Saturday, July 19, 2008

Art Deco Gas Stations

Have you ever noticed how many art deco gas stations Tucson has? This seem peculiar to me for many reasons. There were about 30,000 people here during art deco's Depression Era heyday. How many people in this cow town could have had cars? Even more mysterious is how the gas stations survived Tucson's contempt for old buildings. If Barrio Historico was razed for our abominable Tucson Convention Center, how did the lowly gas stations survive the Urban Removal of the '60s? Compounding the mystery is the question of why these gas stations weren't destroyed a few years ago when it seemed the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality suddenly got tough about LUSTs (leaking underground storage tanks), and numerous gas stations were bulldozed so the soil could be cleaned up.

The beauty shown above is at 648 North Stone Avenue. I just love the cupola, which looks like a soft serve ice cream cone. This gas station has a new life as the offices of a bail bondsman and a seller of Mexican car insurance.

This station at the northeast corner of Grant and Stone is empty, despite having wonderful windows.

Jimmy's Broadway operated at the southwest corner of Tucson Boulevard and Broadway for years without bothering to hang a sign. Then suddenly they got a website and a paint job that accentuates the art deco lines.

I think the predecessor to Jimmy's Broadway used to serve its customers at the current location of Long Wong's at Tucson Boulevard and 6th Street, where buffalo wings and beer are now served. I liked the dancing bears they used to have painted on the side of the building better than the current pink flamingos, which are so '80s. Or '50s. Maybe Long Wong's is just 10 years ahead of its time.

At least one more art deco gas station can be found at the southwest corner of Main and Speedway. The windows have been covered and the streamlining on the canopy has been covered, and the canopy supports have been replaced by some thin ugly pipes. No respect.

Update: Mystery solved. None of these gas stations was built in the '30s. According to the tax records, 648 N Stone was built in 1960, Long Wong's was built in 1941, Jimmy's Broadway was built in 1986, 1 East Grant was built in 1959 and 1057 North Main was built in 1953. Oh well.


Sam said...

Hi, I've been entranced by your picture of the station at the corner of Grant and Stone since I found it a year or two ago...I think I was searching "80s art deco" or "art deco gas station" when I found it and I love it, especially the pastel green accent lines. Do you know what happened to it and/or have any updated photos? I'd love to see it today. I am not from the area unfortunately.

Donna Moulton said...

HI Sam,

I'm glad you like the photo. The former gas station is still there, and still vacant. Grant and Stone is a busy location, so it's a good place for a Truly Nolen car. Truly Nolen is a termite exterminating company. Apparently someone connected to the company loves old cars, because they have a huge collection of beautifully restored cars, and the Truly Nolen logo is on the sides of each one. Currently a yellow and white '57 Belair is parked in front of the gas station.