The State of Wright: The Gasoline Filling Station
rendering courtesy of Pierce Arrow Transportation Museum
Status: At early stages of construction
Location: The Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum, Seneca Street at Michigan Avenue
History: Wright designed a gas station for the Harris Oil Company, the local distributor for Tydol gasoline. The commission was secured through Darwin Martin and William Heath.
The 1927 design reflects Wright’s early awareness of the significance of the automobile. The gas station project predated Wright’s utopian vision for Broadacre City, an urban metropolis, which he would unveil in model form in 1935. The prototype station that he designed for the corner of Michigan Avenue and Cherry Street in Buffalo would have fit right into the broader city scheme that he later completed.
Wright’s station didn’t use conventional underground gasoline tanks. Instead, gas was to be dispensed through overhead fuel lines and hoses suspended from a cantilevered canopy. He also designed two copper “totems” to be used at each station. The spires would carry signage and were scheduled to each be forty-five feet tall. The pavement for the station was to be a red and white checkerboard of stamped concrete.
What to look for: This structure has not yet been built. The new station will be part of the Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum. A brand new sixty-foot tall atrium has been completed on the Seneca side of the building to house the gas station, so it can be protected from the elements. The station will not actually function.
Comments: Wright designed his prototype in an era when gas stations were simply pumps accompanied by outhouses. At a time when women were starting to drive, Wright’s design included washrooms for them and a second floor waiting room with generous windows and a fireplace.
Last week, and again this week, we will post a series that organizes each Wright gem by location, history, what should be seen, and additional information that may pique visitor interest. There are many more resources, including guided tours for most sites, excluding the private homes. It is hoped that this guide will inspire readers to see firsthand the reasons why visitors from all over the world make the trip to Buffalo to experience Frank Lloyd Wright.