The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

July 20, 2007

Classical Gas – Abandoned Route 66 Gas Stations

Filed under: Culture, History, Wanderings — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 1:34 am

Over at buzz.mn today, James Lileks made an interesting little post about old gas stations.  He makes an interesting point:

 …in the old days you could get a comb and a soda, nothing more. Maybe the plague, if you used the restroom. But the modern stations lack pizzazz. With a few exceptions they’re bland utilitarian structures smothered with ads for lotteries and smokes. The fifties and sixties saw the finest gas station architecture – and much of it is still around.

This post also called for the readers to submit their own photos of old gas stations.  Gas stations in general tend not to be built to last, and tend to also be built in cookie-cutter designs that face the wrecking ball swiftly and unlamented when their usefulness has waned.  Oddly enough, it’s that relative fragility that gives us this scene from the 1963 comedy epic It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which is almost as notable for it’s depiction of a contemporary gas station as it is for the manner in which said station is systematically demolished:

Around here, one of the few surviving 60s gas stations (for the time being, at least) can be found in downtown Bellevue, on Northeast 8th Street.  The station has slanted windows and a triangular canopy over the former location of the pumps, which are the hallmarks of a former Phillips 66 station (although I can’t recall ever seeing a Phillips 66 station in the time I’ve lived here.) This former station has most recently hosted a toy store, but now sits vacant, serving as an impromptu parking lot.  Given the rapid growth in Bellevue, chances are the station will probably be bulldozed as soon as someone decides to put up another hi-rise on the land.  An aerial photo of the station can be found here (you can switch to the birds-eye view for a better look,) which shows the encroaching construction which will probably eventually seal this old station’s fate.  Maybe if I have some time in the next few days I’ll go take some better photos.

Although there aren’t a lot of interesting old gas stations to be found around here, a roadtrip I took through the Southwestern United States back in April took me to one of the longest remaining stretches of the old Route 66 in Arizona, between Seligman and Kingman, a route lined with a number of ghost towns.  After the jump, a few photos of some gas stations I took along the route.

Gas station turned gift shop, Seligman, AZ 

First of all, we have this gas station turned gift shop, found in Seligman.  Seligman is a small town that likes to bill itself as the “birthplace” of Historic Route 66.  Indeed, the town’s economy seems to be based primarily on route 66 tourism and nostalgia, and a significant portion of the town’s main street is occupied by gift shops selling Route 66 memorabilia.  Probably the most notable attraction in Seligman is the Snow Cap,  a drive-in restaurant that serves burgers and dead chicken with a side of schlock.  As you leave town, a few modern gas stations greet you with inflated prices, but the 80 miles (give or take) to Kingman aren’t going to provide many opportunities to fill up.  Still, in spite of the more touristy feel of Seligman compared to the towns to be found on the road ahead, it is not without ghosts of its own:

Old Texaco sign, Seligman

As you leave Seligman, the next 30 miles or so provides little but scenery and the Grand Canyon Caverns, a place that you would probably find a picture of if you went and looked up “Tourist trap” in the dictionary.  If you are so inclined, you can spend $12 and 45 minutes taking a guided tour of the caverns here, but moving on we eventually reach Truxton, a virtual ghost town that brings us several more old gas stations:

Abandoned Texaco station, Truxton Arizona

The canopy, although badly weathered and neglected, allows this station to be recognized as a former Texaco station by the remaining vestiges of the green and white stripes found on the roof.  It seems for some odd reason to have accumulated a collection of assorted junk cars over the years.  The building actualy appears to be maintained to some degree, although it is unclear for what purpose.

Another old gas station, Truxton

Near the Texaco station we have this one.  The sign indicates that this was formerly a Bell Gas station, a brand which was found scattered throughout the Southwest that I now presume to be defunct, although Internet searches prove inconclusive. (Upon further examination, it appears that the photo in the link may actually be the same station, just slightly older and more sepia toned.)  In spite of the “open” sign in front, I wasn’t able to determine whether this was actually the case or not.  Given the fact that this doesn’t exactly look like the most hospitable place to run a convenience store, I’m guessing it wasn’t.  On the other hand, not everything in Truxton is abandoned:

 Truxton Station

This station continues to operate to this day, a throwback to an era long past.  On the other hand, I am not entirely sure that this is  the place I want to find myself if I break down or run out of gas out in the middle of nowhere.  Continuing past Truxton further down the road, we come upon a couple other ghost towns, including Hackberry, where we find this:

Abandoned 76 Station, Hackberry

This particular station is a bit harder to pin down than some of the others.  On one hand, the classic 76 sign is well faded, the shrubs in front clearly appear to have had some time to grow, and the style of the station is one that fell out of favor long ago.  On the other hand, the shingles on the roof are in surprisingly good condition, and the antenna on the roof indicates that perhaps the building has been repurposed for some other unknown use.   Finally, we conclude our brief trip down the Mother Road with this:

Hackberry General Store

The Hackberry General Store ceased to dispense gas long ago (assuming that it actually did so at some point, which in spite of the proliferation of old gas pumps isn’t entirely certain) but also boasts a fully restored ’56 Corvette parked in front and a significant collection of Route 66 souvenirs and ephemera.  It’s an interesting little place to wander around.

After Hackberry, the final few miles of the drive into Kingman, where you can either rejoin I-40, take US-93 up to Hoover Dam and into Las Vegas, or continue  on Route 66 to Oatman and points west, are uneventful.  Kingman represents an oasis of civilization in this largely barren part of the Southwest, although it remains proud of its route 66 heritage as well.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stop there (although in hindsight after 90 miles of US-93 without a restroom in sight I sure wish that I had,) but perhaps the next time my path takes me in that direction I’ll make sure to spend a bit more time there.  Having been born too late to experience Route 66 in its heyday, this trip represented a pilgrimage of sorts, to at least see some of the relics that it left behind. 

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13 Comments »

  1. The two gas stations in Truxton are different stations. I lived at both of them in the early 70’s. The Texaco at that time was owned by Ralph and Emily Hunter. They lived in a doublewide behind the station. Ralph caught himself on fire while smoking a cigarette and standing in gas. Burned badly. Not sure what happened to them after that. The other station was part of the Truxton Cafe. Went out of business when I-40 went through. Most of those cars have been there since the 60’s. People would break-down, have no way to pay and hitch a ride to california. Most of them never reclaimed the vehicles later. Belive it or not, before I-40 went through the town had tons of life. There was a bar across the street where the Indians from Peach Springs would walk over to drink at and tons of traffic. We moved a few months before I-40 went through and I haven’t been back since.

    Comment by Don Christiano — February 9, 2008 @ 12:20 pm

  2. […] Truxton Arizona — Brian Lutz @ 9:16 pm For those of you who have seen the post I made on abandoned Route 66 gas stations a few months ago (which seems to consistiently be among the most popular posts on this site, […]

    Pingback by Small Tales from Route 66 « The Sledgehammer - Version 2.0 — February 9, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

  3. Frank Lloyd Wright designed a kickass gas station once.

    Comment by reccaphoenix — March 2, 2008 @ 1:39 am

  4. […] included visits to both Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, a cruise down some of the remnants of the old Route 66and a short stay in Las Vegas, as well as several shorter trips within a couple hundred miles of […]

    Pingback by Sightseeing at 75 MPH: Wandering Through the Yakima Valley « The Sledgehammer - Version 2.0 — July 15, 2008 @ 1:36 am

  5. Wow, this was a blast from the past, as they say. I recognize those stations. My sister and her family live in Kingman, so whenever I’m back in that part of the country, I drive that stretch of 66. It really is a beautiful, beautiful drive. I much prefer it to I-40. It may take a little bit longer, but not much.

    Comment by Bruce — November 13, 2008 @ 7:08 am

  6. the Bell gas station at truxton is now a bar. jsut spent the night at the frontier motel across the street on a route 66 ride. we visited the bell Bar. it was interesting to say the least. the old car lift is still in the back of the bar.

    Comment by Jeff — May 22, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

  7. My grandfather is Ray Bell, of Bell Gas, and it it really neat to see the picture of one of his old stations. There are still many Bell Gas stations in operation, mostly in New Mexico with a few in Arizona. That’s very interesting to hear that this particular station was turned into a bar. Very cool picture.

    Comment by Ryan Najar — October 27, 2009 @ 12:53 am

    • I distinctly recall there being at least one Bell Gas station in Santa Fe back when I lived in New Mexico. I know there was one on St. Francis Drive, and I seem to recall there being one on Cerillos Road on the way out toward Albuquerque as well, but I could be wrong on that one…

      Comment by Brian Lutz — October 27, 2009 @ 1:50 am

  8. i use to run over the road and i can recall running rt.66 for some miles and it was great. the history it can tell. people dont know what they are missing untill they drive down old Route 66..

    Comment by john — January 16, 2011 @ 6:32 pm

  9. I’m location scouting in NM for a remake of Gambit which requires a gas station in the middle of the flats and I came across this charming collection. Just wanted to take a moment to say how it cheered me, thanks.

    Comment by leah slator — January 20, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  10. Thanks for the memories. My first experiences with The Mother Road came as a child of 5 and 7 in 1951 and 1953, respectively, when mom, dad, grandparents, and I ventured west from New Jersey to California in a 1949 Dodge sedan. We visited relatives in SanDiego. Many pictures of both trips as well as several cross country drives later, remind me that if you really want to experience America you must drive through it!
    If someone tell me today they vacationed “out west” and traveled by air, my thought is you went nowhere and saw nothing.

    Comment by James t. Smith — April 3, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

  11. I can speak about the last two pictures. My Grandfather, John Grigg, owned the Union 76 station in Hackberry along route 66 from around 1930 until he died around 1966 or so. It was located very close to your last picture which shows what is known today as the Hackberry General Store. They tore down my grandfathers garage and maybe moved the pumps over to the general store location which to my knowledge never sold gas. My Uncle Chug (Charles Grigg) built a new garage and station up the road to the east a few miles and that’s it in the second to the last picture. He continued the family business under the Union 76 brand. I believe sometime in the 1990’s that station was closed. Union 76 gave the gasoline distributorship to my Uncle about the same time and he made boat loads of money delivering fuel all over Arizona. My cousins and their sons were his drivers. Not sure about the gasoline distributorship but it may still be run by my cousin, Teddy John Grigg. If I had to guess I’d say that about half of the people living in Hackberry today are my relatives on my Mom’s side. The old school house building was purchased by my Uncle Chug and remains standing today. It’s a two room school where kids from 1st – 8th grade were instructed together. My Mom went there as a girl. If you go to the Hackberry Cemetary you’ll see lots of headstones with the Grigg name.

    Comment by Gary Schulte — December 2, 2014 @ 2:21 pm

  12. Anyone know where Buzz’s fast station was? I just bought a cool sign that says to gas for 300 miles. The sign includes a Route 66 emblem and has good pedigree.

    Comment by McAleer — April 19, 2016 @ 12:18 pm


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