We were in the first hours of our Route 66 trip’s first day when we reached Odell, a small northern-Illinois town, and its wonderful Standard service station.
You know how it is early on a road trip. The excitement is fresh, your eyes are wide open, and you want to stop and look at everything. At the other end of our trip, three days later on Oklahoma’s vast plain, we passed many things by. Trip fatigue was closing our eyes. “Look, boys, another old gas station,” I’d say, and keep driving. I’d hear a grunt of acknowledgement from the back seat.
I’m glad we stopped for this one. It’s been carefully restored and is a joy to behold. The building was erected in two parts: the main gas station in 1932, and the service bays in about 1940. It began its life as a Standard station, but later sold Phillips 66 and Sinclair fuels. The photo below shows the station during its Phillips 66 days, and hangs in the Route 66 Museum in Pontiac, Illinois.
Just after the war, Route 66 was rerouted to bypass Odell. Traffic dried up and business dropped off. The service bays saved this station, which increasingly focused on repairs and body work to keep it going. It stopped selling gasoline in the late 1960s, and closed for good in the mid 1970s.
Preservationists, the persistent lot that they are, made sure that this link to our past survived. The village of Odell bought the station to save it. The Route 66 Association of Illinois won it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. $55,000 was raised to restore the station to its original glory.
We found several old service stations on Route 66, many of which had been restored, but none were as delightful as this one.
I found several old service stations along US 50 in Indiana, too. See them here.
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