You may not consider your humble local gas station much of an architectural landmark, but there was a time when they were a pretty big deal—especially in car-obsessed Los Angeles. Now, one surviving example of the sleek stations of yesteryear—a former Texaco at 1650 North Silver Lake Boulevard—looks set to be preserved from demolition by being declared a Historic-Cultural Monument.
Twentieth century Angelenos were pretty quick when it came to adopting then-new automobiles as their preferred mode of transport. In fact, by the late 1920s, so many residents owned cars that the newfangled filling stations with free-standing pumps became one of the most frequently built new structures dotting the region.
Back then, Texaco was the biggest name in gas stations. Known as the Texas Fuel Company, it became one of the first national gasoline distributers in 1928, and controlled much of the market for gas in California. The company latched onto the idea of gas stations that were owned and branded by the oil companies themselves, and hired industrial designers Norman Bel Geddes and Walter Dorwin Teague to create a template for their branded stations. They developed a design in the trendy Streamline Moderne style, which featured a white porcelain-tile-clad central structure with a green trim stripe with matching custom-made pumps. Even the attendants’ uniforms were designed to go with the look.
Through the 1930s and early 1940s, they would build 40,000 of the stations and become an American roadside icon. The Silver Lake station, which was built in 1941, was part of that boom. And, while it was retired as a filling station and converted into an independent auto mechanic’s shop in 1988, it’s original Streamline Moderne bones remain almost entirely intact. In the Cultural Heritage Commission’s recommendation report on the property, they describe the building as an excellent and rare remaining example of a kind of architecture that would have been familiar to any mid-century city-dweller, but has been largely lost today.
This station, too, was at risk of being torn down. As the Eastsider reports, the current owners of the building, real estate developers Bolour Associates, had hoped to level the station to make way for a multi-story mixed-use development. That plan would be in jeopardy if the monument status is adopted by the commission at their meeting this week.