“ The Only gas station designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In the city of Cloquet, Minnesota / Address: Southeast Corner of Hwy 33 and Cloquet Ave „
Cloquet, Minnesota: Frank Lloyd Wright Gas Station or the Lindholm Oil Company Service Station
This was another interesting find we discovered on our road trip through Minnesota. It is one of the sights known as roadside attractions of which there are many in the USA.
WHERE IS THIS?
202 Cloquet Ave, Cloquet, Minnesota
In order to get here you need to take I -35 exit 237 then go north on Highway 33 for about two miles. The garage is found on the corner of Hwy 33 and Cloquet Avenue.
CLAIM TO FAME
This is the world's only gas station ever built by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It was built in 1958 by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright who lived from 1867 to 1959. The garage was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
The small town of Cloquet has a population of around 11,000 and this gas station is its greatest claim to fame. There is not a lot else in the town that attracted us anyway and we took a detour of the Interstate to see it specially.
THE GARAGE HISTORY
Frank Lloyd Wright foresaw that there would be a need for gas stations with the rise of the popularity of the car in modern society. He designed a gas station as part of his town plan known as 'Broadacre City'. The town never became a reality and it wasn't until FLW was 90 years old that he finally got a chance to build his station after a 25 year wait.
In 1952, Ray W. Lindholm asked FLW to design and build him a private house because his daughter suggested FLW having studied architecture and learned about FLW. After designing and building the home FLW suggested that his client use a FLW design for a gas station for Lindholm's Phillips 66 distributorship in Cloquet, Minnesota. The suggestion was accepted and work began on the station in 1956 and finally enjoyed its grand opening two years later, in 1958.
In 1958,this gas station cost $20,000 to build which was over four times the national average cost. Fortunately the owner was happy with his gas station and is quoted as saying "A customer can stop almost anywhere and get good gasoline, but a beautiful observation lounge like this one is most unusual and will bring the customer back."
During the first three days of opening the station set a five state record, with 22,000 gallons of gas pumped from their new pumps
THE FLW DESIGN FEATURES
The station was designed with its observation deck or upper waiting area being one of the center points. The garage bays have skylights that were designed to let natural light into the work area which is an eminently sensible idea and saves on electricity too. There are four service bays in the service area and very unique is the fact that there is radiant underground heating to melt ice off customer's cars.
Rather beautiful Cyprus wood was used for shelving in the garage, office and on decorative wood cuts in the restrooms.
Possibly the feature you see first when visiting the gas station and something that remains unchanged is the canopy which sticks out 35 feet from the main building, with no supporting columns to hold it up. FLW felt columns would spoil the beauty of his design.
In FLW's design originally gas was to be pumped from retractable hoses coming down from overhead fuel tanks in the unique cantilevered canopy. The idea was to be that no ugly pumps would spoil its sleek looks but fire regukations prevented this as all fuel must legally be stored underground. Today the traditional original pumps are still installed under the copper-covered overhanging roof.
The garage has been restored as it was rather run down apparently. It looks like a gas station pretty much like most others although a bit dated. It does however have a few distinctive design features which makes it stand apart and is obviously a Frank Lloyd Wright design. It celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2008 which is probably when it got its make over and clean up.
You can still buy gas (petrol) from here and it is still pumped through the old style pumps but we had a pretty full tank so were not able to use these facility. I am not sure whether they still do car services there as again, luckily we didn't need that sort of attention. The gas station is now a 'Spur' owned station and certainly the service areas has equipment in them but no one was working on any cars in there while we were there. The lighted "Spur" sign also has a picture of FLW along with the text "Frank Lloyd Wright" which is on the tower or pylon on the roof.
On the roof we couldn't help but notice the original 60-foot illuminated rooftop spire or pylon with "FLWright" in a futuristic font. We parked our car beside another FLW decorative wall with his name on a sign and an art deco light.
We were impressed with the bronze plaque on the side of the building which designates the Lindholm Service Station as being on the National Register of Historic Places.
This was obviously a gas or petrol station but it was also obviously a FLW design. It had the art deco look and I am really pleased that the USA are making an effort to protect these interesting and rather quirky historical places.
This is not worth a special journey to visit unless you are a big fan of FLW, however if, like us, it would only mean a slight detour then I would say yes, do take that detour and spend a few minutes looking around this unique historical building. This is as I have said the only FLW designed gas station in the world.
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