Frank Lloyd Wright: Still a Cutting-Edge Gas-Station Designer

Museum to construct 80-year design plan

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Frank Lloyd Wright's long-envisioned gas station of the future will finally open next year in Buffalo, N.Y., more than 80 years after the project was first approved.

The Buffalo Transportation Pierce Arrow Museum is building the filling station, with above-ground tanks and a pitched copper roof, as a showpiece exactly as Wright drew it up, according to a Reuters report. The plans for the Buffalo station were only recently discovered among letters between Wright and a prominent Buffalo businessman named Darwin Martin, for whom Wright built two private homes in the area, according to James Sandoro, founder of the museum.

"It's exciting. It's not every day that you discover a non-built commission by Frank Lloyd Wright that was previously unknown," architect Patrick Mahoney told Reuters, Mahoney has been hired to carry out the $15-million project.

Visitors won't be able to fill up at the gas station, however. The station will be housed inside a 40,000-square-foot atrium and visible through glass walls.

Modern-day building codes would not allow features such as the overhead fuel storage tanks in a working service station, Sandoro said.

That, the architect said, can be daunting. "We're locked in a moment in time. You can't change the design," he said. "You have to make it work."

Wright titled his drawings "Buffalo Filling Station" in 1927, ahead of the post-war U.S. auto boom, as the nation's suburbs were beginning to expand. In the decades since, just one similar project was completed in Cloquet, Minn., just prior to Wright's death in 1959 at age 91.