A Restoration of Love
Route 66, otherwise known as “The Mother Road,” plays a big part in the cultural and historical background of the United States and helped to open up a significant portion of the country to travelers. Many of these travelers stopped at small gas stations. One of them is ours, a Mobil site at the intersection of Missouri Highway 19 and Route 66 in Cuba, Mo. While stopped, travelers were able to gas up, drink a Coke or grape soda and visit with locals.
Over the years, this small station has seen many changes and has been different things to different people. In 1931, Paul T. Carr came to Cuba and operated the Carr Service Station in this building until his death in 1964. While under Carr’s ownership, the station sold gasoline through Phillips 66, Standard Oil Co. and Skelly. Somewhere between the 1940s and 1957, additions were made to the original building, including a three-bay service garage and a long, narrow wing with a gable front.
My late husband, Bill Wallis, purchased the property in 1968 and immediately converted the fuel brand to Mobil. The building also housed the company office until 1985 when Wallis Cos. moved to a larger building across the Highway 19 and Route 66 intersection.
In 1986, the historic building was converted to a small commercial bakery known as the Washington Street Bakery, which supplied all of the Wallis stations with fresh-baked pastries. The bakery ceased operations in the late 1990s and has been vacant since. Although new EPA standards for stations and commercial demands do not make it practical to operate the station as it was originally used, I felt it could still reflect the time and history of its prime years. So in 2002, I applied for and received a $20,000 cost-share grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program for the external restoration of the station.
I contracted historical architect Mike Kertok from Norman, Okla., who conducted an analysis of paint layers along with many other data points on the building. Based on my interest in restoring the outside of the building to its original Phillips 66 cottage-style structure, we began the process. Fortunately, the original roof in the colors of green, cream and red were still in very good condition; many of the original decorative pieces were still attached and just needed a little uplift. I also decided to restore the later building additions to the Standard Oil color scheme of cream and royal blue, which was agreed to by the Route 66 Preservation Program.
Over a period of many months, our director of construction, Bill Guffey, and I oversaw the careful, detailed restoration of the station, which included work on the steel-framed windows, copper display window, doors, gutters, roof trim, lighting, signage and paint colors.
To be honest, the project was a true labor of love that Bill would have loved. To increase the historical significance of the station, a local nonprofit beautification group, Viva Cuba, asked me to include the refurbished building as part of their Viva Cuba Mural Project: a completion of 12 murals within the city of Cuba reflecting both local and national history. I worked with a local artist and engaged him to create the murals on the three-bay addition. These murals depict Bill and his 66 Corvette in front of the station; the Missouri State Highway Patrol, an organization that we have supported through The MASTERS organization; and a Customer Appreciation Days drawing at one of our stores.
The building sits on the main corner of our town, and it will be a great location for a coffee shop, an office or any business that wants to be enhanced by this original but quaint Phillips 66 cottage building. No matter what offering will land at this famous intersection, the station stands ready for a new chapter in history.