Frank Lloyd Wright's gas station in Minnesota
I have a feeling that many residents in the small city of Cloquet, Minnesota routinely drive by the R.W. Lindholm gas station, which opened in 1958, without having any idea that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It wasn’t just any old gas station, but a one-of-a-kind structure that the great American architect envisioned would be central to his vision of the hypothetical Broadacre City, “a decentralized urban landscape that many have interpreted as a sort of super-suburbia,” with the gas station expanding beyond its traditional utility and taking on a larger social role in the city. While this vision thankfully never came to pass, certain elements of the design were adopted: “…it helped popularize the now ubiquitous overhang, and other elements (including an angled plan that afforded sight lines, and generous, slanted windows) were appropriated for Phillips 66 stations across the country.” Okay, class is over, but before you go someone needs to update Cloquet’s Wikipedia page to highlight this piece of architectural and design history. It’s worth bragging and boasting about!
Once I was driving from Chicago to St. Louis (long story, don’t ask) when our car broke down along the way during a torrential downpour. We luckily managed to pull off into a gas station in Small Town, Illinois. Next thing we knew we had a small crowd of locals poking around the engine of our car trying to figure out how to fix it. While Wright’s utopia never came to fruition, I think it could be argued that the notion of gas stations as a societal glue and community nexus was partly realized in the United States, especially in smaller towns. Moreover, these stations helped stitch the smaller towns together to help form a sense of greater regional identity and culture. In case you missed it and you’re loving this discourse on gas station history and can’t get enough (I mean, who doesn’t?!), then check out my previous entry here on The World’s Most Beautiful Gas Stations.