And so, there that is. I need to move along, right? Cuba, Missouri, another one I consulted on. This station was restored to the 1943 color scheme. Had a lot of additions onto it.

It originally was the Phillips station, and then for a time, it was standard service. It was operating out of there. It was Mobil station, and it looked like that when we started. And ultimately, we decided that it would be inauthentic to paint the standard service additions in the Phillips colors. We wanted the Phillips station to be in the Phillips color, so we just painted the Phillips station in the Phillips colors and the standard additions in the standard colors. It’s a bit of a hodgepodge from that standpoint. But, it’s kind of tied together with the roof.

It’s a restaurant now. So, serving a useful purpose. And Number 66, we made it. Baxter Springs, Kansas -This one is … well it is and isn’t a Phillips station. You can see it’s different from the others we’ve been looking at. The original building was built by the Independent Oil & Gas company. I could do a whole half-hour on them. But just a short version, Independent Oil was bought by Phillips in the 1930s. They built some of these cottage stations before they were bought by Phillips. Phil’s rebranded the stations, repainted them in their colors.

This one, there was an addition put on it by Phillips in the early 1940s, and there you see in the ’47 color scheme, in that black-and-white photo. That’s what it looked like before we started. We took a look at different color schemes. The original, the ’43, the ’47. The people who owned the building was the Baxter Springs Historical Society. They were using it for a Route 66 visitor center, and they decided they liked the 1947 colors, so that’s what we did with that. There it is, sixty-six Phillips 66 stations.

 

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.

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