The domestic design of gas stations represents an attempt to associate the gas station with the home in the mind of the customer. This was in response to complaints, in many publications in the late 20s and early 30s, that the fantastic gas station violated standards of good taste and was turning America's ever-increasing roadsides into eyesores (Vieyra, 41). At the same time, many cultural critics blamed a variety of social ills, such as divorce, intergenerational conflict and declining rates of church attendance, on the automobile (Flink and Belasco). The domestic gas station expressed a paradox, casting travel a part of the tradition of family, stability and home. This association proved especially comforting to those traveling far from home.
While this contradiction between tradition and motion seems difficult to reconcile, it expressed widespread ambivalence about the car's emerging central place in society.
These stations contradicted the machine age they signified, just as the suburb, also dependent on the automobile, denied the complexities of urban life…During the 30s the growing popularity and availability of the automobile spurred the establishment and growth of suburban communities, offering proximity to the city and reflecting the nostalgia for small-town life…Since residents usually commuted to city jobs, these developments were totally dependent upon trolleys, commuter trains, and increasingly, the automobile. Ironically, design of such communities made every effort to deny the invention to which they owed their very existence. [For example] studies were undertaken showing how [these communities] 'could be planned so they would be insulated from the noise, fumes, and hazards of floods of automobiles" (Vieyra, 45).
The architecture of these stations was typically more traditional than that of actual houses being built at the time. They were meant to appeal to potential patrons by conjuring up a pre-automobile past. The most popular domestic models of the 1930s were based on the Picturesque cottage and Tudor building style (Vieyra)
The Picturesque rustic cottage referred back to an idealized nineteenth century England.
These models often had intentionally uneven swooping roofs, covered by multi-colored,
irregularly laid shingles (Vieyra, 41). Elements of the gas station that revealed its actual function
of caring for cars were tucked behind the main cottage or, often, were disguised as a water well.
These subsidiary structures helped to create the desired picturesque illusion of the nineteenth
These domestic designs were often modified to communicate a corporate identity.
Pure Oil was the first oil company to accomplish this. It simplified the lines
of the roof which it covered in its signature "Pure Oil" blue. This color was repeated
in the trim.
Sun Oil also built a series of domestic stations in the 20s and 30s. It, too, used the
company colors in the roof and trim.
Its trellises and shrubs made it decidedly domestic (Vieyra, 42).
The Tudor design of gas station developed in the 30s, as the increased number of available serves necessitated the addition of wings. These stations often most closely resembled a Tudor stable. Roofs were gabled and walls, typically half-timbered and covered with stucco or brick. Tudor super-stations were made up of a maintenance area, an office, restrooms, a customers' lounge and, often, a covered porch from which customers could observe work on their cars.
While the Tudor station was carefully constructed to conjure up a pastoral past, this design was almost never used in the country; it was simply too expensive to construct. It could be found in a city or, more typically, in a large suburb -- in the middle of that reality it sought to deny (Vieyra, 45).